Women’s tennis boss Stacey Allaster Tuesday insisted her players were “ready and willing” to play five sets at Grand Slams after Andy Murray became the latest to call for equal match lengths.
Allaster, chairman and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association, said female competitors would be quite happy to play for as long as the men if asked by the Grand Slam tournaments.
“Ready, willing and able — all you have to do is ask us,” she said.
“It would take a lot longer to have our matches if it were five sets,” Allaster said, when questioned about why women had not been asked to play longer matches.
“It’s already challenging (scheduling) the Grand Slams with (men’s) five-set matches. For us, we think three sets works well for our fans, and as we look at the consumption of sport it’s being done in shorter form.”
The debate over match length has increased with women now earning equal prize money to the men at the four Grand Slams.
Earlier this month, Wimbledon champion Andy Murray said men and women should play an equal number of sets, either best of three or best of five.
Next week, China’s Li Na will go head-to-head with men’s world number one Novak Djokovic ahead of the China Open in Beijing.
Allaster said it was a sign of the times that, 40 years to the week after Billie Jean King’s famous “Battle of the Sexes” win over Bobby Riggs, the Li and
Djokovic clash was merely a sideshow.
“It’s a very different time. Women couldn’t even get a credit card in 1973 in America. That was a different issue, this is about promoting our sport.”
And 40 years since King was instrumental in forming the WTA, Allaster said women had made huge leaps towards equality in tennis — but that they still had a long way to go.
“A great part of what Billie started is that this is about gender equality, empowerment of women. I have the best female athletes in the world as role models for that vision.”