Equality and Difference in Men’s and Women’s Tennis
Every year a debate rumbles on in tennis about gender equality and this year is no exception with Wimbledon currently taking place. Perhaps it might surprise you to know that champions at Wimbledon have only received equal prize money since 2007. Women playing the best of three sets and men playing the best of five has led some to criticise the equal pay received by male and female players because it’s perceived that they don’t do equal work. However, we want to show below that whilst there are differences in the men’s and women’s games, the strengths don’t all lie with the men. Besides, there is a growing number of female tennis players who would prefer to play the best of five sets given the chance.
At the 2012 United States Open, IBM carried out research on the difference between male and female tennis players. John Isner hit the fastest serve at 144 miles per hour, whilst Serena Williams was the fastest woman with a serve of 125 miles per hour. The speed of the serve seems to be the main reason for differences in how the men’s and women’s games are played. Of the 82 players analysed, five women hit a serve of at least 120 miles per hour, whereas only 5 men failed to reach that speed in their fastest delivery. It’s fair to say that women have less power in their serve because of differences in size and strength.
However, despite the lower speed of a first serve, women’s return games were far more successful. 47 made at least 75% of their returns whereas only 8 of the men did this. 35 women won at least 40% of their return points against the first serve whereas only 2 men managed this and against second serves 52 women won at least 55% of their return points whereas only 16 men managed this. Williams won from the baseline with 218 from 15 sets (an average of 14.5 winners per set), whereas Murray, leading the men, had an average of 10.2 winners per set.
So, whilst tennis may not yet be a perfect specimen of gender equality, it is certainly leading the way in the sports world as one of the few sports where the women’s game is as commercially and professionally successful as the men’s. In some ways the men’s and women’s games are different animals, as shown in this infographic provided by AposTherapy, making it hard to compare the work done. Instead it makes sense to think that equal reward is due to those few men and women who earn the number one world rankings in tennis! If increasing the number of sets in the women’s game is introduced in the future, then so be it.
Thanks for reading.