'Next you'll be saying you're going to work with a dog' - Andy Murray reveals player's response to hiring female coach
Andy Murray has revealed the depth of sexism that still exists in tennis, including one player asking him if he was joking when he broke new ground and named Amelie Mauresmo as his coach three years ago.
Murray - a long-time advocate of gender equality in sport - also said that tennis should celebrate its role in challenging sexism and the fact that it has two Tours with near equal prize money.
"When it first came out in the press that I may be working with a woman, I got a message from one of the players who is now coaching," Murray told Elle Magazine US. "He said to me, ‘I love this game that you’re playing with the press, maybe you should tell them tomorrow that you’re considering working with a dog.’ That’s the sort of stuff that was said when I was thinking about it.
"When I came on the professional tour, there were no men coached by women
"The amount of criticism she got in comparison to any other coach I’ve ever worked with, it’s not comparable at all. Now, when I lose a match, I get the blame. When I was working with her, it was always her fault.
"It certainly highlighted a few things I hadn’t given loads of thought to."
Murray also feels strongly that there are not enough female coaches compared to their male counterparts. Not only are there very few females on the men’s ATP tour, but male coaches are also heavily represented on the women’s WTA tour. Tellingly no leading male player has hired a female coach before or since Murray began working with Mauresmo.
"Some argue, ‘Oh, well, she’s a woman, so she can’t understand the men’s game,'" Murray said. "But then how can a man understand the women’s game? I obviously grew up getting coached by my mum, so I didn’t see any issue.
"But even when I came on the professional tour, there were no men coached by women, so looking for a coach, you assume you’re looking for a man, but when you get older you realise, 'well, no, it doesn’t have to be that way.'"
One area where tennis leads the way in gender equality is the equal prize money given to men and women at the four grand slams. In general though ATP Tour events are more lucrative than WTA ones, and the issue of whether men should be paid more than women at joint events has cropped up on a number of occasions over the last couple of years.
Asked if he felt that he was the only male player standing up for women, Murray replied: "Um, a little bit."
He added: "I certainly wouldn’t be the only one, but what I just don’t get is why it wouldn’t be something that tennis players are proud of, like, to be the only sport [where male and female earnings] are even comparable. That’s positive. We still have so many issues, but it’s something that tennis players should celebrate."
Murray has been an outspoken advocate of gender equality for a number of years, and he was praised last month when he corrected a reporter who said that Sam Querrey had become the first "first US player to reach a major semi-final since 2009". "Male player," Murray pointedly responded. He also made a similar correction to the BBC's John Inverdale at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Serena Williams told ESPN last month after Murray's Querrey correction: "I don't think there's a woman player - and there really shouldn't be a female athlete - that is not totally supportive of Andy Murray.
"He has spoken up for women's issues and women's rights, especially in tennis, forever and he does it again. That's one thing that we love about him."
Murray has been in New York since Sunday to prepare for the US Open, which begins on Monday. He lost the world No 1 ranking to Rafael Nadal earlier this week, but he could reclaim it by winning a second title at Flushing Meadows.