Nobody’s making a racquet about this gender bias
Like most Australians, January is the month where my TV screen is dominated by either tennis or cricket. It’s a fantastic time of year. You’re pretty much guaranteed that any time you turn on the TV, some top line sporting matchup will be ready for you to watch.
I also got the chance to see the most dominant female sports star of the past 20 years, Serena Williams, in action the other day.
Playing at the Brisbane International, Serena was up against an up-and-coming young American player Sloane Stephens.
It was great to watch. Stephens hung in the match really well and made Williams fight for her points. At one point it seemed the match could go either way and, although Williams won in straight sets, it felt like the longer the match went, the more competitive Stephens became.
Then, it struck me. Why the hell are they only playing best of three sets??? Now, before we go on, a disclaimer. Yes I know that men only play best of three sets at non-major events. But hear me out:
When tennis began, all those years ago, men played best of five sets and women played best of three because, apparently, women were less physically able than men.
Let’s fast forward to 2013. Women tennis players earn the same amount of prize money as men – totally fair.
Women do the same amount of training as men throughout the year – totally understandable.
Women can command the same amount in sponsorship revenue – completely fair.
However, women play 60% of the amount of match time men do – huh??
Surely this is what the world’s feminists should be up in arms about: the outdated and stupid notion that women’s bodies aren’t up to the rigors demanded of them to play for a best of five sets.
So while in every tournament outside the Masters and Grand Slams both men and women play the best of three sets, it’s only men that switch to best of five once it hits the big time.
Meanwhile, in other sports, women all over the world continue to excel in grueling sports which make tennis look like a walk in the park.
For example, three times World Ironman champion, Chrissie Wellington (UK), doesn’t do 60% of the distance male Ironmen do.
And then there’s Shelley Taylor-Smith, an Australian ultra marathon swimmer. In fact, she was the best distance swimmer in the world, men or women, for a while.
Women continually demonstrate the capacity to perform at a high level despite the physical burdens. So, can anybody out there please explain why women don’t play best of five sets tennis? Because I’m drawing a blank.
Heck, even if only the finals of Grand Slams were best of five sets it would be enough for me (similar to men’s doubles or the Olympics).
From a financial perspective it makes sense. Serena Williams or Maria Sharapova would be on court for an average of 40-60 minutes longer each match providing her sponsors with even more air time.
Matches would last longer meaning on-site food and drinks sales would increase.
TV broadcasts would go longer meaning more advertising revenue.
And all it would cost is people realising women probably could, without too much of an issue, play a best of five sets match.
So come on girls. Stand up for your sister suffragettes and campaign for their equal rights on a tennis court.
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