Friday, June 22, 2007

More on equal pay

Dennis Fitzgerald's thoughtfully written analysis, "Does Grand Slam Pay Policy Really Reward Equality?" is the best-written article against equal pay that I have read. Among other things, Fitzgerald cites what he calls "the disintegration of the women's game," referring to an increase in player withdrawals, abuse of injury timeouts and lack of player commitment. But even Fitzgerald, who argues strongly against the gender discrimination practiced by tournaments such as the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, misses some important points.

Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that men are physically stronger than women. Can we get everyone to agree that--most of the time--this is a fact? Then it follows that three sets for women is indeed equal to five sets for men, and the equal pay "issue" does not exist.

Now let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that women athletes are stronger than average women and better trained physically, and can indeed play five sets. They used to play five sets at the Year-End Championships, as a matter of fact. Now add to that a Grand Slam tournament like Wimbledon, where WTA players have asked to please be allowed to play five sets...and they were told "no."

You cannot have it both ways. Either the less physically strong gender should rationally play fewer sets, or--if it is determined that they can play five sets, a tournament such as Wimbledon has to allow them to.

Fitzgerald is correct, however, that there has been a decline in quality in the women's tour. The new WTA structure, with more time off, is supposed to take care of the chronic injury problem, but there are other problems, as cited by Fitzgerald, that need to be addressed.

Personally, I would like to see everyone--men and women--play three sets at all tournaments, Grand Slams included. That would leave more time to spare in the likely event of bad weather, and it would take away all existing "reasons" to remove the ad point from doubles and force doubles players to play that ridiculous super-tiebreak.

1 comment:

Dennis Fitzgerald said...

Hi

You have a great blog! I just discovered it.

I am the author of the 'Equal Pay' article, and thought I would share some insights.

First, I have never argued nor discussed any aspect of the physical strength argument of men vs women. In my opinion, that doesn't and shouldn't factor into the equal pay argument. I don't see how anyone could quantify how 3 sets for women is equivalent of 5 sets for men.

As for the women playing best of five sets in the year end championships, this was true, but only for the finals. After instituting this format in 1984, the WTA continued it through 1998, when the WTA and the players themselves decided it was best to go back to best of three. In the 15 years of the championships, there were only three 5 set matches.

It is not true that the WTA players have asked Wimbledon to be allowed to play best of five sets, (in order to receive equal prize money or for any other consideration). Billie Jean King, of her own accord, has claimed she asked Wimbledon officials about this. But there has been no proof that BJ did this on behalf of the WTA.

I am in favor of leaving the format for Grand Slam matches as they currently are. However, I fear that in the near future the men will play best of three sets, at least for the early rounds. The men play best of three at every event save for the Grand Slams. The ATP has done away with best of five set finals at Masters Series events. The next logical step is to do away with it in the majors. And as I mentioned in my article, the women's purses don't come close to the men's at any of the tournaments, save Miami, where they both compete at the same time.