Wimbledon sex row… it's 50 Shades of Grey
23:55 GMT, 1 July 2012
Andy Murray's best point of Wimbledon’s first week was not made against a tricky opponent. It did not even take place on Centre Court or in front of a large audience.
Murray’s admirable return came in the environs of the main interview room at Wimbledon’s press centre following his four set victory over Ivo Karlovic. He had already ridden the foot fault controversy and the issue of whether the tournament’s line judges were biased in his favour when Gilles Simon’s comments about equal pay were raised: specifically his statement that the entire men’s tour objected to women being paid the same at Grand Slam events.
‘Gilles Simon has kicked off a bit of a debate about equal pay,’ began a voice from the comfortable seats. ‘He said all the men in the locker room agree with him that it’s not right. Would you say that’s true’
Fair Serena Williams has success in the singles and the doubles with sister Venus (below)
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The question sounded innocuous enough
but Murray has been here before. A throwaway line about Anglo-Scottish
rivalry in 2006, made in response to some ribbing from Tim Henman about
Scotland’s World Cup fortunes, has taken him six years to live down.
Some very reasonable uncertainty about protocol turned into a row over
whether he would bow to the Queen. One wrong word and he would be Murray
the misogynist for a decade at least. The only man in Britain who
stands against equality for women. It was a question that needed to be
left like an over-hit forehand. Murray instead took it on the volley and
He did not sell out the men’s locker
room or Simon, who is by all accounts a more thoughtful figure than he
has been painted and is newly elected to the Players’ Council for that
reason. Nor did he give an answer that would understandably infuriate at
least half the population. What Murray said merely raised a very
‘There are a lot of things the guys
do agree on,’ he replied. ‘For example, at the French Open, Sara Errani
made the final in singles and won the doubles. Because it’s not best of
five sets for women, it’s much easier to play both, so they have more
chance to make money. There are very few guys that have a realistic shot
of winning the singles event at Roland Garros who will be playing
doubles there, too. Same thing at Wimbledon. It’s five set singles, five
set doubles, so fewer guys play. It’s not always about equal pay. It’s
about the way the men’s and women’s tournaments differ.’
Never thought of it like that. Never
even considered it. Suddenly an issue that seemed so black and white in
the modern age had 50 shades of grey. So is Murray right Are men now
financially disadvantaged at Grand Slam tournaments Put it like this.
The last man to make an appearance in both singles and doubles finals at
a Grand Slam event was Yevgeny Kafelnikov at the French Open in 1996.
And how many times have women done it since then Twenty eight.
Return shot: Maria Sharapova slammed Gilles Simon's comments
There have been 10 dual singles and
doubles finalists at the Australian Open, 10 at Wimbledon, four at the
French Open and four at the US Open. The last was in June, when Errani
of Italy lost to Maria Sharapova in the French Open final but clinched
the doubles title with her partner Roberta Vinci.
She made history of a different sort
at Wimbledon on Saturday, becoming the first player to lose a Grand Slam
set without winning a single point. The match having lasted 57 minutes,
her opponent, Yaroslava Shvedova, then went off to play a mixed doubles
match. She is also in the last 16 of the women’s doubles competition.
How many of the last 16 at Wimbledon
are also involved in men’s doubles competition Two. Xavier Malisse of
Belgium and Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan. And Murray is right: neither
will be getting their hopes up in the singles.
There was a time when men could play
twice and remain competitive but not any more. The physical demands of
singles tennis are too great these days. The men’s third round contained
eight sets that lasted longer than Shvedova’s entire match against
Errani and nine more that were within five minutes of it. The longest
set went on for two hours and seven minutes. The five sets of the match
between Marin Cilic and Sam Querrey were timed at 55, 39, 54, 56 and 127
minutes. Unsurprisingly, neither is bothering with the men’s doubles
It was an Eighties thing, the
two-pronged assault. With the exception of Kafelnikov at Roland Garros
in 1996, the last man to reach the singles and doubles final at a Grand
Slam did so when Bananarama were going strong. Wisely, Murray did not
enter the equal pay debate but a sub- section of it, and the statistics
to back his argument are below.
The last man to reach twin singles
and doubles finals at the Australian Open was Stefan Edberg in 1987.
