Gender questions at Wimbledon

Gilles Simon of France hits a forehand return during his Gentlemen's Singles second round match against Xavier Malisse of Belgium on day four of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club
Gilles Simon of France hits a forehand return during his Gentlemen's Singles second round match against Xavier Malisse of Belgium on day four of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club Julian Finney - Getty Images

GENDER - like politics and religion - is an emotionally charged topic, so little surprise when equal prizemoney was brought up this past week at the All England Club, opinions were strong and varied.

Former No.1 Serena Williams attempted to put an end to it on Saturday with as much conviction as hitting one of her punishing forehands.

"I don't deserve less 'cause I have boobs and they don't," said the 13-time major champion, who appeared annoyed the question of pay equity continues to come up. "The conversation's totally over for me. That was so 2000; this is 2012. Who is still thinking like that, like honestly? Get with the program."

Wimbledon came in line with the other three major events by awarding equal prizemoney in 2007. Two years later, the four biggest combined events on the ATP and WTA tours also followed suit.

The contentious debate came up again when men's world No.13 Gilles Simon said in a French radio interview that "men's tennis is really ahead of women's tennis at this stage".

And thus began a procession of players being asked the equal prizemoney question at every press conference in the first week of the Championships.

World No.1 Maria Sharapova took aim at the Frenchman.

"We women have fought so long to get equal prizemoney," the French Open champion said. "It was a big challenge and nobody really supported us. It's been a few years since we've gotten that. We're all really proud of it, and we continue to build the sport and make it bigger.

"No matter what anyone says, or the criticisms that we get, despite everything else, I mean, I'm sure there are a few more people that watch my matches than his (Simon)." 

Wiliams added: "Definitely a lot more people are watching Maria than Simon. She's way hotter than he is. Women's tennis I think is really awesome.

"We fought for years with Billie Jean King, and Venus (Williams) as well."

Simon, a second-round loser to Belgian Xavier Malisse, defended his viewpoint after his early exit from the event.

"My point was that I have the feeling that men's tennis is actually more interesting than women's tennis," he said.

"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."

He cited ticket prices at the majors, where the women's semi-final and final prices are less expensive than the men's - more than $25 less here at Wimbledon.

But to the heart of Simon's reasoning for speaking up was to see more prizemoney go to the lower-ranked players, those losing in the earlier rounds.

"I just brought it [up] because someone like No. 80 in the ranking … cannot pay his coach because it cost a lot of money and he doesn't earn enough money," said the newly elected Players' Council representative.

"As these players are winning most of their (money) in the slams already, that is why it was important for us, even before, to have a better prizemoney in the slams."

But the opinion that matters most goes to Wimbledon chairman Philip Brook and therefore Simon is fighting a losing battle.

"There will not be any changes," Brook said earlier this year. "We thought it the right thing to do then and we still think it the right thing to do today."

Topics:  atp, gilles simon, maria sharapova, phillip brook, venus williams, wimbledon



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