the wimbledon pay debate



wimbledon 2006 champions

As frivolous as the Corned Beef Hash beat seems to be, there are times when we have to address major issues in the tennis world. Two weeks ago, The All-Englad Lawn and Tennis Association finally caved to years of pressure and established an equal pay scale for all the male and female players who participate at Wimbledon.

Of the four Grand Slams, only Roland Garros differs. While they offer the same prize money to both men and women’s winners, men still receive higher pay for winning the earlier rounds.

The women, and most of the men, were ecstatic: Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Billie Jean King, and John McEnroe all issued statements immediately. And while the ATP soon followed with its own positive statement, its members offered mixed reactions. Both Tommy Haas and Mardy Fish have expressed discontent. Haas:

“I think the depth of men’s tennis is much tougher than the women’s, plus we play best of five sets… You might think it’s not as brutal but you have to be in unbelievable shape on grass (to play Wimbledon), even if the ball stays low and the points are shorter. “

But Haas’ statement doesn’t hold water, especially at the Memphis tournament from where he issued the above statement. If it’s a matter of playing more sets, then the amount of prize money should be proportional to the amount of work put in. But the the winner of the men’s tournament earned four times as much as the winner of the women’s championship. Hmmm….

On the other hand, John McEnroe points out the legacy of this gesture.

“I just think kids will see (this) and say, ‘Hey, look at that, that’s good, what they are doing at Wimbledon.’ “

And the awesome Andy Murray sides with Wimbledon, too:

It’s probably the only sport in the world where women are making the same money as men. That can really only be a good thing.

And making the same money they should. Even though the women may play less, the women consistently bring in as much money and ratings — if not more — than the men. Chalk it up to something we can’t control, etc. I don’t really care. You have to acknowledge that discrepancy.

At the end of the day, even though this can go down as a milestone, we still have a ways to go, as Jon Wertheim points out in his mailbag. Women’s pay is still down overall, and the men — with their best-of-five matches, are still getting overworked and overinjured. Now that the Grand Slams have crossed the equal pay issue off their list, it’s time to focus on reducing the injuries on the tour.

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