DOUBLE STANDARDS IN TENNIS



Remember when Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic posed in their skimpy swimsuits?

Recently, Serena Williams did this (via onthegotennis.com)
http://tinyurl.com/6yc5qxk

When I checked my Blackberry today and saw my timeline blow up about Serena, I was wondering what was the problem. Lo and behold I finally got a chance to see what was causing all the journalists to come out in high dudgeon against Ms. Williams. Lo and behold, it was because she chose to change her twitter Avatar with the picture cited above.

I have to say that I am a bit stunned at the reaction of tennis journos, and especially that paragon of tennis journalism, Greg Couch. Mr. Couch states that “Still, Anna Kournikova, Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic photos are never quite as gritty as Serena’s”. Hum, maybe they are not as gritty as Serena, simply because despite what advertisers and others would have us think you are either born with it, or you have it bestowed upon you. In Ms. Williams’ case, put her in sack cloth and ashes and she would still make Sharapova, Ivanovic and Kournikova look ordinary.

However, that is not the reason for this post. This post is about the hypocrisy that pervades throughout tennis journalism, and no where is it more evident but in the way how women’s tennis is covered and the way in which the women’s game is portrayed by journalists.

Separate and apart from the righteous indignation of Couch who would have us think that he is only defending Serena’s honour in thinking that for someone who has been the victim of a stalker (and he had the gall to cite Erin Andrews, but more anon), but how dare she post a picture that conjures up so much meaning and putting it out there for another stalker, or the same one, to think that he was invited to do it once again. How dare Serena Williams actually try and be a woman. A person. An individual. How dare she?

If I was 10% convinced that Mr. Couch’s heart was in the right place, I would ask him to get into high dudgeon at the way the media has chosen to deal with women’s tennis since this 2011 tennis season has commenced:-

1. There have been 4 Premier Mandatory tournaments played since the tennis season began. Of these 4 Premier Mandatory tournaments, the women’s portion of those events have only been airing since the quarter-finals. Tennis Channel, ESPN and the other networks that broadcast tennis do not believe that women’s tennis is worthy of being watched by millions of viewers and so the women are hardly shown and when they are shown, we are given highlights or interrupted play. I do not recall Couch and many other journalists bemoaning that fact.
2. When Todd Woodbridge chose to comment to Rennae Stubbs via text message that the possible reason for Kim Clijsters looking so grumpy and her breasts looking full must mean that she is once again pregnant. Correct me if I am wrong folks, but I do not recall anyone defending the invasion of Clijsters’ privacy with such a disgusting remark. I think most women would agree with me that if you had to get up and look at Mr. Couch’s face every day, and indeed listen to some of the male commentators on tv, you would perhaps be grumpy as well.
3. How about the constant belittling of professional women by referring to them as girls? If there is anything more demeaning to listen to is having grown ass men referring to women who could buy them 10 times over as girls. I will keel over and die the next time I hear commentators refer to the likes of Federer and Nadal as boys.
The cries of indignation by people like Couch infers and/or implies that because Serena was the victim of a stalker she should not have posted such a suggestive picture of herself. I guess that means that women who get raped while on dates should never ever go out on another date. Or how about women who get attacked viciously while going about their normal business? According to Mr. Couch, they must be asking for it, or indeed, they should change their lifestyle to minimize the chance of them being attacked. Are you serious Mr. Couch? He seems to think that Serena posting a picture of herself is an invitation to the lunatics, like the one who stalked her, and therefore, Serena, a free adult should be bound by fear, according to Mr. Couch, and not post pictures of herself, no matter that this is a free society, because the likes of the stalker who was recently hauled before the Florida Courts could be tempted to do this again.

As someone who has been a victim of personal crime, I find it insensitive and downright obnoxious that someone like Mr. Couch could ever deem to hold himself out as a moral authority as to women’s rights. Mr. Couch has used his position as a journalist to besmirch and downright call down fire and brimstone on the head of the Williams family, and Serena Williams in particular. Mr. Couch has absolutely no moral authority, imagined or otherwise, to even call Serena Williams to account.

It would have been good if Mr. Couch was sincere in his chastising of Ms. Williams, but his previous rants against Ms. Williams and indeed her whole family, the most recent of which was his abominable rants that Ms. Williams, knowing that she could not play an exhibition event for Nike, implied, inferred and colluded with Nike to have her name on a billboard promoting said Nike event. The fact that Ms. Williams was then diagnosed as suffering a pulmonary embolism, had to be rushed to the hospital for a subsequent hematoma, as a result of a cut on her foot, which to this day, Mr. Couch, and others of his like thinks is a figment of Ms. Williams’ imagination, notwithstanding his stance and others like him that Ms. Williams was not in fact injured, but was saving herself for the majors. I am yet to hear any apology from any of those members of the media who called into question, Serena’s continued absence from the Tour.

