Tennis equality

June 20th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Mark Reason writes in Stuff:

Maria Sharapova is a special woman. She has won all four majors. She speaks well in at least three languages, having taken French lessons while recuperating from surgery.

She is driven, she is admirable and she can biff a tennis ball. Masha is also laughing all the way to the bank. Even la belle Russe must wonder how on earth she is paid as much as Rafael Nadal.

Wimbledon starts in a few days’ time. If Sharapova and Nadal both go one step further than last year and win their finals, each would earn 1.15 million (NZ$2.3m).

In the name of equality the four tennis slams assert that Nadal and Sharapova are worth the same level of prize money. There’s one thing wrong with this piece of gender politics. It’s demonstrable nonsense. Here’s a question. How many women’s finals can you remember from the previous six years?

If you are a tennis nut, Belgian or Chinese you may just recall Kim Clijsters’ three-setter against Li Na in Melbourne last year. In 2010 Serena needed three sets to beat Justine Henin in Australia, but that’s about as far as the memory banks will go.

Hell’s bells, I attended three Wimbledon women’s finals in that time and I can scarcely remember a point. Delete the “scarcely”. I can’t remember a point. But there is good reason for this collective amnesia. The women’s final of the modern era tends to be a one-sided, crashing bore.

You have to go back to 2006 to find the last time the Wimbledon women’s final went to three sets. The French Open hasn’t had a three-setter since 2001. And quite staggeringly you have to travel back in time to 1995 to find the last women’s US Open final that went to three sets (Steffi Graf beats the post-stabbing Monica Seles in a thriller).

It’s a fair point, plus of course men must play best of five sets, not three, so equal prize money for unequal challenges seems wrong.

Back in 1968 Rod Laver was paid 2000 for winning Wimbledon and Billie Jean a mere 750. That pay inequality was a product of chauvinism. Did Laver put nearly as many as three times more bums on seats than Billie-Jean? Unlikely.

But the current equality is ludicrous.

I am quite sure that the top male models would like to be earning even half of the US$45 million that Gisele Bundchen is on. But it’s not going to happen. They just don’t have the same pulling power. This is the entertainment business, baby. Women football players (and I coach a girls’ football team for those bores who are reaching for the gender stereotypes) would love a piece of the 3 billion deal that the Premier League has just negotiated. Again, it’s not going to happen – lack of pulling power.

Will someone suggest the Silver Ferns be paid the same as the All Blacks in the name of equality?

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26 Responses to “Tennis equality”

  1. James Stephenson (1,885 comments) says:

    Except that Tennis is patently a game for girls, so why should men get any more for playing it?

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  2. Alan Johnstone (915 comments) says:

    They sell as many tickets. It’s just economics

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  3. Lipo (226 comments) says:

    Surely people would get paid by the amount of money that they generate.
    If the women’s final last for 15 minutes compared to the men’s but generates more advertising revenue, ticket sales, viewership then they should get rewarded for this

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  4. Daigotsu (446 comments) says:

    “Will someone suggest the Silver Ferns be paid the same as the All Blacks in the name of equality?”

    Call me a lefty but that doesn’t seem like a ridiculous proposal.

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  5. F E Smith (3,275 comments) says:

    I have never understood why the women only play to three sets. Shouldn’t it be equal pay for equal work?

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  6. Fentex (663 comments) says:

    I seem to recall a few years ago when equal prizes for women were adopted the rationale was that their audience was as large as for mens tennis.

    In which case shouldn’t people pretending to be concerned about sensible economic rewards ought be congratulating women for the efficiency of attracting commercially exploitable audiences comparable to mens with less effort?

    Will someone suggest the Silver Ferns be paid the same as the All Blacks in the name of equality?

    Surely it would be consistent with past positions on financial topics to base responses to this on cold calculations of who generates the most wealth?

