Andy Murray's latest show of emotion shows heart and character remain undiminished
Please note, the opinions expressed here are Marc’s, and not those of the Foundation.
The sight of Andy Murray sobbing into his towel at the conclusion of his epic third round win over Marius Copil is, for me, the enduring image from last week’s memorable action on the ATP and WTA.
Andy has never been afraid of showing his emotions in public, but his actions in the aftermath of that 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 victory were a further demonstration of how much heart and character he has.
The two-time Wimbledon and US Open champion has proved time and again how strong a competitor he is but seeing his latest exploits at the Citi Open in Washington brought to mind a few things that some of our Foundation girls heard from Kathy Martin, Senior Director, Athlete Assistance at the WTA, during her recent visit.
Kathy asked the girls to think about the qualities that make up a champion, and determination, attitude, fighting spirit and working hard all featured prominently.
Bally possessed these qualities in abundance, and as we strive to keep her legacy alive at the Foundation, it is great to see Andy show that same battling spirit on the ATP tour.
That Andy was in the situation he was in, starting a third-round match at midnight, drew a lot of attention from tennis commentators and fans alike, as the scheduling at the Citi Open came under the spotlight.
The debate began when Andy raised the possibility of not playing his quarter-final against Alex de Minaur in the wake of three gruelling three-set matches, and it continued when he confirmed his withdrawal from the tournament, and from the Masters 1000 event in Toronto.
Outdoor tournament organisers are always at the mercy of the weather, so they should be cut some slack when mother nature does her worst and literally rains on their parade.
Rain has played havoc with the scheduling in Montreal for the WTA Premier 5 event, with some players, like the men in Washington, having to play twice in a day. Among them are Foundation ambassador Jo Konta (more on her below).
Tournament scheduling is far from straight forward, of course. And while there were suggestions on social media that the start times at the Citi Open should have been brought forward to take into account the weather forecast, the powers that be have plenty of other things to consider.
The fans, officials, and other parties such as TV broadcasters must be given due attention, as well as the players, when organisers decide on a course of action.
The fact that the issued caused by rain delays came under such a big spotlight last week demonstrates how rarely these problems come up, and for that we should all be thankful.
I alluded to the importance of role models earlier in this piece and unfortunately there was one player on the men’s tour who caught the headlines last week for all the wrong reasons.
Benoit Paire’s angry outburst during his first-round match with Marcos Baghdatis, which saw him trash three rackets in the closing moments of their encounter, was a particularly unedifying spectacle.
It cost the Frenchman too, with the ATP fining him £12,500 for committing an audible obscenity, unsportsmanlike conduct and a lack of giving best effort.
If you haven’t seen it, Paire reacted badly to fluffing an overhead volley during when trailing 2-4 in the deciding set, smashing his racket in immediate response to losing the point and the game.
On walking back to seat at the changeover, he hurled his broken racket across the court, then picked up another racket by his seat and smashed that one as well. As he went back on court for the resumption of play, he threw both broken rackets across the court for a poor ballboy to retrieve once more. Finally, after losing the match, the world No 55 had one more outburst, breaking a third racket on his way to shaking Baghdatis’ hand at the net.
I never like to see players breaking their rackets during matches – it sets a bad example, and parents everywhere who fork out big sums of money to pay for their children’s rackets must cringe whenever it happens.
But I also accept that players are human beings and tennis is a game where 90 per cent is played in the head. Unless we want the stars out on court to act like robots, we shouldn’t judge them too harshly on the odd occasion when they take out their frustration on their equipment.
Having said all that, Paire, 29, went some way beyond displaying a short, angry outburst of emotion. I felt almost embarrassed watching his prolonged tantrum unfold, and I suspect so too did Baghdatis, who tried to calm him down during that changeover by putting a reassuring hand on his shoulder. No one wants to see players acting in the way that Paire did, if the boos that greeted his departure from the court are anything to go by.
His behaviour in Toronto was much improved, even though you could see the frustration building up inside of him during last night’s defeat to Rafael Nadal.
I suspect the fine will have done little to hurt Paire’s bank balance, but it at least sends the message that the ATP takes a dim view of this kind of behaviour – and it looked as though he’d taken that message on board as he battled against the world No 1. Despite throwing his racket to the ground on several occasions, none of his equipment suffered the fate that befell his rackets in the US capital.
The ATP’s stance and the public reaction in the stands, on social media and in the press, should ensure that the kind of meltdown that Paire had in Washington remains a rare sight on the tour.
On a positive note, it was great to see Jo Konta show a welcome display of some of her best tennis at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose.
Konta has happy memories of competing at the WTA Premier event, having won the tournament in 2016, albeit at a different venue in Stanford.
In reaching the quarter-finals, British No 1 Konta, currently ranked 48 in the world, produced the kind of tennis that took her to four in the WTA rankings last year.
And the good news is she continued that good form into Montreal with wins over last year’s French Open champion and 11th seed Jelena Ostapenko, and two-time Australian Open champion and former world No 1 Victoria Azarenka.
A straight sets loss to No 5 seed Elina Svitolina in the third round should not dent her confidence too much, and Jo should be able to take plenty of encouragement as she continues the rest of her preparation for the US Open.