Therefore, it strikes me as a bit rich, that Mr. Couch of all people should be coming out and purportedly chastising Ms. Williams for putting herself in danger, seeing as she had been the victim of a stalker. You cannot have it both ways. It is either Ms. Williams is a lying, cheating hypocritical heifer who makes up injuries in order that tournaments can sell tickets, or she is injured, or she is the victim of a stalker, or is it that Ms. Williams, like most women, needs a man to look after their interest, because she is incapable of doing so herself.

Mr. Couch is of the view that Serena’s personality and character are big for women’s tennis. He believes that people like Schiavone (a very talented player and a Grand Slam champion) do not draw crowds to tennis matches or fans are not drawn to her. Clearly, he did not watch today’s match with Schiavone and Hantuchova, when Schiavone showed us just why she is a Grand Slam champion. She had the crowd in Centre Court in her home country on their feet with her performance today. Perhaps Mr. Couch should have been watching that match, rather than trolling the internet looking at Serena’s twitter picture (or maybe he did not get to see it seeing as it was not on Tennis Channel).

Mr. Couch and his cohorts in the media, and those who continue to use their positions to deride the women’s game need to be called to account. For too long they have used their positions to belittle the women’s game.

The constant criticism of the grunting in women’s tennis, never mind that the current No. 1 player in the world, grunts like he is climbing Mount Everest and having a hard time of it. The current No.2, Novak Djokovic (grunts), Verdasco (grunts), Federer (grunts), almost every single Spanish player (grunts), some of them so loud that you cannot even hear the commentary in the booth at times. The only comment is this “what an effort from [insert name here]. When the women do it, they are not exerting effort. Oh no. They are just doing it because they are cheating. It annoys me that former players such as Carillo and Navratilova have joined the bandwagon in criticizing the women’s game in relation to this but I guess if you want to be considered one of the boys, what better way than to join up against the women.

Of course the women grunt, but they also play tennis. How about commenting on the tennis and leave the grunting out of it. Is it distracting to fans? Sometimes, it is. Is it turning fans away? Only because the media continues to put emphasis on the issue. During every single broadcast of a tennis match featuring Azarenka, Sharapova or Venus, the first thing that you hear is the hue and cry about grunting.

I, like many fans of women’s tennis are waiting for the day when Serena Williams returns to the tennis court. As it is she is not playing the French Open. Rather than the media speculating about a picture that Serena Williams posted, how about letting fans know who the early round contenders are? How about doing some homework before the start of play so that fans can be properly advised about the current crop of players.

I will not be holding my breath for that to happen.

ROME – SHAFTED AGAIN

I feel like I am beating a dead horse. A really dead horse.

Last week it was Madrid. A few weeks ago it was Miami. Before that Indian Wells and now we are in Rome. The paucity of women’s tennis on Tennis Channel is infuriating. Thanks to Eurosport and live streaming I was able to watch some of the women’s matches that were played in Rome today, but every single match today that was shown on Tennis Channel was all about the men’s game.

Professional Women Tennis Players Have a Responsibility to the Sport

A few years ago when Fox had the rights to broadcast Indian Wells and Miami, a reporter asked Roger Federer, then the NO. 1 player in the world as to whether he had seen his next opponent. His response was no, because there was no television coverage of the matches and he was unable to even watch any tennis from his hotel room. Since that time the tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami have discontinued their agreement with Fox and now coverage of these events is carried by Tennis Channel, ESPN and CBS/ABC.

I am wondering which of the many female players who are currently earning multi-million dollar endorsement contracts and who are being touted as the most searched face, body or whose very presence at a tournament brings in thousands of fans will have the gumption to say categorically when she is asked about her next opponent say that she has not seen her play because there is no televised coverage of women’s tennis.

We have 2 of the biggest names in women’s tennis who sit on the WTA Players Council. In addition the current No.1, Caroline Wozniacki also sits on the Players’ Council. One hopes that at some point in time the issue of lack of coverage of women’s tennis comes up in discussion when the Council meets to discuss the path that women’s tennis is taking.

More and more at even the Grand Slams, the women are scheduled on courts that have no television coverage and even worse, women who have been successful at these events have found themselves scheduled on courts that are notorious for pulling upsets.
At what point will the Sharapovas, Ivanovics, the Hot Shots, the Williams Sisters, Wozniacki, Azarenka and many others have their voices be heard and decide that this can no longer continue.

