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Andy Murray changed minds and attitudes towards women

Andy Murray takes part in a practice session with his coach Amelie Mauresmo in 2014.

I WAS never a fan of Andy Murray. Correction. I didn’t use to be a fan of Andy Murray.

His style of play was excellent but he seemed such a grumpy git.

What changed?

Well, let’s be grown-up about this. We both changed.

Andy stopped being so dour with the media and I stopped holding that grudge. Turns out that he’s actually witty, intelligent, and interesting – he just hid those traits for years, at least in public.

More importantly, Murray showed that he truly was/is a good guy as well as a great player.

His attitude towards women was the major game-changer, and has been rightly lauded by many females in tennis.

Put simply, Murray treats women as fellow human beings, not inferior or meriting less attention than men.

Don’t get me wrong, women aren’t above criticism. I didn’t get along with a female French teacher who took a dislike to me and ignored me in class, and even suggested at a parent-teacher meeting that I ‘had a problem with women’.

My mum, God bless her, rejected that accusation, pointing out that I have three sisters with whom I got along very well, adding: “Perhaps his problem is just with you.”

Murray has an impressive mum too, Judy, and she may have influenced his respect for females, when they merit it.

Famously, Murray corrected interviewers who appeared to forget that female tennis players existed, pointing out that he wasn’t the first to win two Olympic gold medals, as Venus and Serena Williams had actually won more. On another occasion he made clear that Sam Querrey wasn’t the first US player to reach a major semi-final for years – again, somehow the reporter hadn’t thought about the likes of Venus and Serena…

Perhaps most significant of all was Murray’s decision to appoint Amelie Mauresmo as his coach in 2014.

This wasn’t just to allow him to skimp on buying monogrammed gear for her. Nor was it ‘political correctness gone mad’.

Murray wanted to improve his game and he wanted a very good coach. At the risk of being crude, what mattered was what was between his coach’s ears, not her legs.

I understood why there was so much fuss about the appointment of a first female coach for a top male player, but it was still disappointing.

Roll on the time when a similar appointment is only greeted as follows: ‘Player X will now be coached by a former world number one and two-time major champion. Her name is…’

As an aside, perhaps it’s time to start referring to ‘men’s rugby’, ‘men’s football’, ‘men’s cricket’, and so on, rather than the assumption that there’s ‘rugby’, ‘football’, ‘cricket’ – and then there’s ‘women’s rugby’, ‘women’s football’, ‘women’s cricket’, and so on.

[Just to be clear, I don’t want a shift to calling them all ‘rugby’ or ‘football’ or ‘cricket’ or whatever because it’s often difficult to tell which team is being talked about due this modern fad for unisex names such as Alex, Cameron, Jordan, Mason, etc. But I digress].

Rather predictably, some blamed Mauresmo whenever Murray lost, but he had the good grace and decency to point out his previous (male) coaches hadn’t received similar criticism.

He has also called for equal pay for women players and equal billing on the show courts at joint tournaments.

Another admirable aspect about Andy Murray is his that he doesn’t hide his emotions.

I can certainly empathise with his on-court grumbling and moaning – and also with his occasional weeping, in victory as well as in defeat, and when he announced his intention to retire from playing.

Sadly, there are still Neanderthals such as Alan Brazil who criticise men for crying.

‘Real’ men do cry.

Bottling up emotions is not good for anyone, of any gender.

Admittedly I was proud of my then two-year-old son when I noticed a swelling on his little hand one sunny day and he calmly told me ‘A bee stood on me’.

Yet we constantly reassure him that ‘It’s OK to cry’ if he’s been hurt, physically or mentally, if he’s upset or worried – just don’t turn on the tears in order to try to get some chocolate or sweets, or because you want to watch more ‘Super Wings’.

Life can be upsetting. My wife marvels at my stony demeanour during ‘emotional’ TV or films (with laughter more likely than tears from me), but I do cry at genuine emotion – such as at funerals and at other upsetting times.

Indeed I got rather teary when, after an MRI scan on my right knee, I was told to stop playing soccer immediately to prevent doing further damage (not least because I’d already knocked over a glass in the consultant’s office).

That only ended my extremely low level ‘career’, which had been reduced to occasional five-a-side soccer games, but it was still upsetting to have to give up something I loved doing. I’d wrecked that knee at the age of 17, but continued plugging away for 20 years, ‘doing’ it, waiting weeks for the swelling to go down as I hobbled around, ‘doing’ it again, waiting and hobbling, ‘doing’ it again - because I LOVED playing.

Consider how my colleague Cahair O’Kane cannot announce his retirement from his ‘career’ of losing finals.

So imagine how Murray, someone who was absolutely brilliant at his chosen sport, felt about having to give up tennis, at the age of just 31.

Murray might be finished as a player, but hopefully he’ll be able to get his wish to bow out at his beloved Wimbledon.

When he does put away the kitbag for good, he should certainly find work as a commentator – on men’s and women’s tennis.

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