This blog is predominantly about women’s tennis. It is usually about the lack of respect shown to women’s tennis by the media in terms of how women’s tennis is covered. However, today, I am going to talk about the diversity of women’s tennis.
A few weeks ago the WTA took time out to celebrate the commencement of the WTA. Players from all over the world paid their respect to the 9 women who sacrificed their careers and their future in establishing the Women’s Tennis Association by signing a contract for $1.00 and starting what would become one of the most successful and viable franchises in sports history.
Since that time, we have seen the growth of women’s tennis on a par with most sports that are more focused on men. Why then does the growth of women’s tennis is not tied to the performance of the athletes but rather tied to how they look. Even worse, why is that it is only a certain demographic of women’s tennis is represented by advertisers.
We are constantly being told that Hispanics and African Americans are the biggest growing markets in North America. We are told that Asia is the fastest growing region for the sport of tennis. Yet, when we look at the players who are getting the multi-million dollar contract, there is hardly a Na Li or a Serena Williams out there raking in the big bucks.
Even worse, a look at the top 100 rankings of women’s tennis and the paucity of minorities who are embracing this sport leaves people like me, who are a minority, and who were drawn to the sport by two of the biggest stars to ever play the game, Venus and Serena, feeling quite disconsolate.
I listen and I watch lots of women’s tennis. The feedback I get from commentators is that tennis needs people like Ivanovic, Wozniacki, Sharapova, Clijsters, Azarenka and the list goes on and on, not because they are great players, but because of their looks and personality and what they bring to women’s tennis. In the same breath, the strength of character, the will to fight, the competitiveness and drive of a Serena Williams, the longevity of a Venus Williams, the artistry of a Justine Henin are laid by the wayside.
These veterans of the Tour may not have the looks that the Ivanovic’s and Wozniacki’s of the tennis world, but they are 3 of the most accomplished players in this generation of tennis players.
What really galls me more than anything else is that the 9 women who were recently celebrated for having the initiative and drive to buck the system are not what we would call celebrated beauties. In their own way they are beautiful women, but would Madison Avenue consider them women who could sell phones or tennis clothes, handbags, shoes etc. I don’t think so.
Sania Mirza is one of the few women of ethnic origin who has garnered a great deal of sponsorships based on her looks. If you have never seen Sania Mirza, here is a picture of her.
This is a call for minority women from all over the world to go out there and let your face be seen. Let your racquets start doing the talking. Give us the next Serena and Venus Williams. Let us see the next Na Li. The next Sania Mirza.