Why Andy Murray's good for women's tennis - according to his mum
"Andy and his coach Amélie Mauresmo have exploded the myth that women can’t work at the top level," writes Judy Murray
When Andy was just five years old, he told me he wanted to play “a proper match in a proper competition”. This was in the days before mini-tennis on badminton-sized courts. He hit double-handed on both sides back then, but he could control a tennis ball in a full court pretty well for a small child and he could keep the score, so I set about creating a fun tournament for kids aged ten and under so that he could have a go. It was the first of its kind in Scotland and, from that moment, he was hooked.
I became his first coach, though I brought in a young apprentice when he was 12 years old, partly because it’s difficult to be both coach and mum (and being mum will always be more important) and partly because it’s not that cool to be coached by your mum when you’re about to enter your teens. I was the Scottish national coach at that time and my apprentice was Leon Smith, who went on to become Britain’s Davis Cup captain.
Tennis is a minority sport in Scotland and it was easy to outgrow the competition locally, so I became expert at driving minibuses, taking Andy, Jamie and many other kids to tournaments around the country: little did I know that both my sons would go on to be Wimbledon champions – Jamie lifting the mixed-doubles trophy in 2007 and Andy taking the singles title in 2013, the first British men's winner for 77 years.
So Andy is used to having women in his tennis life. He has always been comfortable confiding in women about his emotions. And that ability to talk to women about his feelings – including those times when he might be afraid or angry or disappointed – has helped him to become the tennis player he is today. He and Kim, who got married in April, have been together since they were 18, and she is a massive support both on and off the court. When Andy recently beat Rafael Nadal to win his first Masters-level title on clay, he wrote on a TV camera lens: “Marriage works”.
For just over a year, Andy has had a female coach in former Wimbledon champion Amélie Mauresmo. There was a lot of noise when Andy took her on, just before last year’s Wimbledon. It’s very, very unusual for a male player at the highest level to work with a female coach who isn’t in the family. But it has proved to be a great decision.
Some even said it made Andy a feminist. After Serena Williams, the women’s world number one, announced, “Andy really is pro-woman”, he wrote in the French newspaper L’Equipe: “Have I become a feminist? Well, if being a feminist is about fighting so that a woman is treated like a man then, yes, I suppose I have. My upbringing means that I’m quite attuned to the whole thing. I came to tennis thanks to my mother. I always had a very close relationship with my grandmothers. I’ve always been surrounded by women. I find it easier to talk to them. I find it easier to open up to them. It’s a crying shame there aren’t more female coaches.” I couldn’t agree more.
Often guys on the tour don’t want to lose face with other guys, so their emotions are bottled up instead of being addressed. They won’t always talk to their male coaches about their worries and concerns, or if they’ve fallen out with their girlfriends. One of the things that Andy has found with Amélie has been that she is so easy to talk to. With Amélie – and I believe this is true of most female coaches – there’s no ego. And because there’s no ego, a female coach is much more willing to listen. Of course, it depends on every coach’s personality, but I do think that women are generally more intuitive about a player’s emotions, and how the player is feeling on and off the court. Certainly, Amélie has shown that she has great listening skills, and that has helped Andy a lot.