King, Murray Speak Out On Gender Equality And Pandemic Impact On Tennis

WASHINGTON, May 2, 2020 (by Michael Dickens)

Christiane Amanpour, host of Amanpour, CNN International’s nightly global affairs program, welcomed tennis Hall of Famer Billie Jean King and three-time major titlist Andy Murray, both champions for women’s sports, on her show for a timely, wide-ranging discussion Friday evening.

Among the topics Amanpour (from London) covered during her 20-minute conversation via Skype with King (in New York City) and Murray (in Surrey, England) were: life under lockdown, gender equality in tennis, and the future of the sport as it deals with Covid-19. There was even time for Murray to playfully discuss a viral Instagram photo of him wearing a Scottish kilt and the argument he shared with his daughters over whether it was actually a kilt (which he defended) or a skirt (which they argued). “They won that argument. They win most arguments with me, my daughters, they’re four and two. They’ve already got me wrapped around their fingers,” he said with a hint of laughter.

On a more serious note, Amanpour asked Murray what’s it been like to be off work and off the court. “It’s been tough, obviously, tough for everyone,” he said. “But it has also given us the opportunity to spend time, a lot of time at home with my family, which my job and the traveling we usually do I don’t always get that opportunity. That’s been nice but really challenging at times trying to teach and educate my children, which a teacher usually does that for us. It’s been hard as well, but I’ve enjoyed a large part of it. It’s been special to have this time with my family, obviously, but it’s tough not going out and socialize and to do things aside from the tennis and sport, which is an important part of our life. You know, just living and going out to restaurants … having your usual freedoms. Not having them has been tough.”

Then, Amanpour brought up Roger Federer‘s highly-publicized tweet from a week ago, in which he raised the idea of merging men’s and women’s tennis. She asked Murray what he thought about Federer bringing up the idea of a merger now during tennis’s hiatus and what might be the result of the tweet. He addressed the question eloquently by saying: “This is something Billie Jean has been wanting to have happen for 40 or 50 years. She’s the one who really has the vision for all of this. … More of the male players are seeing it as a positive step for the sport. We have a very unique sport in that we have men and women competing at the biggest competitions together – that doesn’t really happen in other global sports – and I see that as a big positive. We have equal prize money at those events, which is fantastic. I think this is something we should be celebrating in our sport. … There’s potentially going to be some issues with a merger, but I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction.” 

King, who help found the WTA in 1973, commented: “I’m thrilled Roger brought it up. When top male players bring it up, people listen. I had a chance to talk with Roger. He said the reason he even thought about this is because he had the time and space to reflect and think about the sport. What tennis people have to understand is we need to get along. We’re much stronger … if we’re together. From sponsorships to opportunities, we can grow. We have to stay together as a sport. We’re not competing within our sport like a lot of tennis people think. Our job is to be together so we compete against the other entertainment and sports. I don’t think people realize we’re in this business. It’s very important that we’re together. We’re not an acquisition – the WTA would not be an acquisition – we would be a full partner in this drive to make our sport better and more valuable.

“The leadership of both are much more interesting in combining a partnership. Anything is possible if we stay positive. … Can you imagine how it would be if we could negotiate with one voice?” 

Murray suggested there will be some challenges dealing with a “male mentality” that hasn’t always seen or realized the value of equal prize money for both men and women, especially at the Grand Slam events, “where someone would actually rather make less money just so they’re not on an equal footing with some of the female players. So, there will be some challenges.

“When it comes to the key decision makers right now in tennis, pretty much all of them are men. I think that when these discussions happen, it’s quite important not just to see the merger through a man’s eyes, and to bring more women into the decision-making positions so that everybody’s voice gets heard and everybody gets protected in these discussions. If that happens, we have a huge potential as a sport … to be even better.”

Finally, Amanpour commented about Murray being a champion for equal opportunities for women in tennis – both his mother Judy and Amelie Mauresmo have coached him – and she asked him how did he come to embrace that role? “That really started when I got a female coach, actually,” he said. “… I started to take more of an interest in it and see that it was an issue that needed to be resolved within the sport.”

USTA: 2020 US Open still on schedule as planned

In a story posted Friday on TSN.ca, the Canadian sports website reported that per a U.S. Tennis Association statement released Friday morning, the organization that oversees the US Open maintains a goal of holding this year’s Grand Slam in New York on its currently scheduled dates, August 31 to September 13.

Later Friday, Nick McCarvel, co-host of the #Tennis Tuesday video podcast, wrote on Twitter:

Behind The Racquet – Jan-Lennard Struff

Growing up in Warstein, Germany, Jan-Lennard Struff always dreamed of becoming a professional tennis player. “It helped that I had two parents who coached close to home,” he wrote in a Behind The Racquet first-person essay published earlier this year for the Instagram series.

“I remember when I was young waking up at 5:30 in the morning to watch the Australian Open for a few hours right before school. There were definitely times when I was late for school because I wouldn’t stop watching. I would then rush home after school to catch the night session. It didn’t matter how good I was, I always had the desire to be where those players were.”

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“I grew up playing in a very small town in Germany called Warstein. It was very tough to find partners for training sessions, which is why we could never really schedule anything. My mom would pick me up from school with packed lunch so I was prepared for practice. She then brought me to the bus stop, which was about a 30 minute ride to the train station. The train ride was about 45 minutes which was where I used to do my homework. After practice and my return home, it would be about nine at night. At that age it was very long days. I always had this dream of becoming a professional tennis player. It helped that I had two parents who coached close to home. I remember when I was young waking up at 5:30 in the morning to watch the Australian Open for a few hours right before school. There were definitely times when I was late for school because I wouldn’t stop watching. I would then rush home after school to catch the night session. It didn’t matter how good I was, I always had the desire to be where those players were. I was a really shy kid, always doubting what I could do. In the beginning I played mostly in Europe because it was cheaper and easier to get to. After finishing school, I knew what I wanted but it wasn’t an easy choice. I got some offers from colleges and decided not to go even though it could’ve been a great experience. Many friends were telling me to go to college but I knew what I wanted. I wanted to be free, train, live my dream, live my life and not be put into a system. At the time I still questioned it all but just decided to give professional tennis a try and see how far I could go. I didn’t know how good I could be because I didn’t have the success as a junior that others had. I was ranked 400 in the ITF rankings and got my first professional point when I was 19 years old, which is a late start compared to others. It even took some time to battle pass the other Germans my age. Every year, step by step from 700, 300, 200 and now. There has been so many things that has changed, life is so different now…” @jl_struff Check out full story and others at behindtheracquet.com (link in bio @behindtheracquet )

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What they’re sharing on social media

#TennisAtHome / Waiting for tennis to come back to life 

Petra Kvitova, Czech Republic, currently ranked No. 12 / Feeling good to hit balls again

Alize Cornet, France, currently ranked No. 59 / Backhand winner down the line