Saturday, June 04, 2005

Will we ever again get a good women's Grand Slam final?

Today, I was expecting either an upset by Mary Pierce, whose play throughout the French Open has been outstanding, or--at the least--three sets or a very tight two sets. What I got was Pierce coming apart at the seams and getting hammered 6-1, 6-1 by Justine Henin-Hardenne. I don't know what happened to the gifted and usually unrattled Pierce, but it wasn't pretty.

Last year, the French Open women's final was even worse, with Anastasia Myskina and Elena Dementieva both playing bad tennis until one of them lost.

This year's Australian Open women's final was no better. In the middle of the match, world number one Lindsay Davenport, who had an excellent chance to take the title, just stopped playing, for all practical purposes, and made it easy for Serena Williams to grab the championship.

I don't like to be one of those people who say things were better back when, but in the case of women's Grand Slam finals, things were way better back when. Mostly back when the players still used wooden racquets. For the past several years, tennis fans have been subjected--with a few exceptions--to a series of boring finals between the Williams sisters, a few not-quite-as-boring finals between Belgians Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters, and disasters like today's match. Also, because of the increased stress on the players' bodies, more and more players have stayed out of competition longer and longer.

Last weekend, I watched the 1985 French Open women's final between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, and it was a thrill-a-minute, high stakes, strategy-filled, blockbuster event. Now, if you see anything really exciting, it's probably going to be in the semifinals, like the heartbreaking Henin-Hardenne-Jennifer Capriati U.S. Open match of 2003, or the Amelie Mauresmo-Serena Williams Wimbledon contest of 2004.

Having said all that, I should add that I can't think of a better champion that Henin-Hardenne, who has battled everything from her mother's death to estrangement from her father to a propensity to choke in big matches to a debilitating virus to survive and become a tennis player of extraordinary skill and heart.


Agreed. Women's finals in tennis seem to have become the anticlimax to (usually) exciting semifinals.

What I wanna know is when the PTB at Roland Garros and WImbledon are going to equalize the damn money. Henin-Hardenne won $1,123,805 yesterday; either Puerta or Nadal will win $1,140,656 today. I love how the site has this nice little tidbit: "equivalent to 98.5% of the sum received by the men's champion (compared to 97.5 last year)." See?!? We're inching towards equality! Fuck off!

The ladies' singles champion of Wimbledon will receive $1,087,321 (600,000 pounds) and the mens' $1,141,687 (630,000 pounds). It's really hard to argue that Europeans "get" feminism better when they don't have equal pay for equal work.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:00 AM  

I watched that 1985 match again because I thought perhaps I had romanticized it in my memory, but no--it really was everything I had remembered--real tennis played by two non-injured masters

The argument that is made against equal prize money is that the men have to play five sets (potentially, that is), and the women only three. The argument generally made for equal prize money is that the women's game is now more popular throughout the world.

I have a slightly different take on it: If men are capable of going five sets because of their strength, then wouldn't five for them be equivalent to three for women? I have never heard this argument made, but it makes perfect sense to me. And if they are equivalent, then why not equal prize money?

If they are not equivalent, then let women play five sets.

Personally, I'd like to see three sets for everyone; I think five is a bit much.

Thanks for posting. I blog on women's tennis quite a bit, so feel free to drop by again.

By Blogger Diane, at 1:11 PM  

See, my take would be that the women should be able to play 5 sets in the slams, Olympics, and Fed Cup just like the men. However, I've heard the argument against this being that tournament administrators would never allow such a thing because of time constraints. And women are frail and weak. Of course, pushing the men back to 3 like all other tourneys would be fine, too, but then I'm not sure you'd get matches like the Roddick-El Aynaoui 03 Aussie qtr, 21-19 in the 5th. That was awesome.

I so wanted Clijsters to win at least once against Henin-Hardenne in the slams. At least they both seem to be healthy again. Maybe with all the Russians the finals will get better. Of course, there's always the return to the 16-seed, another of Johnny Mac's chimeras (not that forcing wood rackets onto the kids wouldn't be fun).

Long 5-set matches are probably just for tennis freaks. It is strange that everyone else--women's singles, all doubles, mixed doubles, etc.--play only 3, regardless of tourney. My conspiracy side would say they purposely moved the finish line for equality, thinking women would never want to play 5 sets. Who knows, maybe they don't? Maybe the Dep of Ed should give the WTA a survey ala Title IX.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:34 AM  

Your conspiracy theory has crossed my mind, too.

By Blogger Diane, at 10:12 AM  

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