By Jane Voigt
Chilly hand shakes. Players robbing camps of coaches. Kim Sears, Andy Murray’s fiancé, caught on camera in a foul-mouthed rant. Please!
What about the good stuff?
Andy Murray did more for women in sports today since Billie Jean King took Sugar Daddy Bobby Riggs to the woodshed forty-one years ago in the “Battle of the Sexes.” Murray named Grand Slam Champion Amelie Mauresmo as his coach last year at Wimbledon. They were immediately served buckets of snarky comments.
A woman! Horrors! And, she’s coaching a man.
You’d think people would have grown up, but not in sports.
So today after Murray triumphed over Tomas Berdych in the semifinal — 67(6) 60 62 75 — he silenced the naysayers and elevated Mauresmo to her rightful position.
“The end of last year was tough for me,” Murray said to a packed Rod Laver Arena. “She’s taken a lot of unfair criticism. A woman can be a very good coach; we’ve shown it this year.”
Murray’s mother, Judy, was his first coach and remains an integral part of his team. Eight-time major champion Jimmy Connors was coached by his mother. Billie Jean King coached Tim Mayotte briefly, as well. Mauresmo, though, is currently the only woman coach in the top 50 of the men’s ATP Tour.
“Madison Keys is also coached by a woman, Lindsay Davenport,” Murray added. “I’m very thankful to Amelie for doing it. It was a brave choice for her.”
Murray, who struggled with confidence last year after his former coach, Ivan Lendl, left, said today he feels as if he’s playing, “some very good tennis.” He told ESPN, “I’m very satisfied.”
A remarkable athlete, Murray dictated points against Berdych. The final games in the match showcased a tough, determined, and offensive player who still should be considered part of the so-called Big Four. And with all the talk of their disbandment, on Monday the rightful order to the ATP could return. The provisional rankings are: Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Andy Murray.
Murray awaits the winner of Friday’s semifinal between Novak Djokovic (No. 1) and defending champion, Stan Wawrinka (No. 4). The match will be their third consecutive at The Australian Open. Last year Wawrinka defeated the Serb in the quarterfinals.
Last week, Rafael Nadal came ever so close to a second round exit. It would have been his earliest loss since his first appearance in Melbourne in 2004. But, he found a way to win the five-setter over Qualifier Tim Smyczek. Part of that path was paved by the American.
After four hours, in the fifth set, Nadal served for the match at 6-5. He went down 0-30. As Rafa served, a spectator shouted, and the ball missed the box. Smyczek shot the “V” for victory sign at the chair umpire, indicating he should give Nadal two serves, not one, as protocol states. Nadal gave his opponent a thumbs up in return.
“What he did at the end of the fifth is just amazing,” Nadal told the press. “I say on the court congratulations but I want to say here, too. Very few players can do that after four hours something of a match. So just will say thanks to him because he’s a great example.”
“I couldn’t make out what he [spectator] said,” Tim began. “I don’t know if the guy didn’t know Nadal was tossing the ball or not, but it clearly bothered him. You know, I thought it was the right thing to do.”
The gesture gained more positive ground because the 112th ranked American came within one game of the upset.
“He [Nadal] would have done the same thing,” Tim added, The New York Times reported.
Hats off to Andy Murray and to Tim Smyczek. Both have given us some hope that honesty and sportsmanship can be just as much of a storyline as all those silly bits and bites, and human misgivings we read so much about and squawk about on social media.