YES: Katie Leppard, chairwoman of North Oxford Lawn Tennis Club
SHOULD male and female tennis players receive the same amount of prize money? I believe they should despite the fact that men play best of five sets and women best of three in the grand slams.
The fundamental problem with assessing a tennis player’s financial worth by their length of play is assuming that their work begins and ends at the major tournaments. Playing matches is just a small part of being a tennis professional. Earning a place in the main draw of a grand slam event requires years of hard work, dedication and sacrifice.
There is no difference in how much effort a woman has to make to be a top-level tennis player to that of a man – equipment, coaches, physios, hotels and flights all cost the same. The players’ parents make the same sacrifices for their daughters as for their sons.
Wimbledon started off as a men-only contest. Women at that time were deemed too frail to play a five-set match.
So when the women’s competition was introduced, it was based on best of three sets and this tradition has stuck to the present day.
Could women play five sets? Of course they could. They train just as hard and have a great deal of stamina but would it make for more exciting tennis or viewing? Possibly not.
Does a long match mean it is going to be a great match? One of the best matches I was lucky enough to see at Wimbledon this year was a women’s match – Alize Cornet defeating Serena Williams. It was thrilling, made for great tennis (despite rain delays) and was worth every penny.
Quite apart from the logistics of scheduling all the matches in a two-week period, if they were all to be best of five sets, would this benefit tennis as a whole?
Five-set matches take their toll on players and can cause more injuries, thus shortening the players’ careers which would be detrimental to the sport.
If you suggest to women that they can play tennis but they won’t be able to make as much money as the men and won’t be on a level footing, what kind of message does that convey?
Equal pay is an acknowledgement that the women are giving their all in the same way that men do – you can’t say fairer than that.
NO: Liz Reason, chairwoman of Sustainable Charlbury and tennis fan
I’m a feminist and I’m bored. Bored with women’s tennis that is. Every year I like to plan my time carefully around Wimbledon fortnight – not too many afternoon meetings if they can be avoided. Evenings to catch up if necessary. And of course the last weekend when there are two finals to watch.
But this year, I really did have to ask myself whether I would put myself out for the Saturday, the day of the women’s final, and without even being that familiar with the two players in the match, I made an estimate of the time they would play and came to 57 minutes. I think I was out by about four.
How could I be so sure? Because for some reason women’s tennis is only played for best of three sets. Women, who run marathons and triathlons, play football and cricket, clearly have the strength and stamina for five sets, so why don’t they play them?
Contrast the women’s short hour on court with the thrilling four-hour final from Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. If that had stopped at three sets, Djokovic might still have won – the last set would certainly have been longer and played till one of them got head by two games. But we would have missed out on exciting and nail-biting match that rewarded Djokovic finally for his consistency and stamina.
Women have played five-setters before. Between 1984 and 1998, competition for women was played in a best-of-five format. Sponsorship for that ended and future Grand Slams reverted to three sets. Yet the women argued and won that they they should get the same prize money.
The fact is that women’s tennis is often not of the quality of men’s tennis. And wouldn’t we love it to get better? Of course. Going to five sets would help.
It would mean that women would have to get fitter to endure longer hours on court, would have to find a variety of strategies for winning, would have to work to deliver consistency.
And then they would deserve the equal pay that they get. No feminist can argue that women should get equal pay for unequal work. And that’s the principle that Wimbledon is upholding at the moment.
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