Friday, July 2, 2010

Rotten fruit

For several reasons, I'm not a member of the John McEnroe Fan Club, but I do like to give credit when it's due. That won't happen today, though, because McEnroe--just when he was doing the right thing--reversed himself and took a bite from a rather bitter apple of temptation.

Today, a man called the BBC to talk with McEnroe, and began his conversation with "We all know that the women's game is a bit of a joke." McEnroe tried to stop him, but the caller ignored him, and went on to ask where in the ATP rankings the top WTA player would be. "You're comparing apples with oranges," McEnroe replied, also telling the caller "You're trying to start trouble."

McEnroe was right. The men's and women's games are two completely different entities, and those who insist on comparing them are attempting to "prove" a point that is simply not relevant. McEnroe had Andy Murray on the phone, and decided to set him up instead, which was, of course, just a different way to start trouble. Murray suggested that the top woman would be ranked around 1000, and McEnroe then suggested she would be ranked  around 600 (last year, John Isner said that the 800th-ranked ATP player could be the WTA number 1, just to get some perspective on the numbers).

Both McEnroe (in his post-tennis career only) and Murray have shown support for the women's game, yet--with encouragement from host Tim Henman-- both got sucked into the caller's intention to insult the WTA.

If (most) men and (most) women were about physically equal, there would be only one tour. The fact that a great number of people believe that the group who is physically stronger and can hit the ball harder is the superior group is a product of a cultural bias toward males. One might as well say that the WTA is "superior" to the junior tour, since most 14-year-old girls cannot run as fast, hit as hard, or balance their footing as well as most 24-year-olds. There is a reason that the tour is separated into juniors and seniors, but the physical characteristics of a particular group does not make that group "inferior."

Women can't win, anyway. Even though physical strength is  prized as superior in our male-oriented culture, a woman with unusual physical strength doesn't get any respect, either. She is automatically labeled "masculine" or "ugly," or is thought to be using steroids.

9 comments:

TennisAce said...

I wish I was able to take part in that particular conversation because I would have a thing to say about that.

I would say that unlike the men's tour the women's tour does not have top players choking in finals as much as they do on the men's tour. I would say that at least the current No.1 on the women's side has a technically better game than most of the men who are currently playing.

I would say that unlike the men, the women do not have to resort to cheating in order to win points, or resort to time wasting and other acts of gamesmanship in order to win a game, moreso a match.

It is very infuriating to me to have to listen to the drivel that comes from the mouths of commentators these days. I have maintained for years that men's and women's sports are 2 different things.

Andy Murray who is regarded as one of the top tacticians on the men's tour cannot seem to find his way around players who some say play with no strategy or tactics. Yet on the women's side we see many players who are able to think their way through matches.

I am so tired of this and it always comes back to looking like we are too thin skinned or feel like I am beating a dead horse. Oy vey

Anonymous said...

Glad you've mentioned this on your blog - I was listening to this phone-in show.
JM seemed like he didn't want to answer this - beyond stupid - question but Tim Henman was pushing him to answer - like kids at school egging each other on. Then throw in Murray's snarky comment and it turned into a bunch of - supposedly - grown men sniggering and chuckling about women's tennis.
I wish someone had phoned in and told Tim Henman that he is the most boring, charisma-free person currently on TV and he provides zero insight into tennis.

I'm British and I was one of the many Brits - believe it or not - who was supporting Nadal today.
I may be wrong, but I can't imagine Nadal even answering a question like that. He has far more intelligence.

Nadal's in the final.
Karma's a bitch, eh Andy?

Diane said...

What, you don't think it's charismatic that (according to Liezel), one of Henman's favorite pastimes used to be pulling down Tony Huber's pants? :)

Anonymous said...

Nice post, Diane. I'm constantly at a loss to explain why the male pros feel the need to continuously mock and denigrate women's tennis; it only serves to make them look primitive and simple. Women are battling to earn equal wages throughout the world (amongst so many other things), and we finally have a sport where this is a reality at the slams. You'd think this is a cause for celebration, but no, the notion that women are simply not good enough is continually reinforced. Women's tennis will always have its own charm, regardless of whether Serena can beat #600 on the atp tour. This is a tired, outdated and demeaning argument. Shame on some of the male tennis players.

-Karolina

Diane said...

Thanks, Karolina. And you're right--the "better" things get for women, the higher the level of resentment toward us.

Anonymous said...

Exactly, Diane... it's this perpetuating attitude amongst (some) of the male pro's and even society...sure, let the ladies have their WTA tour... but let's keep them in their place and remind them that they are playing second fiddle to the 'real' tour. Regardless of the time, stress, injuries and sacrifices women pro's and their families make since they were children, nothing will ever be good enough, because they are women and cannot beat a male ATP player. Absurd argument, with no substance and rooted in historic sexism. I could go on about this, but I won't :)

-Karolina

Anonymous said...

I enjoy women's tennis as much as the next fan, but to say that the only thing that separates the men from the women are their physical characteristics is just wrong. The Nadal-Murray match from yesterday is a good example. The spins, angles, and accuracy of shots produced by these two players in this match was unlike anything one would see in any women's match. In terms of technical expertise, men's tennis is simply played at a higher level; it's not merely about physicality.

Isn't it telling that when WTA players are asked who their favorite players are and/or who they enjoy watching the most, the answers they give are almost always male players (Federer, Nadal, etc.)?

Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone really said that the only thing that seperates the men and women is sheer physical strength. Having said that, the attributes you so appreciated in the Nadal-Murray match are in fact a result of physical strength- kick serves and vicious top spin can only be produced by incredible upper body strength. Thus, this is why men are able to utilise this type of tennis more than women.

Secondly, yes, the women admire the games of Nadal and Federer. But don't you think it also has something to do with not giving the edge to their opponent? Why would you say that Serena or Kim is your favourite player, only to go out and face them in the next round? Also, players such as Ivanovic, who admire Roger and Rafa, also admire female players like Seles and Graf.

TennisAce said...

Anon, if you think that the women of the WTA do not use all aspects of the court, then surely you have not been watching much of the WTA.

I would invite you to look at the following matches in their entirety on youtube:

Serena vs. Henin AO 2010
Serena vs Azarenka AO 2010
Serena vs Kvitova Wimbledon 2010
Henin vs. Sharapova Madrid 2007
Henin vs. Mauresmo Wimbledon 2006
Schiavone vs Stosur - French Open 2010

I could go on and on but you get my drift. There is a myth being perpetrated out there that women's tennis is hit hard and when that does not work, hit harder.

During this clay court season just passed we saw Maria Jose Martinez-Sanchez sliced and diced Jelena Jankovic during the finals of Rome.

There are players out there who create so much angle on the court one wonders whether they majored in geometry. Marion Bartoli, Jie Zheng, Li Na. Whenever I see these players in the draw across from my faves I cower in fear because I know that my faves are in for a rough time.

In contrast you have players on the ATP who have similar difficulties like women on the WTA. How many times have we seen Verdasco lose matches because he double faults on match points? How many times have we seen male players unable to find the court and lose matches hitting as many UFEs as a journeyman player.

The media does a very poor job of covering women's tennis. They use 2 or 3 players to define the whole tour and that is just wrong.