Wimbledon. The carpets of green. The perfect purple bordering. The mounds of strawberries. The idyllic summer scene offset as usual by the rain. One of life’s constants….
As regrettably is the state, and irritations, of the women’s game of tennis.
For years now it seems, power has been the be all and end all. Slight glimmers of charm in the diminutive shape of Justine Henin have come and gone. In their search for power shots, perhaps to emulate the men’s game, women’s tennis has forgotten the joys of the serve and volley, of drop shots, of, to put it bluntly; variety and tactics.
What is left is a legion of 6ft something’s all trying to hit each other off the court. No wonder then, the top 10 is ever changing, no wonder the quality is so poor. Women’s tennis would benefit more from playing to women’s strengths – speed, dexterity and lightness of touch. Forget comparing it to men’s tennis, the women’s game needs re-branding, it needs to refocus and not, as one appalling comment from a top seed player, pride itself on it’s players being “hotter” than the men’s.
It’s not just the quality of tennis on display that is leading towards the ATP soaring ahead in viewing figures and sponsorship, it’s also the irritant that comes along with it.
The noise. You know what I’m alluding to.
Not the grunt of breath that comes late on in the match due to sheer effort when tiredness starts to set in; I mean the constant and the never ceasing shriek of noise each time the ball is hit. Sharapova, Azarenka – hang your heads in shame. This isn’t something they do naturally – it is coached into them, and over the years it has contributed to a decline in viewers for the women’s game. Fans are voting with their ears and switching off.
These points, about the quality and appeal of the women’s game, then leads me on to the issue of equal prize money at the Grand Slam’s. If equal play occurred at the Masters tournaments I wouldn’t have a problem with them. Both the men and the women play 3 set matches. You play the same, you get paid the same. Move the level on up to the Slam’s though and the gap in the talent and effort between the men and the women is sometimes ridiculous. This years Wimbledon is a prime example.
For the women, defending champion Kvitova today saw off her opponent in roughly just one hour. Federer, last night, took over four hours to see off his. Kvitova would have to play four rounds of tennis just to match one round in the men’s game.
Some might argue that this is an extreme example. Indeed the match between Zheng and Williams today, a three set thriller, had all the thrills and excitement that has been missing from the women’s game this tournament. But that match was very much the exception. Kvitova’s is the norm.
For me, to pay the same for three sets of effort compared to that of five, is a tad on the ridiculous side. I’m female and I’m all for equality – but let’s actually make it equal. Get the women playing five sets in the Slams. Then again, with the noise and the poor quality that’s generally on display – could many of us survive that?
Women’s tennis is teetering on the doldrums, and you can only hope that players like Zheng keep improving and help to save women’s tennis from the monotony of the error strewn big hitters.