Sometimes, when they learn the truth about me, non-fans want to talk with me about pro tennis. This is often a problem for me, however, because many of them mean U.S. Tennis, and men's tennis. Bring up a sport--tennis, basketball, golf--and people assume you are talking about the men's game, which, of course, is considered the real game. After all, sports are "for men" and everyone knows it.
I recently had someone ask me, "What's wrong with American (I don't like that term either, but that's another discussion) tennis?" My answer was: "What don't you like about number 1 in the world?" He stared at me with a blank expression on his face. "Serena," I said, and he gave me an "oh, you know what I mean--real tennis" look. "Did you mean men's tennis?" I asked.
Television broadcasters perpetuate the sexism by referring to the men's games as tennis, basketball, golf, etc. and then saying women's golf, women's basketball, etc. This doesn't always happen with tennis, I've noticed, which means that on some unconscious cultural level, female athletes get a bit of respect when they play with rackets.
I can't speak for anywhere but my own region, but it seems like a lot of people around here know who Federer and Nadal are, but I can't find anyone who knows who Djokovic is. Go figure. Many know who Sharapova is, but they have never heard of Kvitova, Radwanska or Azarenka. People are accustomed to following team sports in which all of the players are from the same country--this country. Golf opens the field a bit, but nothing opens it quite like tennis.
I'll close this with something that is quite good: When I hear people talk about the Williams sisters, it is generally with a lot of admiration. When I introduce them to facts they didn't know, such as Venus's illness and Serena's life-threatening post-accident condition, they are amazed by the Williams sisters' resilience and strength of character.