A few weeks back the HST team were brainstorming blog post ideas over WhatsApp (we promise this is not a sponsored post, that really is where the magic happens), and with International Women’s Day (IWD) approaching we thought we would feature a list of the women really killing it within the ‘tennissphere’. However as life does, it takes over and the distraction of the surprising announcement from Maria Sharapova meant that, that post was never written. Until now……..
OK, so it’s only been a week but that sounded so much more dramatic than a regular intro. Which is good, because this isn’t going to be a regular post. Instead of featuring some amazing women (don’t worry we will do that too), we’re going to tell you why think that role of women in tennis still has a long way to go, and then we will open the comments up and ask you for your say. So here goes….
Did you know that Tennis is leading the way in terms of popularity for a women’s sport? And that last year tickets for the women’s final of the US Open were outselling that of the men’s for the first time? (At least until Roberta Vinci’s stunning defeat of Serena in the Semi’s). The FIRST time EVER- let that sink in a little bit….
Masha has been named by Forbes as the top paid female athlete for the past 11 years, yet she has not been the number one player for each of those 11 years. So how does this happen? Well, she is a savvy business women who knows how to go for what she wants and has even started her own range sweets (does anyone else have Aaron Carter’s “I want Candy” stuck in their heads?). Amazing right? Yes, but why is she the exception, rather than the rule?
When Andy Murray appointed Ameile Mauresmo as his coach in June of 2014, many questioned his choice, and her competence. Why? Because she was female. Australian player Marinko Matosevic said, “For me, I couldn’t do it since I don’t think that highly of the women’s game.”
After the appointment Martina Navratilova said “hopefully, one day people won’t look at gender when they hire a coach”, but here we are coming up to 3 years later and how many female coaches can you name that coach the ATP top 10? 20? 50? Or 100?
Google ‘men in tennis’ and the first page of responses relates to their rankings. Google ‘females in tennis’, and the page is dedicated to listings of the “sexiest” players on the tour. The official WTA website is the only site that references their abilities and achievements on the entire first page of Google results.
There’s still a lot of attention surrounding women players and their appearance. Last year in that controversial New York Times article about body image, Tomasz Wiktorowski, the coach of Agnieszka Radwanska, is quoted saying “it’s our decision to keep her as the smallest player in the top 10 because, first of all she’s a woman, and she wants to be a woman.”- A clear indication that there’s still an idealised way in which genders should look and females should stick within that slender stereotype.
Serena Williams’ incredible achievements have commonly been overshadowed by the fact she has muscles and is dominant and therefore a man.
And when Genie Bouchard began her rise up the rankings in 2013/2014, she was described as the next Sharapova despite despite having not won a Grand Slam when Sharaopova had already won two by the same age. Why was she described this way? Mainly because she’s blonde and photogenic. It’s this, at times, that got her more attention as opposed to how well she was playing the sport.
Is this the same with men? Rafa receives countless wolf whistles when taking off his shirt, Grigor is a heartthrob especially for young girls (Flashback to Queen’s 2014 when off duty ball girls were in tears watching him play), and Feliciano Lopez has been nicknamed Deliciano Lopez. But, despite this, their performance and tennis still always comes first.
Arguably though, this will never change until society as a whole changes and the Male Gaze theory is less prominent.
But there are things that can be different. For example, WTA players are frequently asked if they are friends with other players on the tour. Do you think this same question is asked of the men at the same frequency? And if so, are the expectations of friendships between the players on the ATP and WTA the same?
Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki both claimed during in last year’s Wimbledon that women’s matches were regularly scheduled away from show courts to make way for men’s matches.
Stats showed that during the first week of Wimbledon 2015 only 9 of the 24 matches played on Centre Court, were played by women- that’s less than 40% of matches.
Not convinced? Here are few more questions to ask yourself:
How many tournaments feature male models as ball boys? Now, how many feature female model ball girls?
How many complaints have you heard about grunting in the ATP?
How many times have we asked an ATP player to show off their outfit? (Woah, were starting to sound a little Jerzy-esk “How many times?!?”)
The WTA has been quite vocal about wanting to lead the way and in many ways this has been accomplished. Prize money is now equal across the main tournaments and the WTA has been active in pursuing acts of sexism on behalf of their players (as seen with Shamil Tarpischev head of Russia’s Tennis Federation who referred to Serena Williams as a man, and was fined and suspended by the WTA).
We are not asking women to burn their bras, or men to relinquish Centre Court, but maybe next time you stay in your seat and watch the womens match, or perhaps you simple correct someone when they say that womens tennis is boring, either way the truth is we still have yet to reach the summit of equality and without trends setters and people willing to stand up for equality the tennisshpere is in danger of being left behind.
Now that we’re off our soap box, tell us in the comments sections your thoughts on gender equality within the tennissphere.