Since when, in the women’s event, this has been done by Serena Williams
(2010, 2009), Lindsay Davenport (2005), Venus and Serena Williams
(2003), Martina Hingis (2002, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997), Arantxa Sanchez
Vicario (1995), Mary Joe Fernandez (1992, 1990), Jana Novotna (1991),
Chris Evert (1988) and Martina Navratilova (1987). Total: 16.
Kafelnikov we know. Since his feat in
1996, Errani (2012), Kim Clijsters (2003), Mary Pierce (2000) and
Hingis (1999) have all trod an equally admirable path for the women.
Eighties thing: The last man to reach twin singles and doubles finals at the Australian Open was Stefan Edberg
A Wimbledon men’s double dates back
to John McEnroe’s win over Jimmy Connors in 1984 and his magnificent
doubles partnership with Peter Fleming. So that is 27 years and
counting, during which time Vera Zvonareva (2010), Venus and Serena
Williams (2009, 2008, 2002), Venus Williams (2000), Davenport (1999),
Novotna (1998), Sanchez Vicario (1995), Novotna (1993), Steffi Graf
(1988), Navratilova (1986, 1985, 1984) and Hana Mandlikova (1986) have
replicated his achievement. So, 17 occasions.
The longest standing men’s record of
all is McEnroe’s again, at the US Open in 1981 (OK, so technically
Bananarama did not have a hit until 1982 but their first single Aie a
Mwana was released earlier). And since then Svetlana Kuznetsova (2004),
Serena Williams (1999), Davenport and Hingis (1998), Sanchez Vicario
(1994), Helena Sukova (1993) and Navratilova (1989, 1987, 1986, 1985,
1984, 1983) have emulated him. That’s 11. And yes, one name is skewing
the figures but that’s what genius does.
Across the various tournaments 17
different female players have achieved what no man has done. So either
the women’s game is full of brilliant, incisive tennis — and at times it
is, no dispute there — and the men are all inconsistent lightweights or
the difference between playing best of three sets and best of five is
so great that the physical challenge barely compares.
Sports scientists say that men’s
tennis is probably the toughest sport to prepare for because it is so
furiously energetic and draining yet elastic in time. When Cilic and
Querrey walked on to Court No 2, they did not know that they were in for
a match lasting five hours and 31 minutes. It could all have been over
in 90 minutes. Yet tennis players must always prepare for the endurance
test. No point in gambling that it will finish soon, even against a
lesser opponent, as Roger Federer discovered. No men’s third round match
produced a set that ended 6-0; yet there were four in the women’s
event. The women’s third round contained eight tiebreak sets, as opposed to 14 in the men’s.
This is not to say that men’s tennis
is simply superior, which is what Simon appeared to suggest clumsily,
but it is certainly demanding in a way that limits the scope for success
at a Grand Slam tournament.
Having his say: Murray raised the point that men can be financially disadvantaged heading into tournaments
In 2008 at Wimbledon, Rafael Nadal
and Federer played one of the most magnificent finals of modern times.
It went to five sets, the last of which Nadal won 9-7, and included two
tiebreaks in a match lasting 288 minutes. He received 750,000. The
same year Venus Williams beat her sister, Serena, in straight sets. She
received 750,000, too. The pair then defeated Lisa Raymond and
Samantha Stosur 6-2, 6-2 in the women’s doubles and split an additional
230,000. That match lasted 59 minutes.
The following year Federer defeated
Andy Roddick in another five-set match that broke the record for the
number of games in a men’s final, 77. The final set was won 16-14 and
Federer received 850,000. Meanwhile, Serena defeated Venus in straight
sets and was paid the same as Federer. The sisters then won the doubles
in straight sets and shared 230,000. Both finals combined entailed 44
And there is Murray’s point: 43 per
cent less work for 13.5 per cent more pay. It does not apply on tour,
when men and women play three-set matches just the same, but at Grand
Slam events the calculations change.
‘I don’t deserve less because I have
boobs and they don’t,’ said Serena Williams on Saturday. She had just
entertained Centre Court with a quite brilliant match against Jie Zheng,
of China, lasting 148 minutes but was still going off to play doubles
with her sister later that day, although dark closed in and they didn’t
get on court.
