opinion

"Why we need more sportsmen like Andy Murray."

When little boys lie on their bed, dreaming of one day being a famous sportsman, I hope it’s Andy Murray they’re imagining.

The 31-year-old Scot, plagued by a worsening hip injury, will be remembered far more for who he was off the court than on it.

His composure. His humility. His patience with the young men he mentored. And his fearless commitment to equality.

The former world number one likely played his last match at the Australian Open on Monday, losing to Roberto Bautista Agut in five sets. It is ultimately his body that will decide if he ever gets to farewell Wimbledon.

And the reason he wants to play his final Wimbledon has less to do with winning another championship, and more to do with impressing two spectators.

His daughters, two-year-old Sophie and one-year-old Edie, he shares with wife Kim Sears, have never had the chance to see him play at a professional level.

“I would like my daughters to come and watch me play a tennis match, hopefully understand what’s happening before I finish,” he said in his post-match press conference.

“But I’m aware that that probably isn’t going to happen now. I’m a bit sad about that.”

But if Murray never plays a tennis match again – his daughters will have an awful lot to be proud of.

Murray, mentored and supported unconditionally by his mother Judy Murray, was the first high profile male tennis player to ever a hire a woman as a coach.

Former women’s number one, Amelie Mauresmo, was ruthlessly criticised after her appointment, with many blaming her for any match Murray happened to lose. It was a phenomenon, Murray noted, that never took place when he had a male coach.

“They say I was plucky choosing Amelie but, truth be told, if anyone was plucky it was Amelie – she’s the one who has taken the heat,” he said in 2015. “Her competence was always under fire. I felt embarrassed.”

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This realisation is often regarded as a moment of clarity for Murray, who became an even more vocal champion of women’s rights.

“It really opened my eyes,” Murray said. “Inequality is something I started to see and become passionate about. It opened my mind.”

Famously, during the 2016 Rio Olympics, Murray was asked a question about what it felt like to be “the first person to ever win two Olympic tennis gold medals…” to which he replied with a smirk, “I think Venus and Serena have won about four each…”

Indeed, they had.

He stopped a journalist again, two years later, who remarked that Sam Querrey was the first American player to reach a grand slam semifinal since 2009.

“Male player,” he retorted, without skipping a beat.

The journalist had forgotten Serena Williams. And Sloane Stevens. Both of whom hadn’t just made the semifinal. They’d won the entire tournament.

Serena Williams told ESPN in 2018, “He has spoken up for women’s issues and women’s rights, especially in tennis, forever and he does it again.”

Murray has also been a vocal advocate for pay parity in tennis – a view held (at least publicly) by very few male pros, as well as insisting there needs to be more women in leadership and coaching roles.

There isn’t a player, from Williams, to Federer, to Kyrgios, to King who has anything but praise for the Scotsman.

Imagine that.

A few months off 32, Murray has been playing competitive tennis since he was five.

Imagine a career spanning more than a decade, with no accusations of sexual misconduct. No fights in pubs or cocaine in bathrooms. No cheating. No criminal record. No 14 mistresses.

Imagine.

He makes it look easy, doesn’t he?

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