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Andy Murray praises women's tennis

September 21, 2017

Andy Murray has spoken out in support of women's tennis, emphasising that the top female players have to work just as hard as the leading men to get to the top. 

Writing for the BBC, Murray said: "People often underestimate the amount of work that it takes to become a top tennis player. And that work ethic is the same whether you are a man or a woman.

"There are hours spent in the gym, on court, in physio, travelling, analysing matches and opponents, talking with your team, managing your body, and of course, making plenty of sacrifices.

"Anyone who has spent any time with any of the top women will know that they make those same sacrifices and are as determined and committed to winning as any of the top men on the tour."

The Olympic champion has had plenty of experience working with female players and coaches, starting with his own mother and, more recently, with former Wimbledon ladies' champion Amelie Mauresmo. However, his views were also shaped by the experience of practising with girls when he was a child, something he said he wants to be encouraged.

He was encouraged to play with girls by his father at an early age and also practised with Svetlana Kuznetsova when they were both youngsters at the academy in Barcelona.

Tennis does, of course, have an advantage, Murray noted, thanks to the existence of the Mixed Doubles, a format in which his brother Jamie recently won the US Open with Martina Hingis. 

Indeed, the fact that Hingis and other female players are household names for their individual endeavours puts tennis ahead of many other sports, as does equal pay. Murray commented that "tennis has come a long way in the past 35 years since the US Open first gave equal pay to men and women," and said it could help pressurise other sports to follow suit. 

Wimbledon also provides equal prize money, as do all four Grand Slams, and fans booking corporate hospitality for the Championships, Wimbledon next year will have as much to be excited about as those watching the men's game.

Among the questions to be answered in the 2018 championships will be whether Serena Williams can return to her best after her maternity break, or Garbine Muguruza defend her title. 

Sloane Stephens and Jelena Ostapenko will also be in the spotlight, as they look to build on their maiden Grand Slam triumphs achieved this year. 

While the women's game is getting much praise from the two-time Wimbledon champion, a past winner of the men's singles played a major part in advancing the cause of women's tennis in a rather different way.

Bobby Riggs, who won the 1939 title, became a tennis hustler after his career and claimed that any man could beat any woman. Even in his 50s, he said, he could beat the top female players. 

Thus began the 'Battle of the Sexes' matches. He defeated Margaret Court easily, but famously lost to Billie Jean King in 1972. The two became close friends afterwards, but the defeat of Riggs' overt chauvinism helped make tennis the sport it is today.

A film about the Battle of the Sexes is being released in the US this week.

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