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Coach's ability, rather than gender, is what matters

By Andy Murray | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-03-09 09:28
Britain's Andy Murray reacts during his match against Netherlands' Tallon Griekspoor in Madrid, Spain, on Nov 20, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

When my brother Jamie and I were growing up, we lived very close to the local tennis courts in Dunblane, Scotland. Given that my mother played tennis to a reasonable standard and was also a coach, it was inevitable we would end up playing.

My mother has great energy and has been a workaholic ever since we were young, often getting up at 4 am to start her day. She's a role model for me through her determination, work ethic and drive to do what she wants to do.

Even now, she's traveling everywhere and teaching on the court, trying to bring tennis to the masses and give kids, girls and female coaches an opportunity.

I was coached by my mother from a young age and have had good experiences with female coaches throughout my tennis career. But when I turned professional, I noticed that every male player had a male coach and, in most cases, a male support team.

When I was choosing a new coach in 2014, I wanted to work with an ex-player-I feel they can help a lot with the psychological side and understand the pressures of playing in, and winning, big competitions.

Like me, French professional tennis player Amelie Mauresmo had struggled with nerves and had overcome that hump of winning major events. I felt she would understand me in that respect.

The reaction to Amelie's appointment as my coach, even from people close to me, was when I realized there was a problem. The reason they were questioning her was purely based on her sex and not because of her ability.

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.

The best coaches should be the best people. At the Olympic Games, there's no way that women should represent only 11 percent of the best coaches (11 percent of accredited coaches at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games were female). Clearly more work needs to be done.

Interestingly, I've read that there will be the highest number of female competitors at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (48.8 percent). So progress is being made.

Out of all the global sports, tennis is the best in terms of equal prize money, and male and female players competing at the same events. But the thing I find interesting is, rather than being celebrated, this is often questioned within the sport.

It's attractive to people watching, sponsors, TV, everyone, so don't waste your time arguing about it. Let's celebrate it and use it to our advantage to grow the sport around the world.

The Olympic Games also 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 it's the most successful sporting event.

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.

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.

The author is two-time Olympic champion in tennis. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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