A Battleground On And Off the Court

By Deirdre Macchia

The world of sports has a troubled history when it comes to the issue of gender equality. Sports are often seen as a battleground for societal issues, and few battles are more pivotal than the battle for gender equality. Tennis, more specifically, would seem to be a prime example of gender neutrality and fairness, due to the worldwide popularity of both men and women athletes of the sport. Unfortunately, tennis continues to face issues of discrimination toward women, despite its apparent progressiveness in comparison to other sports. Criticism of pay, coaching and skill has come into question, stigmatizing men and women athletes alike for their feelings toward these topics. While women have made a huge movement forward in the terms of representation and presence in sport, there is still much to be done to ensure a permanent and uncontested place on the court as well as in society.

There is no question that the way tennis is played by men and women is different, but that is not to imply that the athletic drive of either sex should be called into debate. Men tend to focus on a good serve game. Women normally favor the return aspect of the game and do not solely depend on the strong serve because women simply cannot achieve high-speed power serves, with the exception of Serena Williams and a few others.

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Even with evident differences in body and strength capacity, critics persist to judge the pay equality in tennis grand slams. Craig O’Shannessy, tennis blogger for the New York Times, reported in his August 23rd article that “criticism focuses on equal pay for an unequal product”, which points out critics’ insults to the athleticism of women in the sport on account of differences of the body and its aptitudes, which is unfair.

Tennis makes adequate attempts to close the wage gap, as seen in grand slam events such as the U.S. Open and Wimbledon, but the difference is more notable in tournaments of lesser importance. Women tennis players make a great deal of money compared to women who play other sports, but still receive significantly less money in events that do not draw great attention. Miguel Morales, of Forbes, wrote in a February 2014 article that people often see the prizes in the grand slam tournaments among men and women and overlook the pay disparities that plague the rest of the tennis season. Morales explains that there are differences in men and women’s play, but that does not mean the efforts made by women are any less competitive, and that competitiveness should be compensated equally.

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Coinciding with pay problems in the sport is the hesitation towards the hiring of women coaches. In recent months, top-ranked player Andy Murray has caught a slew of opposition with his hiring of coach, Amelie Mauresmo. This move exemplifies a great feat to women’s place in sport, yet it is still a move that gathers backlash. Nick Carvel, of USA Today Sports stated in his January 29th article that Murray and Mauresmo both disregard the gender of an individual as a trait in judging one’s competency in being a coach. Murray continues to defend his decision and his coach. He told Carvel, “I see no reason why that can’t keep moving forward like that in the future.” Murray’s attitude for the support of women in sport is an important one, due to his fame and influence. He also recently tweeted the trend on Twitter #morewomeninsport, following his Australian Open appearance.

Despite tennis being seen as one of the most equal sports in terms of gender, Murray’s actions and the recognition of the gender gap within tennis are crucial. Although the popularity levels among men and women tennis players can be considered the most equivalent out of any of the major sports, there is still work to be done in tennis and sports in general. Women tennis players may play a slightly different game than men, but the sport of tennis remains the same overall. There is no reason that women in tennis should be viewed as inferior to men and the prize money and coaching should reflect that.

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