Andy Murray is used to having to answer for his own bad language on court but the Scot had to defend his fiancée, Kim Sears, after television cameras caught her apparently swearing at his opponent during his semi-final here at the Australian Open.
Murray beat Tomas Berdych 6-7, 6-0, 6-3, 7-5 to reach his first Grand Slam final since his Wimbledon triumph two years ago, but the match was punctuated by several unsavoury incidents. Tensions in both players’ camps had been heightened by reaction to Dani Vallverdu’s appointment last month as Berdych’s coach, the Venezuelan having previously been a long-standing member of Murray’s entourage.
Throughout the first set Murray was shouting in the general direction of Berdych’s player box, where Vallverdu was sitting. The Scot was also unhappy about something Berdych said as the two men passed the umpire’s chair at the end of the first set.
Sears’ outburst came after Murray had broken serve when Berdych served for the first set at 5-3. Lip readers suggested that Sears had shouted out: “F**king having that you Czech f**king f**k.”
Sears was soon trending worldwide on Twitter. The German player Andrea Petkovic tweeted: “I love Kim Sears so much.” Anne Keothavong, the former British No 1, called the incident “f****** hilarious”. Rennae Stubbs, a retired Australian player who is now a television commentator, tweeted: “Classic comment out of Kim Sears’ mouth when they showed her and Berdych’s fiancée on a split screen. ‘Oh for F... Sake!’ Gotta love Kim!”
In his post-match press conference Murray blamed the increased tensions on the media’s focus on Vallverdu’s departure from his entourage last month, though he insisted that in the match everything had calmed down after the first set.
“When there’s a lot of tension surrounding something, which [the media] created, then it’s completely normal that everyone was tight for the whole of the first set,” Murray said.
“My physical trainer, my physio, I’m sure for Dani it was uncomfortable. Even Tomas, who very rarely says anything on the court, there was tension there for him as well. In the heat of the moment you can say stuff that you regret.”
Murray claimed that the media had wanted to generate tension. “I sat in here the other day and got asked more questions about Dani than I did about the match I’d just played,” he said.
As for the incident at the end of the first set, Berdych claimed that he had simply said to himself: “Well done, Tomas.” Murray did not hear exactly what Berdych had said but he complained to the umpire, who in turn questioned the Czech.
“Do I have to be worried about every word that I’m going to say?” Berdych asked afterwards, insisting that nothing of any consequence had been said or done. “I just pumped myself up for winning a first set. That’s it. Then I sat on the chair.”
Murray said he regretted the fact that the media interest in Vallverdu meant that Amélie Mauresmo, his coach, was not getting the credit she deserved.
“The other day, I got asked all the time about my ex-coach working with Tomas and no one was interested in anything I was doing with Amélie or the way I was playing or anything,” he said.
“A lot of people were also criticising her at the end of last year, saying the way I was playing was her fault, when I’d spent only two weeks training with her up to the training block at the end of the year. You can’t change things during tournaments. There was very little time to spend with each other.”
The Scot drew praise on social media for his comments about women coaches in his on-court interview. “So far this week, women [have shown they] can be very good coaches,” he said.
“Madison Keys, who reached the semis here and had her best tournament, is also coached by a woman – Lindsay Davenport – and I see no reason why that can’t keep moving forward like that in the future.
“I’m very thankful to Amélie for doing it,” Murray added. “It was, I would say, a brave choice for her to do it and, hopefully, I can repay her in a few days.”