Regardless of how good the matches, the debate of gender equality in tennis still rears its head every Grand Slam, even seven years after men's and women's winnings were made equal. The physical comparisons are indisputable; men play faster, they play for longer, they are the better tennis players. But is that what we are compensating?
Prize money is a reward, not a salary. It is given for the dedication and commitment that it takes to dominate the opposition in the toughest tournaments and to get to this point it will have taken a lifetime of sacrifice. Travel, coaching and equipment all cost the same regardless of gender, hotel rooms and plane tickets are no cheaper for women. There are no concessions when hiring a top coach or joining a club based on a player's sex.
If women were not worthy of being on the same court how could they allow mixed doubles? If anyone would want to argue that men should be paid more than women in a modern progressive society, that would raise some questions in itself.
Grand Slams are the only time where men are asked to play five sets and looking at the results it is evident that half the men's first round matches are won in straight sets. All other Tour competitions throughout the same long, gruelling season (for both genders) are battled over three sets. Perhaps the business end of the men's tournament can be exhibitions of attrition and stamina that you will never see in the women's game but whether this always adds to the quality and entertainment of the match can be debated.
Outside the top 50 ranked players riches are scarce. The number of women earning more than $500k a year is a third less than the men, (37 women to 58 men in 2013) and the ones lucky enough to climb the rankings work just as hard outside of the few weeks they are on our TVs. Women are just as valuable a commodity from a sports marketing perspective, perhaps even more so in the world of celebrity.
Ultimately why are people so offended by equal pay? Who is wronged by professional players being offered the same prize? The improved women's pot did not come out of the men's, in fact they have both increased dramatically since equal pay was introduced in 2007 from £700k to £1.76m in 2014. If you do not like watching women's tennis there is a very simple solution; turn over or don't go.
Some of the quotes attributed to critics of the financial parity have proved a sports public relations rally to equal any match. Gilles Simon, a previous top 10 player and now part of the ATP players council, was criticised for saying "I believe men's tennis is more interesting than women's tennis. You have to be paid on that basis." Maria Sharapova's response that "more people watch my matches than his" perhaps a fitting end to the argument.Suggest a correction