Two of the top tennis players in the world, Andy Murray and Roger Federer, have said that they believe that the sport would be welcoming of openly gay male players.
Speaking at the Italian Open in Rome on Sunday, the sports stars were asked about the possibility of a player coming out in professional tennis.
“I don’t think it would be a problem,” Federer, who is currently ranked third in the world, told journalists
“We’re very relaxed. We don’t play a team sport and see each other all the time. We’re very open. So whatever happens, happens. I don’t know if there are any [gay players]. So far from what I’ve heard, no. But that could change, possibly because of the case in the NBA.”
Federer was referring to National Basketball Association (NBA) star Jason Collins, who recently became the first active athlete in a top American professional team sport to come out as gay.
Murray, who is the second highest ranked player at the moment, said that he hoped that there would be no issue if a colleague came out on the professional circuit
“You know, there have to be some players who are probably gay but I don’t think other players have any issues with it and hope tennis deals with this well,” he said.
“I saw the Jason Collins thing in basketball and the player and the owners were respectful and happy about his decision and so I think it is a good thing.”
Late last month, American tennis stars Andy Roddick and Mardy Fish became the first professional men’s tennis players to sign on to the Athlete Ally campaign which seeks to end homophobia in sport.
Roddick praised Collin’s “courage and leadership in coming out” and said that he wants to “support every athlete to feel comfortable and confident being themselves and to make sure that all people – players and fans alike – are welcome and included in tennis”.
While the iconic Martina Navratilova broke new ground in the women’s tennis circuit by coming out as lesbian in 1981, there has been no similar breakthrough for high profile male tennis professionals.