Last month Gilles Simon infuriated women all over the internet when he made comments that men’s tennis players should get paid more at Grand Slam events than women. Simon commented, “My point was that I have the feeling that men’s tennis is actually more interesting than women’s tennis. As in any business or anything, you just have to be paid just about that. It’s not because we play five sets and they are playing three.”
Without further clarification it is impossible to know whether Simon’s opinion was out of sexism, greed or based completely on good arguments but everybody assumes it is either A or B because they also assume that C isn’t true. Except, it is true.
For somebody that does watch tennis-but also has absolutely no problem with women getting paid as much as men-Simon’s point that men’s tennis is more interesting than women’s tennis is an opinion that is shared by most tennis fans. Not everyone that thinks men’s tennis is more interesting than women’s tennis is automatically a horrible human being that sees women as inferior beings.
Most women making the argument for women’s tennis brought up Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. There is no doubt that Sharapova and Serena are huge stars. Sharapova happens to be one of my favorites and I don’t know anybody that was happier for her French Open win than I was. That being said, Sharapova suffered a serious shoulder injury just a few years ago. Sharapova missed a year and half and even after she came back she wasn’t one hundred percent for a long time.
Sharapova’s French Open victory has probably been the most underrated story of 2012 but the reason it’s such a great story is because Sharapova had little relevance in women’s tennis for a long period of time.
Serena just won Wimbledon but in the last nine Grand Slam events Serena only had two good outings. For those using Sharapova and Serena as examples of why women’s tennis is exciting that argument is invalid. In the last two and a half years there has been little to no Sharapova or Serena. There are some other women’s tennis players that are fun to watch-like Caroline Wozniacki, Victoria Azarenka, Petra Kvitova and others-but women’s tennis has been full of underachieving, inconsistent players and Grand Slam semi-finals filled with players that don’t impress much of anybody.
On the men’s side tennis fans are watching possibly the best trio of men’s tennis players of all-time in Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. Andy Murray has a constantly growing fanbase due to his teary not-good-enough speeches after losses at Grand Slam events. Men’s tennis has young, electrifying players like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga waiting to break through. Then there are the American men. Personally I’m not a fan of any of them but they are a draw for the fans that do cheer for players from their home country.
If you need further proof that men’s tennis is more interesting to fans than women’s tennis than look no further than the ratings. The women’s final of Wimbledon-even with Serena-managed a 2.0 rating while the men’s final notched a 2.5 rating. In fact, the Wimbledon final between Federer and Murray was the highest rated tennis match that ESPN has ever aired. Although, that is the highest rated match on ESPN because ESPN does not usually get the Finals of Grand Slams. The men’s Grand Slam event-no matter who it is-regularly gets the same rating. Women’s tennis is fortunate that Serena or Sharpova have been in the last five Grand Slam finals because without either one of them the women’s final would not receive a 2.0.
Simon’s admission that his argument wasn’t because of the number of sets was because that is the argument that most people make. Women play best-of-three sets that last somewhere between one and a half to two and a half hours. Men play best-of-five sets that last somewhere between three hours and five hours.
I’m sure some people will ignore all of the completely logical points that I’ve stated and accuse me of being a sexist even though that isn’t true. As I said at the top of the article, I’m completely fine with the women making as much as the men, but if you don’t think there is a completely valid reason for someone to make the argument that men should be paid more then you’re just not paying attention to tennis very closely.