Monday, June 09, 2014

Murray the Feminist?

Andy Murray has always been a controversial and mercurial figure. He famously lost his first four Grand Slam finals, had one mental meltdown on court after another and has his outspoken mother almost always by his side. He lost a heartbreaking Wimbledon final to Federer in 2012, gave one of the best, most touching losing speeches in history, before going on to win the Olympics Gold Medal that summer and following it up with the U.S. Open title; which made him the first British Grand Slam male winner since 1936 (and first British player since 1977). The next year, he lost his third tough final in the Australian and then finally won the Wimbledon championship that the British fans have craved for so long.

The turnaround from classic Majors underachiever to Olympic, U.S. Open and Wimbledon champion has been credited to the addition of Ivan Lendl as his coach, after the ex-Czech player returned from the obscurity he had been living in for years. But the two parted ways late last year and Murray has struggled ever since (though back surgery probably hasn’t helped). In attempting to defend his Wimbledon crown, he has just made a move that feminists will love and that just might pay off in the end – hiring female coach, and ex-champion, Amelie Mauresmo. 

It will not be the first time that a female has coached a male player (though mothers and wives appear to more-or-less exhaust the list), but certainly the most high profile in the history of the sport, crossing another threshold that once seemed beyond possibility. Several male tennis players, including the semifinal loser Gulbis this year, have not only disrespected the women’s game, but seemed to indicate that women’s tennis is little more than a joke. The revenue parity, popularity of the women’s game and this latest move all remind us that the slow march toward gender equity continues forward, even as substantially more work remains.

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