Men’s World No 1 (still) Andy Murray is deservedly getting plaudits for addressing the casual sexist question of a journalist following his five-set loss to the American Sam Querrey. In the post-match press conference, the journalist began his question by saying that Querrey was the “first player to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since 2009…” Murray interrupted the question with “male player…” implying that female tennis players from the US – most notably the Williams sisters – have reached semis and won majors during the time period in question.

While it is rare for male athletes to stand up for such casual sexism in sporting parlance, which a few years ago would’ve been common practice without any eyelids being bat, it is even rarer for a man to do it without any self-congratulatory trumpeting. He corrected the journalist as a matter of fact, without letting the matter exceed its due course amidst the press conference, as both the player and athlete moved on to what was actually being discussed.

After the press conference, the media started lauding Murray for his prompt correction, which in turn started a debate over whether the journalist’s statement was sexist to begin with. This is where it’s important to distinguish between sexism and casual sexism. Even a feminist at heart – man or woman – could be guilty of the latter, because casual sexism isn’t necessarily accompanied with bile misogyny.

For instance, the journalist forgetting to say that Querrey was the first American male player in the semi of a tennis major, does not establish that individual as sexist, or even that he was deliberately overlooking the achievements of women. For example, everyone seems to be overlooking the fact that Querrey wasn’t even the first male player from the US in the semis of a major – the Bryan Brothers have won Grand Slam titles in this time, but in doubles, which is a different format.

So what difference does it make if a journalist asked a men’s singles player about another player without qualifying the statement with male, when the intention looks like being event specific and not discriminatory towards any gender? A lot.

In a world where there is gender equality – or some proximity thereof – maybe we could leave it to common sense in such situations, giving the person the benefit of the doubt. But considering the blatant sexism faced by women, not least in the world of tennis, it becomes important for such instances to be pointed out – without taking the perpetrator to the sword – so that their peers can learn and correct themselves, in turn helping the female athletes overcome the multi-pronged hurdles they’ve had to face.

It was only as recently as last month that legendary US tennis player and commentator John McEnroe came into the spotlight for saying that Serena Williams would ‘rank somewhere around 700’ if she played with men. This was after McEnroe said Williams was the greatest female tennis player of all time and had been asked why he qualified his statement with ‘female’.

What McEnroe said then might’ve been an exaggeration, but there is a clear gulf between male and female athletes in all physical sports – including tennis – owing simply to biology. This is why most sports have different male and female events.

So why were McEnroe’s words wrong? Because instead of simply saying something like the men’s and women’s competitions being completely separate events, he decided to highlight that the ‘greatest female tennis player’ of all time would struggle against men.

Again, in a level playing field this mightn’t be an issue, but when everyone should be trying to facilitate the women, who have been marginalised for the majority of the sport’s history, who only recently have started earning equal prize money, we need to be careful with words.

Last year, Raymond Moore, the CEO at Indian Wells, one of the nine ATP 1000 venues said, “If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born because they have carried this sport. They really have.”

Around the same time Novak Djokovic, the then number one and dominant force in men’s tennis, said “men should get paid even more now because their ratings are better than the women’s game.”

When such statements prevail at the very top of men’s tennis, it becomes pivotal for anyone actually supportive of further bolstering women’s tennis to say the right things.

The ratings, just like the quality of play, is unquestionably higher in men’s tennis, but is that all that should matter when discussing prize money, or giving recognition to female athletes? What about the history of discrimination and the still prevailing unequal opportunities?

If we want more girls to take up tennis, or any other sport, we need to create an environment where the achievements of the greatest female athletes are not being belittled. That is where every commentator needs to weigh their words and unlearn any exhibits of sexism – casual or otherwise.