"Hopefully things will change when women are given more opportunities"
Sunday 8 March 2020 14:56, UK
Andy Murray has urged tennis to address the imbalance in coaching roles for women, saying: "When it comes to mindset, skillset and intelligence, there's no reason why a woman can't be just as good as a man."
In an op-ed letter written for the International Olympic Committee, the two-time Wimbledon and Olympic singles champion wrote that tennis still has some way to go when it comes to equal opportunities for women in the sport.
The former world No 1 also wrote about the impact that his mother Judy's energy, determination and work ethic has had on his career.
But his appointment of Amelie Mauresmo as his own coach in 2014 brought the issues surrounding gender equality in coaching to sharp focus for the three-time Grand Slam champion.
With Amelie, the questions I would get asked a lot of the time after losing matches would be about our relationship. I've never had that at any other time in my career.
"The reaction to Amelie's appointment as my coach, even from people close to me, was when I realised there was a problem," wrote Murray. "The reason they were questioning her was purely based on her sex; it was not because of her ability or what she'd done in her career.
"I did well with Amelie and reached Grand Slam finals, but a lot of people saw the period when we worked together as a failure because I didn't win a Grand Slam title. People blamed her for that, but that wasn't the case with my other coaches - it was always me who was the problem, and I would get the criticism when I lost.
"With Amelie, the questions I would get asked a lot of the time after losing matches would be about our relationship. I've never had that at any other time in my career."
The Olympics might be moving closer to gender parity, with Tokyo 2020 expecting a record 48.8 per cent of athletes to be female, but the disparity in coaching representation also has some way to go. Just 11 per cent of accredited coaches at the Olympic Games Rio 2016 were female.
"When it comes to mindset, skillset and intelligence, there's no reason why a woman can't be just as good as a man, and hopefully things will change when women are given more opportunities."
The 32-year-old, who remains hopeful of making his comeback at the Miami Open in March, believes the Olympic Games have an important role to play in promoting gender equality.
"People love watching the Olympics because they see the best male and female athletes. They are entertained by the mix of athletes, and that's one of the reasons why it's the most successful sporting event," Murray wrote.
"When I first competed at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008, I went along to watch the badminton mixed doubles and absolutely loved it. Similarly, people love watching mixed doubles in tennis; more sports should look at these formats and think about what they can do and what fans might want.
"When I played mixed doubles with Serena Williams at Wimbledon last year, it was a good example of how the format draws a slightly different crowd to the sport. Normally when I win or lose at Wimbledon, people will come up to me and say: "Well done" or "Bad luck". But, with Serena, so many people said: "We loved seeing you and Serena playing together. It was brilliant." People enjoy seeing that, and we should promote it. How can you not see that it's a good thing?"
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