Of all the websites that ran stories on Andy Murray’s retirement, there was one in particular which spoke volumes on the wider impact he has had beyond the court. The Women’s Tennis Association’s website headline read: “WTA stars pay tribute to ‘voice for equality’ Andy Murray.” A male player’s retirement dominating the lead slot of the organising body for women’s professional tennis website? In fact, it was right for so many reasons. Billie Jean King, one of the most influential people in tennis, having fought for gender equality throughout her career, described him as “a champion on and off the court” and added: “Your greatest impact on the world may be yet to come. Your voice for equality will inspire future generations.”
The American, who founded the WTA in 1973, was not alone in lining up to praise Murray. Johanna Konta, Britain’s No1 female player, said: “There have been so many examples of when he has stood up for us, not just for women’s tennis but women in general. He has also been blessed with two daughters and he’s grown up with a strong, female role model with his mum and I know his wife is also a strong character, so he is surrounded by great, strong women.
“He has put that through in the way he has voiced his opinions and the way he has tackled some questions and issues that have arisen and everybody has always been very appreciative of him and how he has stood up for the women’s side of the game.”
Heather Watson echoed the sentiment. “Boys are going to fight for boys because that’s the field they’re in, girls will fight for girls – so to have a guy fighting for women’s rights is pretty cool,” she said.
Murray does not try and force an agenda on people. He says he never set out to be a spokesman for equality, but his experiences put him on that path. In 2014, he became the first, high-profile, male tennis player to hire a female as a coach in Amélie Mauresmo. It led to sexist comments from some quarters.