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 tennis 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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