The call for equality in the sport of a lifetime
Although tennis may seem to have little disparity between men’s and women’s tennis players, inequalities still exist on court and off court
Wherever you go in the city, it’s almost a guarantee that you will find tennis courts. Those courts contain more than just a three feet tall net and some white lines, and those courts are what contain the very essence of the sport. You may never feel the essence until you pick up a racket and whack a ball for the first time and perhaps you never will if you choose not to.
In your lifetime, you may have heard the names Roger Federer and Serena Williams, and you know they’re iconic models because you’ve seen them on every tennis highlight shown on TV, every tennis news article published, and of course, every tennis product sold at stores. Roger and Serena both have won more than 15 Grand Slams in their careers, but it’s Serena who has won more Grand Slams. Both tennis players are amazing, but in a sport that’s said to be the most equal between men and women athletes, it’s not.
What you may not know is that, even though Serena Williams has won more grand slams than Roger Federer, she most certainly does not come anywhere close to making the same amount of money as Roger Federer, but neither do any of the other women tennis players when compared to their men counterparts, and in fact they don’t even get the same court attraction.
Earlier this year in March, Indian Wells tournament owner and CEO Raymond Moore made some controversial remarks about women tennis players stating, “ They ride on the coattails of the men, if I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born because they have carried this sport. They really have.” Moore resigned two days later after these statements. If there are any last impressions on Raymond Moore, it’s that he’s a sexist man who never truly took the time to appreciate what women have done for the sport of tennis. Raymond Moore however did reignite the tension in the sport of tennis once again with his statements because it just reminds women athletes that there’s still work to be done in the sport.
In tennis, the four major Grand Slam events are: The US Open, The Australian Open, The French Open, and Wimbledon. The US Open became the first Grand Slam event to offer equal pay to women in 1973, while Wimbledon was the last, in 2007. The Grand Slam events attract massive audiences that fills up the whole stadium and viewers from worldwide.
Billie Jean King, a former No.1 tennis player, stated that, “To have equal prize money in the majors sends a message. It’s not about the money, it’s about the message.” It’s that message that gets the biggest and brightest spotlight at the four Grand Slam events every year, when the whole world views in on the action on the courts where men and women tennis players equally compete. In the end, when a women champion is crowned , triumph not only resides in that glorious trophy they hold up, but will also reside in the glorious profit they make because of that trophy. What is ultimately revealed to the world, through the trophy and the profit, is the message.
However when it comes to the action and playing of the game, men have to play a best of five natch while women play a best of three match and this has made some men’s tennis players such as Novak Djokovic demanding for more money, but that doesn’t change anything because Billie Jean King proved that statement to be false. On September 20, 1973, in front of 30,000 people in Houston’s Astrodome and an estimated 48 million Americans that watched the match known as , “Battle of the Sexes” on their televisions, Billie Jean King would beat Bobby Riggs in a 6–4, 6–3 and 6–3 victory, defying the odds.
Although men and women are compensated more comparably in tennis than in any other major sport, the annual prize money paid to the top 100 earners on the WTA and ATP Tours roughly matches the general pay gap in American workplaces, with female tennis players earning 80 cents on each dollar men earn. The median pay gap between a woman in the top 100 and her opposite number on the men’s tour is $120,624 (Rothenberg 3). While the Grand Slam events pay equal, tours do not. Only 3 outside tournaments pay equally which are, The Madrid Open, The Miami Open, and The Indian Wells.
Serena Williams has faced and endured racism in her career, but now she also faces it in payment. Another tennis star, Maria Sharapova, earns significantly much more than Serena Williams because while Serena is black, Sharapova is white, and of course that makes all the difference. The money gap between two women tennis players has to be because of their differences in skin color. The suggestion is that female athletes are marketable only insofar as the look a certain way (Bain 3) .
Venus Williams, Serena’s older sister however faced a very different problem during a match she played at Wimbledon this year. She had to play one of her matches away from the spotlight of Center Court and instead on Court N0.18, which was distant away and much smaller in size. Williams seemed to be emphasizing the word “all,” alluding to the fact that the top seeds and past champions on the men’s side have rarely been relegated to courts beyond the tournament’s largest ones (Rothenbgerg 2). After her match Venus wasn’t outraged, but rather disappointed and felt disrespected because she truly thought Wimbledon had “changed” after all these years.
Venus didn’t take it so hard on her court placement because she had been through those types of situations many times, but Jelena Jankovic didn’t when she was placed on N0.18 in 2008 when she was seeded No.2 in the world. She reiterated during the first week this year that relegating top players to smaller courts showed a lack of respect (Rothenberg 3). Jankovic also stated, “It’s quite disrespectful to put someone who is N0.2 or 3 in the world to have them playing somewhere in the backyard.”
Despite all the differences and difficulties for women tennis players, they still strive for greatness because they know they have the potential to do so. It is through previous women tennis players like Billie Jean King that have done so much for the sport and have inspired the women tennis players of today like Venus and Serena Williams to do the same. Equality is worth fighting for no matter what the circumstances are and whatever you do, you give it your best. Life is just like a tennis match, you need to stay strong till then end and keep fighting.
Rothenberg, Ben. “Venus Williams Makes a Call for Equality on the Wimbledon Courts.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 July 2016. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/03/sports/tennis/venus-williams-makes-a-call-for-equality-on-the-wimbledon-courts.html>.
Rothenberg, Ben. “Roger Federer, $731,000; Serena Williams, $495,000: The Pay Gap in Tennis.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 12 Apr. 2016. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/13/sports/tennis/equal-pay-gender-gap-grand-slam-majors-wta-atp.html>.
Bain, Marc. “Why Doesn’t Serena Williams Have More Sponsorship Deals?” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 31 Aug. 2015. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. <http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/08/serena-williams-sponsorship-nike-us-open/402985/>.
Chandler, Adam. “Pay and the ‘Lady Players’ of Tennis.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 21 Mar. 2016. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. <http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2016/03/tennis-raymond-moore-serena-williams/474684/>.
Sonnad, Nikhil. “The Most Female-Friendly of All Spectator Sports: Tennis.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 25 June 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.<http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2014/06/if-you-care-about-equal-pay-for-women-tennis-is-the-sport-for-you/373371/>.