Did you hear what happened to Venus Williams after she won Wimbledon on Sunday? She was robbed! She had $52,923 ripped right out of her purse! In broad daylight!
Instead of getting $705,109, which men's winner Goran Ivanisevic received on Monday, she earned about a new Lexus less. You talk about a grass ceiling. Not only that, but it also happened to Jennifer Capriati this year at the French Open. The dinosaurs who run that tournament gave her $29,306 less than the men's winner, Gustavo Kuerten.
Leave it to tennis to jack the only group of players anybody wants to see. You don't believe me? Let's compare, shall we?
In the women's Top 10, you have the riveting Slam Sisters—Venus and Serena Williams—the tempestuous Martina Hingis, the sports story of the year in Capriati, the tragic Monica Seles and the big Teddette bear, Lindsay Davenport, not to mention, at No. 11, the world's leading cause of whiplash, Anna Kournikova. In the men's Top 10 you have nine guys you couldn't pick out of a Pinto full of Domino's delivery men, plus Andre Agassi. Combined, most of the Top 10 men have the Q rating of a lamp. Seriously, is Yevgeny Kafelnikov a tennis player or something you cure with penicillin?
The women play amazing, long, topsy-turvy, edge-of-your-seat points. The men hit 140-mph aces nobody can see, and then ask for a towel. Everything is serve and towel, serve and towel. It's like being at a cocktail party with Boris Yeltsin. In a third-round Wimbledon match Ivanisevic had 41 aces against Andy Roddick, who had 20. It is unclear how the rest of the points were won because the official statistician fell asleep. If men's tennis is to be saved, somebody had better start decompressing these guys' balls. Then something has to be done about the equipment.
The women we know by first names: Can you believe what Martina said about Serena? They hate one another, insult one another's fathers, insult their own fathers, bump each other on changeovers, wear body-hugging Technicolor dresses designed by Edward Scissorhands and generally provide more story lines than six months' worth of All My Children, all of which will come splattering out later this month in a new book about the women's tour, Venus Envy.
The men, on the other hand, stand around killing the grass. Except for Agassi, they all look like the slackers you have to shoo away from the door of your Starbucks. They are so dull, they make tennis writers bang their heads against their laptops. From what we know, there are no books coming out about the men. They are lucky to make the white pages.
Did you know that the French Open women's final on NBC last month drew almost twice as many viewers as the men's? Did you know that Capriati's quarterfinal Wimbledon match last week pulled in 25% more viewers than Pete Sampras's fourth-rounder the day before? Did you know that of the 10 most-searched-for athletes on Lycos during one week leading up to Wimbledon, four were women's tennis stars: Kournikova (No. 1), Hingis (5), Jelena Dokic (7) and Serena Williams (8)? None were male tennis players. Did you know that John McEnroe has said, "Men may eventually have to sue for equal pay"?
Did you know that last year, for the first time in history, more women's matches were played on the Stadium Court at the U.S. Open than men's matches? Did you know that this year the U.S. Open, for the first time, has scheduled a final for prime time, and it's the women's, not the men's? Did you know that in an MSNBC survey last year, almost 70% of respondents preferred women's tennis to men's?
So what if the men play five sets to the women's three? Ishtar is longer than Casablanca. Which would you rather see? The pooh-bahs at the Australian Open and U.S. Open figured all this out long ago and raised their women's prize money to match the men's.