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Five times that British star Andy Murray made sport more female-friendly

by Sonia Elks | @SoniaElks | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 14 January 2019 15:35 GMT

Tennis - Australian Open - First Round - Melbourne Arena, Melbourne, Australia, January 14, 2019. Britain's Andy Murray reacts during the match against Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

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Here are five times Andy Murray showed his feminist credentials

By Sonia Elks

LONDON, Jan 14 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The world would be losing not only a tennis star if Andy Murray retires after losing out to Roberto Bautista Agut at the Australian Open, but also a voice for women in sport, advocates say.

The British former world number one has said the Open may be his last professional tournament as he battles with severe pain from a hip injury.

"If this was my last match ... amazing way to end," he said in an emotional post-match interview where he watched tributes from fellow tennis stars.

Here are five times Andy Murray showed his feminist credentials:

Pressing for equal pay in sport

Murray has pushed for changes to rules that can see women players given smaller cash prizes than men.

"That work ethic is the same whether you are a man or a woman," he told BBC Magazine.

"Anyone who has spent any time with any of the top women will know they make those same sacrifices and are as determined and committed to winning as any of the top men on the tour."

Appointing a woman as his coach

Murray bucked the overwhelming trend for male coaches at the top tiers of tennis when he appointed Amelie Mauresmo in 2014 in a high-profile move that reportedly attracted sexist comments and criticism from some others in the sport.

"I don't really care whether some of the other male players like it or not ... that's not something that really bothers me," he said in response to the criticism.

Murray later said he had seen first-hand how Mauresmo was not treated the same as male coaches, strengthening his commitment to feminism.

Setting the record straight on women's achievements

Murray has spoken out to correct reporters who overlook the achievements of female players.

When he was praised by a male BBC presenter at the Rio Olympics in 2016 for becoming the first tennis player to win two gold medals, he replied "Venus and Serena (Williams) have won four each."

And it was not a one-off: the following year he also rebuked a reporter who said Sam Querrey was the first U.S. player to reach a semi-final since 2009.

"Male player," replied Murray.

Calling out sexist attitudes in sport

The player has also been outspoken about sexism in sport more widely, such as when female footballer Ada Hegerberg was asked to perform a suggestive "twerk" dance on stage after becoming the first woman to be awarded the prestigious Ballon d'Or award in December.

"Another example of the ridiculous sexism that still exists in sport," he wrote on social media in response to the incident.

Murray also criticised a lack of prominence given to women's sport, such as when Katarina Johnson-Thompson's gold medal win in the pentathlon at the World Indoor Championships was buried low down on the BBC sport news site.

"Why is Johnson Thompson gold medal story headline number 22 on the BBC sport homepage right now? Complete joke," he wrote on Twitter.

Campaigning for equal limelight on court

Murray has pushed for women's games to be given an equal billing with men's at major tournaments where they are still sometimes "relegated" to less prominent spaces.

It came after Wimbledon drew criticism by putting a majority of men's games on the centre court, leaving some major women's games in smaller and less-closely watched courts.

"I don't think anyone's suggesting it is fair," Murray told reporters in a post-match press conference in 2017, according to media reports.

"I think ideally you would have two men's and two women's on Centre."

(Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Jason Fields. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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