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Andy Murray Stands Out As He Stands Up For Female Tennis Players

Aug 30, 2017
Originally published on August 30, 2017 4:56 pm
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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Professional tennis is one of the major sports where men and women play in the same tournaments, on the same courts. Yet women make less money than men, and they deal with a lot of scrutiny. But one male player, Andy Murray, who is currently ranked number two in the world, has become a kind of champion for women in the sport. He gets in fights with people on Twitter. This summer at Wimbledon, he corrected a reporter who said Sam Querrey was the first U.S. player to advance to a semifinal since 2009.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How would you describe the...

ANDY MURRAY: Male player.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I beg your pardon.

MURRAY: Male player, right?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yes.

MURRAY: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yes, first male player. That's for sure.

MCEVERS: Meaning the Williams sisters Serena and Venus have made it to the semis tons of times. Lizzy Goodman recently profiled Murray for Elle magazine, and she is here in the studio with me now. Hey there.

LIZZY GOODMAN: Hey there.

MCEVERS: OK, so first let's just talk about last year. I mean it was a pretty tough year for women in tennis, right? What happened?

GOODMAN: Yes. I - it kind of started in the spring with the Indian Wells tournament, which is one of the biggest tournaments of the year. And the tournament director gave some quotes in which he basically said that the women are riding the coattails of the men. So sort of - and he used the phrase, get down on their knees and thank Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer and these sort of banner players on the male side for the attention they've brought the sport in the last few years.

So that was not received well. And that was kind of the gun going off. And as the year progressed, there were a series of events in which this came up. And tournament directors made ill-advised comments in response.

MCEVERS: And so enter into Andy Murray. I mean we talked about some of the things that he did. What else has he done and said?

GOODMAN: He's been at this for a long time (laughter). It's - his mom, Judy Murray, is a kind of stalwart supporter of women in tennis, an incredible coach, an icon in the sport in general and an advocate for women. But he also quite famously sort of ushered in the era of bold name coaching with his relationship with Ivan Lendl. Now that's standard. Like, all the big players on the male side have kind of recruit past greats to help them. Andy was first.

Then his second choice after he worked with Ivan Lendl - the next person that he went to was a woman, Amelie Mauresmo, and that drew a lot of negative attention at the time. It was like he had launched this sort of - this pattern. And then when he changed it up by hiring the next in line of sort of amazing former players to work with and it happened to be a female human being, that was quite scandalous.

MCEVERS: Really? And so what did he do when people criticized him for that?

GOODMAN: He spoke out really strongly about it. And I think the clip you played is a really good example of what's great about Andy's feminism, which is that it's kind of - it's dudish (ph). Like, there's something very, like, bro-y (ph) in the best way about his response. He doesn't give this sort of soliloquy about - excuse me, reporter; did you actually mean to say? He's just like, male player, right?

Like, it's very in the language of his - the way he speaks about everything else is how he speaks about this, and I think that's what's lent power to his advocacy in this space because on some level, he's sort of like, I'd really rather not talk about this. But, like, you've got to be kidding me. Like, I can't anymore. And I think that's - the female players that I spoke to for the piece - that echoed - that rings really true with them because it's sort of, like - it's not something you want to talk about. It's eye roll inducing, and yet it's so prevalent.

MCEVERS: Yeah, your piece is called "Game Changer." I mean do you think he really is changing the game and helping it move forward in the way people treat women?

GOODMAN: I think so. I think that attention on this level from this side of the aisle, so to speak, is powerful. I don't - I think it's unfortunate that that's what it takes...

MCEVERS: Right.

GOODMAN: ...(Laughter) Obviously.

MCEVERS: Yeah. We're talking about a dude as a feminist here.

GOODMAN: Yes.

MCEVERS: Yeah.

GOODMAN: And I struggled with that in the piece. I mean to write a piece in a women's magazine that uses this kind of attention on a man and have it be about feminism is a trick, you know? But I think to - it's appropriate because he is making waves in a way that has an effect. You can tell by Serena's response to it.

I mean Serena's response to Andy has basically been - at each of these junctures has been, like, you know, all of us are grateful to him for calling these issues out because you have to - there - we need it from all sides. And he has a powerful megaphone.

MCEVERS: Lizzy Goodman is a contributing editor at Elle magazine. She's also out with a new book called "Meet Me In The Bathroom." It's an oral history of rock in New York City in the first decade of the 2000s. Thank you.

GOODMAN: Thank you so much.

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