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  7. unaha-closp (1,033 comments) says:

    They sholud play 5 sets not 3; its the same difference as between 7s and 15s or T20 and Tests. With just 2 sets needed for the win it can all be done and dusted in under 90 min and the player with the better A game can easily sustain it that long so we get onesided wins.

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  8. Pete George (21,826 comments) says:

    I have never understood why the women only play to three sets. Shouldn’t it be equal pay for equal work?

    What about paying per game? But there are unequal games.
    Per point?
    Per active minute on court?
    Per entertainment value?
    Per scream?

    Should All Blacks be paid per minute on field?
    Per good play with bad plays deducted, especially pemalties and yellow and red cards?

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  9. Scott (1,614 comments) says:

    Yes I have not been in favour of pay equality for tennis simply because the men play five sets and the women play three sets. I mean what happened to equal pay for equal work? The woman are just not doing equal work.
    Personally I would leave this to the market to decide.

    I do not agree much with the rest of the article though. I think women’s tennis is great and I really enjoy it. There have been some great champions and some great matches. The standard of women’s tennis is really high. My personal favourites are Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka.

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  10. Pete George (21,826 comments) says:

    I have never understood why the women only play to three sets. Shouldn’t it be equal pay for equal work?

    But most of the work is done off the court. It’s possible women spend much more time and effort in preparation, trying different outfits, waxing, hair styling, fingernailing, plucking eyebrows and applying sports quality makeup.

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  11. labrator (1,691 comments) says:

    There is equality of input, equality of process and equality of output. Without all three being equal there is no true equality. Unfortunately people always choose to argue for one of the three in isolation and ignore the sum. In this case women’s pay equality was an argument for equality of output. Now this article is calling for equality of input. How you can compare the process for two quite different sets of physical attributes is a tough one. Maybe one day we will work out men and women are different.

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  12. Pete George (21,826 comments) says:

    Do people pay 2/5 as much to watch a 20/20 match as a one day match?

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  13. Redbaiter (6,481 comments) says:

    Equality is a Marxist concept and one that should not be part of any dialogue from any person who professes to speak for the right wing of politics.

    Especially, using government to enforce some idiot commie’s concept of “equality” (in any social area) is the road to tyranny.

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  14. RRM (8,994 comments) says:

    DPF:
    Will someone suggest the Silver Ferns be paid the same as the All Blacks in the name of equality?

    Yes because both the All Blacks and the Silver Ferns are employed to perform the same service, by the same employer, the New Zealand Rugby Football Un… oh, wait…

    It’s those BLOODY UNIONS AGAIN eh, DPF? :-P

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  15. RRM (8,994 comments) says:

    It’s a fair point, plus of course men must play best of five sets, not three, so equal prize money for unequal challenges seems wrong.

    WTF? There’s no obvious principle there.

    I doubt the NZSO players get paid any more to perform a programme including a Bruckner symphony that goes on half the frigging night, than they do for a concert with a nice 35-minute Mozart or Beethoven symphony in the second half…

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  16. kowtow (6,717 comments) says:

    Equality?
    When will this nonsense ever end?

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  17. Longknives (4,048 comments) says:

    Pay Maria whatever she wants!

    http://thechive.com/2009/03/04/maria-sharapova-is-kinda-hot-14-photos/

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  18. Cato (1,094 comments) says:

    The level of pay should arguably be guided by merit. The fact is that women’s tennis involves a lot less skill and is quite sedentary compared to professional men’s tennis. The fact that BJK at the height of her career won two sets against an overweight former player 26 years her senior in an exhibition match in 1973, doesn’t change the fact that Karsten Braasch (when ranked outside the top 200) beat Venus Williams 6-2 and beat Serena Williams 6-1 without breaking a sweat – and then said he had been forced to played like someone ranked 600 to give them a chance.

    If we’re really concerned about equality then let the women compete against the men and just have one prize. The result would be no prize money won by women tennis players.