‘I have worked just as hard since I
was three,’ she added. ‘My whole life has been dedicated toward being a
top athlete and I shouldn’t get paid less because of my sex.’
And that was certainly the correct starting point for the equal pay movement.
It is also true. Whatever the
circumstances, it seems outrageous in modern society even to consider
alternate pay structures for men and women. And yet, as Murray pointed
out, statistically the distinctions are undeniable.
What is the solution There isn’t one
without making men’s doubles a three-set affair; and no Grand Slam
organiser is going to run through that minefield. For now, the men will
have to continue grumbling in their locker rooms and just accept that,
in tennis at least, it truly is different for girls.
Read between the lines to see Carra's real point
Steven Gerrard has been upset by criticism of England’s European Championship performance by his friend Jamie Carragher.
‘Should we give up’ Gerrard asked. ‘Should we not go to Brazil in 2014 because of what Jamie Carragher said’
Yet it is what Carragher hasn’t said that is most interesting. Read between the lines of this observation, for instance.
Read between the lines: England captain Steven Gerrard reacted to comments made by Jamie Carragher
‘There is contradiction at the top. We want a more attractive, passing game but the Football Association appointed a head coach with very clear tactical ideas based on counterattacking football. I hear many say it needs to evolve in the World Cup qualifiers. The tactics will not change and it would be unfair to criticise Roy Hodgson for that. Everyone knows his methods.’
You see it too, don’t you You see what he’s saying. It’s not just me, is it
Fabio's entitled to Rooney rant, Roy…
Fabio Capello's criticism of Wayne Rooney has drawn condemnation, not least from England manager Roy Hodgson.
‘Capello can hardly talk’ is the popular opinion, having got so little out of the player himself. Another case of short memory syndrome affecting English football.
Under-fire: Former England boss Fabio Capello condemned Wayne Rooney's Euro 2012 displays
Reaching the World Cup in 2010, Wayne Rooney was the leading goalscorer in European qualification with nine in 10 games for England.
He was dismal in the tournament proper but it still means Capello did more with Rooney over a sustained period than any previous England manager and is entitled to an opinion.
Pearce can't win
Stuart Pearce having shot Bambi, it is now open season on the Team GB football coach.
In some quarters he is accused of not giving his players enough time to prepare, in others of wasting money on team bonding gatherings at Champneys Springs health spa in Leicestershire and a Spanish training camp.
Why do they need these lavish trips,
it is asked. Perhaps because, unlike just about every other Team GB
squad, Pearce’s players will not be greatly familiar with each other and
will need to be fast-tracked into coming together as a coherent unit.
Isn’t that obvious Just because Pearce hasn’t picked David Beckham does not mean we can abandon rational thought.
Platini's vodka shot
Grand design: UEFA president Michel Platini
Michel Platini says he has drunk a lot of vodka in Ukraine, and some are mockingly connecting this revelation with his plan to stage the 2020 European Championship in anything from 12 to 32 different countries (depending from which part of the press conference you select his answer, because numbers fluctuated quite alarmingly, almost as if he was making it up as he went along).
Sadly, Platini does not need a bottle of Pyotr Smirnov’s finest to come up with a bad idea: he’s had 10 of those before breakfast most mornings.
This latest one is a damage limitation exercise, caused by the brainless announcement that he would be supporting Turkey as Euro 2020 hosts, made two days after the bidding process opened.
As Istanbul is also angling for the Olympics that year, UEFA suddenly realised Turkey would not be the best candidate. Too late, the damage was done: as the president’s mind had already been made up, every viable rival to the Turkish bid bailed, leaving Georgia and Azerbaijan as the only game in town.
So now the European Championship may be hawked across a continent at who knows what cost to the travelling fan.
Platini is pretending this is a grand design. It is nothing of the sort. It is a desperate face-saving exercise because he couldn’t keep his mouth shut.
No more late escapes
One moment Marcos Baghdatis was causing Andy Murray serious problems, the next he was obligingly going down 6-1 in the fourth set to meet a specious 11pm deadline for close of play at Wimbledon.
It was almost as if he was railroaded into ending resistance. This should not be allowed to happen
again. If Wimbledon wants to play late it should do so without deadlines.
Time's up: Murray managed a late escape against Baghdatis – three minutes after play should have finished