When I started this blog 5 long years ago, part of the issue that I had was the treatment that was being meted out to the WTA as compared to the ATP. The people who commented on women’s matches seemed to think that they were wasting their time doing those matches, compared to when they were calling men’s matches. It was not just the commentators either, it was the tournament directors who assigned the main show courts at combined events to the men, while putting the women, some of whom were ranked higher or had accomplished more than the men on non-televised courts. In addition to that tournament directors would also schedule the women’s matches at a time of day when there were less fans on the grounds or at the end of the day when fans were tired and on their way home. As a result the optics that many casual fans saw was that the women’s game was not as popular as the men.
Watching a women’s match would make me want to destroy my television set, and don’t get me started on my poor computer. It was not because I was stunned at the alleged poor performance of the women, it was more because I became so disgusted at the commentary. The women’s game was all about emotions and weaknesses while the men’s game was all about tactics, and strategy. What made it even worse for the women was when the WTA decided to introduce on court coaching. As if the women were not being vilified enough, here came another talking point that was being used to show just how much these “girls” were unable to think for themselves during a match.
It did not help the women’s cause when some of the women would break down in tears whenever they were unable to figure out a way to win a match. The yelling, and screaming at their boxes, and just the general mental breakdown while some wily old fellow sat there holding her hand and rather than discussing tactics and strategy, he would use the time to tell her to get herself together and regain her composure, because surely her opponent would break down at some point.
Recently, sexism has reared its ugly head (not that it had gone anywhere) with remarks by perennial wonder boy Ernests Gulbis and Mr. “I Just one a match at a Grand Slam” Marinko Matosevic concerning Andy Murray’s recent hiring of 2 time Grand Slam champion, France’s Fed Cup Captain, and former World No.1 Amelie Mauresmo as his coach during the grass court season. I made sure to spell out just what Mauresmo’s achievements were just in case you read elsewhere that she was a choker who never achieved anything in her career. For all the talk of big name coaches, the ones who have actually accomplished something on the men’s side is few and far between. The last time I looked Toni Nadal had never won a Grand Slam, neither had Richard Williams, Oracene Price, Yuri Sharapov and many others just to name a few. They may have been fortunate to have champions born to them, but they were by no means champions themselves. For all the talk of how good Darren Cahill and Brad Gilbert are, neither man had a standout career as a player., and frankly they have not done so well in the coaching department either. They may very well be good coaches, but the evidence as it relates to results has really not shown up, has it?
Why then is there this hue and cry about Murray hiring a woman as his coach? From where I am sitting, this hire should be shouted from the mountain tops as it does show the diversity in tennis. Tennis always likes to pride itself on being at the forefront of the fight for equality but the comments since Murray’s hire has really shown that the sport, and especially the perception of women in tennis has been nothing if not a lie. From the remarks by those in the commentary booth, to the way how women’s tennis is covered, tennis has not for a moment made its way into the 21st century, especially as it relates to equality.
Whenever I read press conference transcripts, I am always amazed at the questions that are asked of the men compared to the ones that are being asked of the women. However, I think the women themselves do themselves and their sport a disservice. Rather than continuing to answer these ridiculous questions that are being asked, they need to point out sexism in the sport as soon as it rears its head. Andrea Petkovic did it recently at the French Open and suffered absolutely no backlash. In fact, she was commended by tennis fans all over for calling out a journalist in relation to a statement that he made concerning the women’s game.
For the future, I would love if the women, once they are sitting behind the microphone and they have the attention of the world on them, that they say and do what needs to be said and done. They need to highlight that they are professional athletes, competing in a professional arena. They are not girls. They are grown women. They need to let the male dominated tennis press, including commentators, be aware that they are participants in an athletic endeavour and they are not just there as fillers for the men.
Finally, for all the talk of sexism in tennis, until the women themselves start standing up for themselves, in the same way that they stood up for themselves for the right to equal prize money, there is nothing that either this little blog, or any other tennis writer out there can do. The women are the ones who are being subjected to the sexist coverage. They are the ones who are facing the tennis media and being asked inappropriate questions. They are the ones who are being written about negatively. They are the ones whose competency in their chosen field is being called into question. As long as these women are willing to continue to bow at the feet of corporations from whom they need money to shill all types of nonsensical products, they will continue to giggle and laugh whenever their field of endeavour is being constantly derided in the media. Maybe they don’t care. Maybe the majority of them have no need to need a life in tennis once their careers are over. Maybe, they are just in it for the money, but I have one question to ask of them, what about the ones who are coming up and who are looking up to you, don’t you think you owe them a stronger united front and a chance to start out on a level playing field? If your answer to that is no, then please Misses Williams, Sharapova, Kuznetsova, Ivanovic, Li and Azarenka, continue to giggle and repeat platitudes, because once the media is finished with you, then tennis fans will be as well.
Billie Jean King and the other 8 women who founded the WTA saw the need to sacrifice their lives and their livelihoods so that you could all earn millions from the sport of tennis. It is important that the top women now take that charge and move it forward. The young girls out there who are coming up need leaders. They need to know that a precedent has been set. They need to know that the women who came before them refused to put up with their sport being passed over and they will carry that baton to the next generation of female tennis professionals.
Odds and Ends
Congratulations to Maria Sharapova on winning her second Roland Garros title. Well done.
Congratulations are also in order to Simona Halep, currently ranked No. 3 in the world. She showed the world truly what she is made of during that final. Well done.
Victoria Azarenka returns to tennis at Eastbourne. This blog and many tennis fans are happy to hear that news. Expectations will be lowered, but we can’t wait to see those feet moving once again.
Serena Williams has been working out. If you follow her on Instagram you will see that Ms. Williams is getting ready to take the WTA by storm once again.
Wimbledon has announced some of their Wildcard recipients for the 2014 Tournament. There are 4 spots still available in the Ladies’ Singles Draw and we are all hopeful that Taylor Townsend will be one of the recipients.