The ATP has its Masters Series tv. Fans can, and have paid numerous amounts of money to be able to watch tennis online. They have a feature where they can even go and watch archived matches. The ATP has ATP World Tour, a programme that showcases the ATP, from the NO. 1 player in the world, to the player not even ranked. It makes fans of men’s tennis be able to know their players and see who is coming and who is going. What does the WTA have? A stupid YouTube programme called Hot Shots. What does it do? It show cases players, some of whom have never won a singles title on how to become a marketer’s dream. It does not aid them in becoming better professional tennis players. It is showing them how to market themselves so that sponsors can see them and offer oodles of money to sell their products.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought the whole point of being a professional tennis player was to win titles and to be the best or one of the best at whatever you do, but apparently the WTA sees its mandate as somewhat differently.
Many years ago, 9 women took their future into their hands. They separated themselves from the archaic professional tennis circuit and formed a Tour for professional women. The money earned by those women is paltry compared to what today’s tennis players are earning. Has it ever crossed the minds of the women playing today that if they pool their resources together they could not form their own network.

Can you imagine if someone with the business sense of a Venus Williams, joins up with a media name like Sharapova and has someone with the background of a Lindsay Davenport and have people like Clijsters, Navratilova and many other women, both retired and active, coming together, that a network such as this would not be successful.

Tournament directors would pay a price to have their tournaments aired in conjunction with the WTA. There would be some form of profit sharing. All the money that is currently being spent by sponsors on individual players could go towards purchasing advertising space for these women.

Nike recently upped Sharapova’s contract and is reportedly paying her US$25M. Lord only knows what Serena Williams is getting. Ana Ivanovic has a lifetime contract with Adidas. Wozniacki is a marketer’s dream (or so we are being told) and there are many other women who are up and coming whose Federation will no doubt back them in this venture.

Perhaps it is time that women’s tennis starts looking outside the box in the way it promotes itself. For too long it has been riding on the coat-tails of the ATP. There was a time not so long ago when that was not the case.

Come on women. You now have more than the power. You have the money to go with that power. Make it happen.

WOMEN GET SHAFTED ONCE AGAIN

Sorry for the no blogging but there has not been a lot to talk about in terms of women’s tennis on tv, except the lack of women’s tennis being shown on my tv.
This week we have the Mutua Madrilena Premier Mandatory 5 and Masters Series combined event happening in Madrid, Spain. This event started with main draw play on Sunday, yet up to the time of writing this, unless you are an obsessed fan of women’s tennis, the only coverage that you will see is that being shown on your computer screen.

We have had Grand Slam champions, former No.1s, current No. 1s and a whole slew of up and coming stars playing this tournament on the women’s side and to date, not one match for the women has been shown on the women’s side. NOT A SINGLE MATCH.
I refuse to watch this tournament. I have Tennis Channel at home, but I refuse to watch a tournament that is supposed to be a combined tournament and the women are never shown until those in authority deem it worthwhile to show women’s tennis. If Tennis Channel or any other entity has a problem in obtaining rights to the women’s matches, then the WTA needs to ensure that a sit down is done with Tennis Channel to ensure that women’s tennis at least gets some form of tv time in these events.

We have a slew of combined events coming up during the rest of the season. Rome is next week, then when the Tour returns to North America, there will be Toronto and Montreal, then Cincinnati and then the Asian swing. Are you going to tell me that this is what fans of women’s tennis will have to put up with? We will be seeing a whole slew of mediocre male players grunting their way to a victory or a loss while the scores for the women are scrolled at the bottom of the screen, or fans have to rely on tennis fans in Europe or bloggers on the ground tweeting about what is happening?

This just cannot continue and the WTA must see that the women’s tour is getting the shaft in this situation.

As I write this, Caroline Wozniacki is heading to a third set with Julia Georges. Most fans will recall the awesome match that these 2 women played recently in Stuttgart and this one from the looks of it has been a good one so far. At the same time as this is happening Tennis Channel was airing Fit to Hit when I last checked the schedule and I ensured that I checked Tennis Channel before changing the channel to ensure that I got it right.

Women’s tennis is being given short thrift these days by commentators who are quickly selling the view that women’s tennis is boring. The NO. 1 player is boring. Her game is boring and that all the women have no variety and are not worth watching. We even have former champions of the game pouring cold water on women’s tennis and bemoaning the lack of rivalries etc. and comparing it to the 1990s. I disagree with all of this, but that will be a post for another time.

The women’s game if many took the time to watch it instead of complaining about being bored, and about grunting (which happens on both Tours by the way), should talk about why is it that it is the women who are using all forms of social media to promote the sport? Why it is that it is the female players who are bringing a level of enthusiasm to the sport and why it is that there are more female personalities that fans can now identify with who are moving the sport forward.

Many fans of tennis do not even bother to watch tennis during clay season especially on the men’s side because there is usually only one winner of all the events. Going into Roland Garros with the absence of some of the potential favourites for that major, there is uncertainty as to who will walk away with the trophy on the women’s side. The potential for upsets and great news stories abound in women’s tennis. We cannot say the same for the men’s game.

Sport is supposed to make us root for the underdog. Sport should bring a level of uncertainty which makes our hearts pound and our mouths water. As it is right now the women’s game brings this. Why is this not being promoted?