A voice for equality, Andy Murray’s influence goes well beyond his on-court accomplishments
MELBOURNE — Praise continued to pour in for Andy Murray at the Australian Open on Saturday, 24 hours after his announcement that he plans to retire from tennis after Wimbledon because of his hip injury.
But amid all the tributes for his on-court achievements, which included three Grand Slam titles, Davis Cup glory and two Olympic gold medals, it was clear that Murray had a genuinely profound effect for what he did and who he was off the court.
“He’s a normal person,” said Nick Kyrgios, whom Murray took under his wing when the Australian was an up-and-coming player. “When I hung out with him, he was funny. Didn’t take himself too seriously. Every time I hung around him, I felt comfortable around him all the time. He kind of felt like he was, like, 20. He was a little bit immature at times. He was so friendly, humble, down to earth. Just a normal guy. He’s a legend of the sport, but I never saw it like that.”
Honest, courteous and self-deprecating, Murray has always been well-liked by his fellow players, as almost all of them who were scheduled for media day here Saturday noted. Murray was generous with his time, happy to offer advice or simply have fun, which in so many ways belied how he came across on the court.
But the manner in which Murray has stood up for equal rights for men and women on tour, especially on the topic of equal prize-money, has made him an even greater role model within the sport and outside it.
As Billie Jean King said on Twitter on Friday: “Andy Murray, you are a champion on and off the court. So sorry you cannot retire on your own terms but remember to look to the future. Your greatest impact on the world may be yet to come. Your voice for equality will inspire future generations. Much love to you & your family.”
To think that in his early days, Murray used to have to answer questions like: “Why do you look so miserable on court?” His serious demeanor was off-putting to some.
From the moment he won his first matches at Wimbledon as an 18-year-old in 2005 and picked up his first title in San Jose in 2006, Murray has lived his professional life in the spotlight, the great hope for tennis in Britain, a country starved of success for so long.
That he managed to deliver under all that pressure is remarkable enough. His two Wimbledon titles alone give him a special place in the record books. But his more profound impact came in the words he spoke. Murray became a leading voice in fighting sexism in tennis, advocating for equal prize money. What we learned about Murray as time went on was that he had a strong moral compass.
“He was always my favorite,” said German player Andrea Petkovic. “I think it will be a huge loss for tennis in general, but also for the WTA. Because even nowadays, when you think everything is equal, you still need men, especially successful men, to speak up for women.”
Pam Shriver, an ESPN tennis analyst who won 22 Grand Slam doubles titles, said Murray will be remembered for both his on-court achievements and off-court humanity.
British tennis players Johanna Konta, Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans gave their thoughts after Andy Murray announced his retirement plans from tennis.
“A male leadership voice that stands out and is outstanding during a challenging time for gender issues,” she tweeted. “Andy was able to reach No. 1 during the Federer, Nadal, Djokovic era, making it the era of the big 4.”
World No. 2 Rafael Nadal has known Murray since they were youngsters, dreaming of one day becoming professionals.
“We shared competitions under-13, under-14. We know each other since a very long, long time ago,” Nadal said, before breaking into a smile. “When he was a kid, he was little bit a bad boy.
“Then, of course, you have an evolution on your personality. And yes, at the end of the day you appreciate a lot your rivals because you shared lot of important moments in our lives.”
Women’s world No. 1 Simona Halep also had nothing but praise for Murray the person.
“It’s really sad,” she said. “The tour will miss him, because for sure we will miss him.”
Murray’s tennis accomplishments have been surpassed by few. But as we were reminded Saturday, Andy Murray the person away from the court is that much more impressive.
Andy Murray announces he plans to retire from tennis this year due to his right hip injury, admitting he’s been “struggling for a long time.”