Kim Sears: A woman at a sports event makes the front pages! Shame it’s for swearing and not participating

In sport, the line between passion and profanity  is thin

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The Independent Online

Thwack! Kim Sears rallied behind her fiancé Andy Murray in the Australian Open semi-final, lobbing a volley of abuse at his opponent Tomas Berdych in an ace show of loyalty and love that netted her the front page of most UK newspapers. I think that’s all of the tennis puns done.

The traditionally genteel game does lend itself to wordplay, which might go some way to explaining the flurry that Kim Sears – or should that be Kim Swears? (I will stop now) – and her courtside outburst generated yesterday.

As stories go, it’s certainly more in the “Dog Bites Man” camp than the “Man Bites Dog” camp. Murray has never been the most restrained player, frequently letting loose with tirades of easily lip-read curses as he scowls his way back to the baseline. Tennis is tense – for the players, and for those who watch it. So when Sears greeted Murray’s break-back in a tight first set with the words “Fucking have it, you flash Czech fucking fuck” – or something that looked a lot like that – it was hardly surprising. Besides it’s nice when a couple have a hobby they can share: some birdwatch, the Murray-Sears like to cuss. 

The majority of those watching would, I think, take Murray’s fulminating over Henman’s clenched anxiety any day. It is certainly more entertaining to watch. Sport is fiery and the line between passion and profanity is thin. There is an ignoble tradition of sportsmen hurling abuse. As for the spectators, anyone who has been in a pub during a particularly woeful England match, or has sat in the stands at Wembley, Twickenham or Lord’s, will have heard a lot worse. If you clutched your pearls every time someone swore in sport, you’d never let go of them.

Sears is not a princess, nor a politician, nor a diplomat. She is merely the fiancée of a star player. There is no protocol, thank goodness, to say that she should sit tight and look pretty, though that is what she and most other sports spouses do most of the time. “Flash Czech” was a little below-the-belt but she wasn’t heckling and calling the other play a “cry baby” like Mirka Federer, wife of Roger, did a couple of months back.

Interestingly, Sears has recently taken to putting a towel over the camera placed in the players’ box to film her reactions. Quite right too. The watching of players’ partners as they watch has become an increasingly invasive and creepy aspect of the game – the passive beauty watching their loved one sweat it out as the world looks on.

I suspect that if a male member of Murray’s entourage, or even his notoriously stern mother, had been snapped swearing like a spin doctor, it might not have made front-page news. But there’s something about the combination of shiny hair and fruity language that proves irresistible. 

Of course, with Sears on the front pages, Murray’s victory was relegated to the back. So too was the player’s post-match interview in which he praised the contribution of his new coach, Amélie Mauresmo. Murray said it had been “brave” of her to take the job, adding, “So far this week I think we’ve shown that women can be very good coaches as well.”

It’s a shame he felt the need to say anything, but the sexist fascination that greeted the appointment of a female coach to a male champion rumbles on. “He’s been asked probably the same question over and over for the past six or seven months,” said Mauresmo later. “I think he probably meant, ‘OK guys, this is it. Let’s talk about tennis… about what I’m doing well or not’.”

That is what sport is supposed to be about, after all: the taking part, and the winning. For all that the Sears mouthing off is a bit of fun, there is a problem when the most prominent women in sport are the partners not the practitioners.

A survey this week found a huge fall among women participating in sport in the UK – 125,000 fewer than last year. The reasons, according to Sport England: “They are worried about being judged about how they look, how fit they are and whether they are ignoring caring responsibilities.” A depressing assessment. And as long as the only women in sport to make the front pages are the ones watching the game, who will inspire the rest to get up, get fit and become the world champions of the future?