Thursday, April 07, 2016

State of the game

Back up north, I played this one clay-court tournament a lot. Because there were never many women in the singles draw, all I basically had to do was win one match before I came up against the top seed. Let's call her Emma, because that was her name. Anyway, she was a pretty big girl, a lefty. So we're playing and I send yet another cream puff across the net and the next thing I saw was her closing in and unfurling into this forehand she hits for a winner past me. This image is forever stamped into my brain because it kind of scared me a little bit. Maybe it was her sheer size and that she was moving toward me, or maybe it was the knowledge that I couldn't do that. Now, I have played, and still play, against big dudes who hit ground strokes right at my face at the net and are imposing in other ways and generally nothing scares me. I don't know what it was about that forehand, but it was the only time I felt like a deer in headlights on a tennis court.
I only mention this because I can imagine it's how Svetlana Kuznetsova felt this weekend playing in the Miami Open final against Victoria Azarenka. I mean, good god. It's pretty safe to say she's back to pre-injury form and then some. I certainly expected Azarenka to come back and pick up immediately where she left off when she returned from that long layoff last year. But it took her a while to rediscover her confidence, but obviously, she has. It's great for the game. I'm gonna whisper this because I don't want to offend anyone, but she's a ... a better all-around player than Serena Williams. Better ball striker, better variety, better tactics. Movement? Push. Even if you don't agree with that assessment, you have to agree that it's about time that a strong and consistent foil to Serena emerged. There have to be contenders to make the game interesting (not totally sold on Angelique Kerber. Does she ever play only two sets? Why does everything have to take forever with her?), and Azarenka looks like she's gonna settle in to that role well.
Speaking of making the game interesting, a brief word about Novak Djokovic. To borrow a term from a longtime womens tennis sponsor (which I'm sure he'd love), he's come a long way, baby. Like, I still remember when he was pulling out of matches left and right and everyone was calling him soft. Now he is the undisputed king of mens tennis. Everybody's getting caught in the buzz saw, including Kei Nishikori this weekend in the Miami final. And this is someone who is thought to be a major contender. Oy. These men need to step up their game against Novak, or they'll be up for a pay cut.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Therapy with TWA: Equal pay

Whoo boy. Now that the air has cleared a bit, let's attempt to unpack this debate over equal pay on the pro tennis tour. We've got some old-man tennis organizer Raymond Moore talking about women being on their knees, we got Serena Williams saying in essence, "Excuse me?" We also got Novak Djokovic saying that old man is kind of right because a lot of people love watching men's tennis, and we got Serena again reminding him that the women's' U.S. Open final sold out before the tournament started because Serena, and we got Andy Murray holding his newborn daughter and saying to Novak, "C'mon mate ...," then we got Djokovic kind of apologizing. We got Roger Federer saying that we have to consider a tournament's history (??) but yeah, equal pay, yay!
So ... what's the right answer here? I've written about this before, but given the context of how this round of the equal-pay debate started, it's worth restating and expanding. As your average American woman who works a regular job, I'm a bit more concerned about the fact that in this country, women make 79 percent of what men make. In Florida, that number is up to 85 percent -- and that's regardless of men and women handling the same workload on the same job. Now that is nonsense.
With that in mind, it's hard for me to really outraged about this particular debate for the reason I've referenced before. Women don't play best-of-five-set matches. I believe that only Billie Jean King and Venus Williams are the only players I've heard of who are in support of this. Svetlana Kuznetsova, who beat Serena in three tough sets this week in Miami, says it's impossible, that a woman's body can't hold up to five sets. But she's in favor of equal pay because male players can get married, have kids. She can't. That's a interesting argument I hadn't thought about. If you are a woman player and you want to get married and have a child, you need to take a year off -- at least. If you wanted to breastfeed your child, that's a change in lifestyle, basically, that would fly in the face of your training. (Incidentally, this is why those in the equal-pay debate outside of tennis say that women should be paid less, because they take time off to have children.)
Kuznetsova is proposing compensation for making that sacrifice, which I can't agree with. It's a choice she made. Maybe no one laid bare the lifestyle she was going to take on when she was 13, 14 years old. But she knew it by 19, by 20. What she's suggesting is a sort of hazard pay for being a woman, and while that sounds great just because I'm a woman, in principle, it makes me cringe a little bit. I know I don't want to be treated special because I'm a woman. I want to be treated the same.
So I have to stay with my original thoughts from almost a decade ago (whoa, I've been doing this for a decade?!!!?). It's great that the Slams are offering equal pay, as are a lot of the top-tier tournaments. But if women aren't willing to go five sets, then I'm not very passionate about this particular debate. I've got my own equal-pay issues.