The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Luke Hurst Headshot

British Tennis Is Onto a Winner, But What About the Women's Game?

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

The nation is on a high, with scenes of jubilation and a seemingly overwhelming sense of adoration for a man who has worked tirelessly from childhood to become a national hero, ignoring his critics and proving them wrong in the most emphatic of fashions. It is great for British tennis, and should hopefully spark some life into grass-roots game, so that we can develop the next generation of champions.

We should not forget however, that in Laura Robson and Heather Watson we already have two very viable candidates for the role of future champion. But into what limelight will they step if they do one day match Murray's heroics by winning Wimbledon? The reaction to Bartoli's win on Saturday should give us some pointers.

John Inverdale, the BBC presenter, has unreservedly apologised for his "ham-fisted" comments made before the final, where he asked whether Bartoli's father may have told her: "You are never going to be, you know, a looker. You are never going to be somebody like a Sharapova, you're never going to be 5ft 11, you're never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that." I can't imagine Sue Barker commenting on the looks of Andy or Novak - indeed the talk is pointedly and rightly focused on their playing style, attitude, determination and personality. The women's game - especially in the media - is a totally different beast.

I have noticed a pattern in the reporting of women's tennis, online and in the papers. Take a look at pictures of female players. Is it all determined faces, ferocious action shots or winning smiles? No. You will notice a disproportionate amount of thigh, bum and cleavage, snapped as provocatively as possible. I would be the last person to complain about women flaunting it in skimpy outfits. But what is this? A day at the beach? A modelling catwalk? No, this is tennis; a sport requiring serious mental and physical toughness. The women's game is no easier than the men's, and it should be taken just as seriously.

Women's tennis has had a tough time getting on something of an equal footing with men's. Only in 2007 was the prize money equalled at Wimbledon for women, but it seems that as the viewer count rises, so does the skirt-line. This is not what tennis is about, but is surely being encouraged by the media, as it basically harks back to the age-old idea that sex sells. There is enough trouble with women being exploited on the front pages of some of this country's best selling tabloids. We should not be adding the back pages to that trend.

John Inverdale probably deserves the benefit of the doubt. Working in the media it is certainly possible to "ham-fist" your comments, and should not always be attributed to Freudian slip or bad character. He may very well have been alluding to Bartoli's apparent lack of natural athleticism, the same way you might comment on John Isner's 6 foot 9 inch frame struggling to get around the court as quickly as his nimbler counterparts in the male game. It is going to take some real concerted effort in the media and the tennis world to get the women's game onto a level playing field - we should start by keeping our eyes on the ball, and off the skirt.