Women still carry tennis' popularity beyond the court
Posted: Thursday June 29, 2006 7:36PM; Updated: Monday July 3, 2006 8:37PM
Defending champ Venus Williams has been very vocal about the difference in men's and women's prize money at Wimbledon.
Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images
WIMBLEDON, England -- Once again, the debate over equal prize money has cropped up at Wimbledon, a non-issue if there ever was one. It's clear that men and women tennis players should not make the same amount.
The women should earn more.
Got your attention? Good. Keep in mind that I'll be typing the rest of this under duress, knowing that the All England Club will snort in disgust, John McEnroe will rail at the injustice, and hordes of ATP officials will now descend upon SI armed with derisive laughter and impeccable logic: But the men play five sets! The men's field is far more competitive! The 100th-best man would crush the No. 1 woman!
And I'll nod my head, agree with every point and say: And you're lucky to play with them.
I go to extremes, yes, but only to fight fire with fire. At a time when every other Grand Slam tournament offers equal prize money, the oldest and biggest of all, Wimbledon, continues to reveal itself as the smallest. Despite clearing $27 million from last year's fortnight, Wimbledon is offering the 2006 men's singles champ just enough more prize money -- some $54,000, in purses valued at more than $1.1 million apiece -- to keep the women in their place. If the All England Club members truly believe their rationale about the women's three-setters producing only 60 percent of the men's effort, why not offer 40 percent less than the men's purse instead of some symbolic pile of chump change?
"It's ridiculous," said American Lisa Raymond, whose three-set loss to Venus Williams on Thursday clocked in at 108 minutes -- 39 minutes more, by the way, than Andy Roddick's three-set win over Florian Mayer. "They don't want to budge. They're probably going to stick to that because they're Wimbledon -- and they can get away with it. Is it right? No. But that's the way it is."
That it shouldn't be is obvious to nearly everyone else in the tennis world, even though you can easily argue these days that in Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal alone, men's tennis is operating at a level the injury-riddled women's tour can't match. In purely tennis terms, the men are carrying the sport. But let's leave aside the fact that such things are cyclical, that the roles were reversed in the late '90s and will someday reverse again. The real question is this: Since when has anyone watched, reported, cared or talked about this sport in purely tennis terms?