For those of you who thought that women’s tennis was more watched for the sartorial frills and flounces of its players and, of course, the high-decibel grunts (never can tell what turns people on), here is a bit of levelling news. Women may play only three sets against the five that men slug it out for. But soon we will see equal pay for not-so-equal play.
Now some argue that the stamina required in the women’s game is far less than that for the men’s game, so the latter deserve more than their share of strawberries and cream. But, wait a sec. Clearly, you haven’t seen the power puff girls from Russia or, indeed, the Williams sisters whose very name would have frightened a Borg or Becker into hanging up their rackets. Rare would be the man who could trade a volley or two with one of the supersonic sisters on a good day. And with this comes affirmation of Margaret Thatcher’s dictum that anything a man does, a woman can do better. If we speak of women and men players in the same breath today, the credit must go to the legendary Billie Jean King. Challenged by 55-year-old Bobby Riggs in the 70s, King beat him in three sets. It set off the clamour for equal pay.
So it is now up to the women players to show that they are beyond the concessions handed out to the little ladies until now. They should insist on matching men lob for lob and bob for bob. It’s in their court now. After all, it is the baseline that really counts. Ask Venus.