I bet you equal prize money she can go five sets…

Andy Murray and Laura Robson, the top male & female players in Britain

Andy Murray and Laura Robson, the top male & female players in Britain

WATCHING Wimbledon has filled my newly unemployed time quite successfully. I’ve found myself watching fewer game shows on Challenge and watching more and more challenges on BBC. As per, the men’s tennis has taken precedence in my mind, which I am not ashamed to say. As a Brit, we have our greatest chance of winning in the men’s and I know I’m not alone in saying I prefer watching it. Not for the reasons that I don’t like too much grunting, or that I don’t think women are as good as men at tennis; I just think that the men’s games are a greater feat these days due to the longevity. It’s something I believe can definitely help explain the apparent lull, or lack of popularity in women’s tennis. In all, I’ve got three reasons for it:

  1. The lack of a British contender. Laura Robson and Heather Watson are playing out of their skins. They’re good and they’re still young so we’ll have to keep an eye on it at the moment, (with Laura now the first Brit in the top 30 since the 70’s) but they’re just not competing yet. You’ve got a lot to live up to if you want to usurp Wade.
  2. Crowd pleasing is a huge aspect of tennis these days. Given the comradery and rivalry witnessed in the men’s game, the women have never really found the same gear. With the Williams sisters only getting older and Sharapova’s return to the game having finished making headlines, there’s just been more to say on the men. It’s sad really. The men also seem to know each other well, with Djokovic texting Murray from Scotland and Federer and Nadal corpsing together filming a promo for “The Match of Africa”; these are simply things I don’t see from the women, but perhaps it can be put down to more time spent together promoting sponsors etc…
  3. People want to see MORE tennis. The opportunity to watch more tennis for your money is a clincher, and with Wimbledon tickets getting more and more expensive, it’s no surprise people choose the men’s over the woman’s.

Before the mid 1900’s, women weren’t really allowed to play professionally. I understand this inhibited their game: but now they are.  Even then, perhaps when they were ‘granted permission’ by the benevolent male contingent (read: Sarcasm), there still weren’t the same opportunities as there were for men. There certainly wasn’t as much funding for them; which meant less equipment and less training and, not to jump to a huge conclusion, but less fitness. This is however, happily not the case anymore, and with the equal prize money these days, I think it may be time to bring in the equality completely.

It’s no secret that men do excel further at most sports, and tennis is no different. There are more than 50 men with a faster serve that the fastest woman but biology only has so much to play an strength and speed are not equivalent to stamina. The longest women’s match is just over six and a half hours and the longest men’s, until the outrageous 11 hour Isner/Mahut match, was just over seven hours. Not a huge amount of difference, even considering the female set limitations and, even more so, the difference between the gender’s marathon records is only a meagre 12 minutes.

Why then, in a day and age where women are clearly as fit as men, as well funded and equally paid in competition prize money do they not have the opportunity to compete at the same level? Whilst the Economist lists reasons such as the obvious need to elongate competition periods, this shouldn’t even be a valid reason in a truly equal society. It’s a de facto way of stating that the men’s game is more important than the women’s. They also cite the fact that there may be a lack of campaigning from the women’s camps due to simply not wanting to force yourself into more work than you need. A logical step, sure, but since the advent of Federer, Nadal and most certainly Djokovic, the men’s game has gone from strength to strength. Every player has ramped up their training regimes and now we’re at the point where top seeds can be easily upset in early rounds of the biggest of tournaments.

Women don’t need to prove they can go five sets to deserve equal prize money or to make their game as much money in advertising. They just need to do it so the world can watch more amazing sport.