The world of professional tennis has produced some of the population’s most eccentric and unique individuals. You have Rafael Nadal, a man who is so quirky it’d be no surprise if he began a new ritual of performing ‘Mambo No. 5 (A Little Bit Of…)’ before each match. There’s also Serena Williams, one of the sport’s fiercest competitors who, after stating her intentions to retire, almost immediately did a 360, promising to return to the sport soon after realising she simply couldn’t give it up. But out of all of these personalities, no one’s managed to capture our gen Z hearts quite like Scottish supernova Andy Murray, and I think I know why—because he’s secretly one of us.
Born in Glasgow in 1987, Murray quickly rose through the ranks of competitive tennis, and by the time he was 23, he’d established himself as one the big four—alongside Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
Now, despite the fact that Murray is currently 35, thereby pushing him into the millennial bracket, I think—deep down—he’s about as gen Z as they come. In tribute to his deliciously spectacular performances during the 2023 Australian Open, here are a few reasons why Murray should be embraced as the truly chaotic gen Z icon he really is.
Both overt and covert sexism still exists within the realm of professional sport. Often, male players either fail to identify casual sexism among fellow insiders, or they choose to simply ignore it. Murray on the other hand, has a certified track record of shutting down misogyny on a regular basis—how very gen Z of him.
For example, in 2017, Murray was defeated in the quarter-final of the Wimbledon Championships by American player Sam Querrey. During the post-match interview, a reporter began to ask the Scottish tennis player a question, beginning by stating: “Sam is the first US player to reach a major semi-final since 2009,” but before he could continue, Murray immediately butted in, noting “male player.” This was obviously in reference to the fact that Venus Williams had already reached that title.
Moreover, Murray repeatedly defended his coach Amélie Mauresmo after she joined his team and faced swathes of sexist remarks from both the public and the professional tennis community. According to The Independent, Australian tennis player Marinko Matosevic described the star’s decision to hire a female coach as “politically correct,” adding: “Someone’s got to give it a go. It won’t be me.”
In response, Murray wrote a column in French sports paper L’Equipe, which was also published on his website, in which he defended his coach and declared himself a feminist. The Scotsman explained that his former male coaches never had to deal with the same level of scrutiny as Mauresmo—particularly after he lost matches.
Is there anything more gen Z than vocalising your emotions in the most dramatic way humanly possible? I don’t think so. We all love a king who can comfortably express himself while in the middle of a Grand Slam tournament. Now, of course, Murray isn’t the first—nor will he be the last—tennis player to lose his composure on the court. However, it’s the way in which he does it that makes me truly believe he is a gen Zer deep down inside.
More often than not, Murray laments at himself about missing a shot or making a mistake, repeatedly shouting “oh my god” or “are you kidding me?” as he stares at his tennis racket, willing it to magically win every point. Naturally, he almost always subsequently begins to smash things up after the eventual defeat—his racket, a water bottle, his bag, anything he can get his hands on really.
Murray’s stated how he’s been heavily criticised in the past for “showing too much emotion” on the court, and expressing himself mid-match. Personally, I can’t get enough of it.
Now, not to sound biassed, but I believe gen Z is one of the funniest and wittiest generations out there. We have a knack for turning pretty much anything into a joke, and we’ve been aided with the likes of TikTok and Twitter—all culminating in an online community of feral memes and sometimes slightly disturbing videos created solely to make us giggle.
One of the most recurring aspects of gen Zers humour is sarcasm. Considering the fact gen Z represents a generation confronted with the likes of Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Andrew Tate—we’ve found ways to maximise irony in the face of pure chaos. And if there’s one thing Murray excels in, it’s sarcasm. You only have to complete a quick YouTube search to find countless curated compilations praising the player’s comedic timing and dry wit.
Murray’s also participated in a wealth of comedy specials—Outnumbered, Mock The Week and Michael McIntyre’s Midnight Game Show to name a few. He encourages others to laugh at him and have fun, something gen Zers are notorious for.
His appearance during the 2014 Sport Relief may have to be my favourite Murray moment. During a segment titled Andy Murray—what he really thinks, the player was tasked with reading off a list of statements while comedian Hugh Dennis contemplated what the subtext to those words might really be. In one example, Murray read out, “Tennis has enabled me to achieve things I could never have dreamt of,” which Dennis rephrased as, “Have you seen my girlfriend, eh?”
We salute you Murray, for all you’ve done for the tennis community, and all you continue to do for the entertainment and general merriment of gen Zers everywhere.
A 27-year-long career, 23 Grand Slam titles, four Olympic gold medals, $450 million in earnings: winning her first Grand Slam title at the age of 17, Serena Williams, alongside her older sister Venus, has been widely credited with changing the face of tennis and women’s sports.
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour back in March 2022, the sisters admitted that they were aware of entering an “all-white sport” when they became professional tennis players, but they relished the challenge of redefining the same. “We changed it from being two great black champions to being the best ever, period,” the younger Williams said.
“And that’s what we did. We took out colour and we just became the best… It is what it is, we changed the sport, we changed the fashion, we changed how people think, we changed how people think in business.”
Fast forward to Tuesday 9 August, Williams has now announced her plans to move on from tennis after the 2022 US Open.
“I have never liked the word ‘retirement’,” Williams wrote in a column for Vogue. “Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is ‘evolution’. I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.” The athlete then went on to detail the struggle of maintaining a work-life balance as a woman, which ultimately prompted her to make the decision.
“Believe me, I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family. I don’t think it’s fair,” she penned. “If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labour of expanding our family.”
“Maybe I’d be more of a Tom Brady if I had that opportunity,” she added.
In an op-ed for CNN back in 2018, the tennis star admitted how she “almost died after giving birth” to her daughter Olympia with her partner Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit. She also highlighted how black women in the US are over three times more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes.
“I definitely don’t want to be pregnant again as an athlete,” she wrote for Vogue. “I need to be two feet into tennis or two feet out.” The star also admitted how she had never thought about having kids earlier in her career, but when it comes to Olympia, “nothing is a sacrifice.”
“It all just makes sense,” Williams continued. “I want to teach her how to tie her shoes, how to read, where babies come from, and about God. Just like my mom taught me.” Tennis, by comparison however, has always “felt like a sacrifice” for the athlete, although it was one she enjoyed.
“I’ve been reluctant to admit to myself or anyone else that I have to move on from playing tennis. Alexis, my husband, and I have hardly talked about it; it’s like a taboo topic. I can’t even have this conversation with my mom and dad. It’s like it’s not real until you say it out loud. It comes up, I get an uncomfortable lump in my throat, and I start to cry,” she admitted. “I know that a lot of people are excited about and look forward to retiring, and I really wish I felt that way.”
Williams also mentioned how she would love to stick around and try to beat retired Australian player Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles. “The way I see it, I should have had 30-plus Grand Slams,” she wrote. “But these days, if I have to choose between building my tennis résumé and building my family, I choose the latter.”