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  19. Scott (1,614 comments) says:

    RRM– I just think it’s obvious but let me explain it again. If a person works for one hour then they probably not going to get paid the same as the person who works for four hours. Women’s tennis sometimes features matches that last for one hour. Because they are all best-of-three sets.
    Now in the grand slam tournaments the men play best-of-five sets. So each Male tennis player can expect to be out there at least two hours.Sometimes, as in the recent Australian open tournament, the leading men were out there for four hours, five hours, and in the case of the final, almost 6 hours.

    So if we talk about equal pay for equal work, which is the basis of this equality notion,then the men do more work. I think that point is completely obvious.

    But my opinion is that we should let the market decide. If men are paid more than women because men attract bigger audiences and therefore more sponsorship I just don’t see a problem.Similarly if someone like Sharapova meant that the women’s game got more popular then I would have no problem if the woman got paid more.

    If we strictly enforced equality by government decree, then the New Zealand women’s rugby team should get paid as much as the All Blacks.

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  20. unaha-closp (1,033 comments) says:

    Suppose you knew nothing of tennis would you prefer to watch a leggy Siberian, blonde part-time fashion model for 90 minutes or a sweaty, cack handed Spaniard with dodgy knees for 3 hours?

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  21. KH (686 comments) says:

    Beats me as to why an All Black gets paid anything at all !

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  22. F E Smith (3,275 comments) says:

    RRM,

    I like your classical music analogy, even though you have it slightly wrong.

    If the programme includes a Bruckner symphony rather than a Mozart one, then the musicians will be paid the same amount of money; in the same way, a three sets win for a male tennis player will earn him the same as a five set win does.

    So far, no problem.

    But let’s say that in the concert, regardless of whether the programme is for a Bruckner symphony or a Mozart symphony (or my preference, a Mahler), the female musicians get to go home at the end of the second movement of the symphony, but get paid the same as the men who have to stay until the end? Now, can you please tell me how that is possibly worth equal pay?

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  23. John Sheehan (1 comment) says:

    Mark you make more sense than your old man. This equality for tennis pay is a joke and it beggars belief that any sane sports group would ever sanction this. If they want equal pay then let them slog it out for 5 sets as well. But as you say most of us would have turned off long before they got there. Whilst we are on the subject of women’s tennis when are the tennis bosses going to get it that ‘grunting’ belongs in the bed or maybe the toilet – not on a tennis court – they should fine these stupid wenches every time they grunt and put a timeframe on when it will be outlawed from the game. After all blokes don’t have to do it!

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  24. bka (133 comments) says:

    FES and RRM, Symphony Orchestras tend to be unionised and are strong on their terms and conditions: for example, they famously won’t rehearse/play one minute longer than the contracted time – Stockhausen even wrote a strike over this issue into one of his works (youtube Luzifers Tanz, around the 47th minute)
    I suspect a standard performance fee would cover different kinds of performances, but they would be very mindful of the time spent preparing a work and expect to be paid for all formal rehearsal time. Performances with a much longer than standard running time might well have to be negotiated for with a larger fee. With a collective mindset no one is going home early.

    Re tennis, it might seem unfair but I’d think the women are just as prominent and bring in about as much money through the gate and sponsorship as the men. It is none of our business really, but if they have convinced the powers that run tennis that they are just as valuable as the men, then good on them.

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  25. Jman (84 comments) says:

    I’m an avid tennis fan. It’s true that at the moment mens tennis is much more exciting than womans because you have 3 top players (Federer, Nadal and Djokovic) with a great rivalry between them, whereas there’s nothing like that at the top of the womans game. Caroline Wozniacki held the world number 1 position for the whole of last year and she still hasn’t even won a single grand slam tournament.

    However that can and will change. I think overall womans tennis can be just as exciting as mens tennis and so should have equal status.

    However I also agree that the woman should play 5 sets instead of 3. Top female players now should be just as fit as top men players so should be able to handle it. It’s like saying a woman’s marathon is only two thirds as long as the mens marathon, which is pretty dumb.

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  26. F E Smith (3,275 comments) says:

    bka,

    Do you understand what an analogy is?

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