Cue Cards 9-2-14

clapperboardCue Cards is a series designed to assist with the common small talk about high-profile recent sporting events that is so omnipresent in the workplace, the bar, and other social settings.

Over the Weekend —  August 29 to September 1

  1. Harbingers of NFL Football — The professional football season starts this Thursday with one game and then this Sunday with a dozen others. Since the NFL is by far the most popular professional sports league, the upcoming season will likely dominate most water cooler type situations this week. Depending on where you live, your friends, family, and colleagues will be obsessing over the details of a different team but one national story that may spark conversation was the cutting of Michael Sam. Sam, the first openly gay football player to be drafted into the NFL was cut by the team that drafted him this weekend. The questions being asked are, “How much, if any, did being gay play into his being cut? And will he get a chance to play for real this season?”
  2. College football went mostly as planned — As we covered last week, the first weekend of college football is full of easy games for the top twenty five teams in the country. As expected, only three of the top twenty five teams lost their first game, and those were the three (well, three of the six) teams that were brave enough to play another top twenty five team.
  3. The U.S. Open rounds into shape — The major tennis tournament enters its second full week and has narrowed its field to eight women and twelve men. As has often been the case with tennis in the last few years, the male side of the bracket has been more predictable and all three of the favorites, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, and Roger Federer, are still alive. The women’s side, as has also been the pattern, is more fractured. Of the top seeds, only Serena Williams is still playing. Williams and Federer both have 17 major tournament victories during their wonderful careers. It would be great to see them both play for number 18.
  4. The Basketball World Cup — The FIBA basketball world cup in Spain is underway and after two or three games in each group… nothing surprising has happened. Spain and the United States are still undefeated and look destined to play in the finals against each other. The United States did struggle against Turkey — they even trailed at half-time — but outscored Turkey 63 to 37 in the second half to win by a comfortable margin.

Cue Cards 8-28-14

clapperboardCue Cards is a series designed to assist with the common small talk about high-profile recent sporting events that is so omnipresent in the workplace, the bar, and other social settings.

Yesterday — Wednesday, August 27

  1. A Slew of Suspensions • #1 — NFL player Josh Gordon was finally suspended after a long appeals process for a full year because of testing positive for weed. The knee-jerk reaction is going to be to compare the length of his suspension for a non-violent offense to Ray Rice’s two games after assaulting his fiancée. It’s a little bit of a false comparison because the penalties for substance abuse were collectively bargained for and agreed to by the owners and the players union. Also, the chemicals in an athletes body seem more reasonably the jurisdiction of a sports league interested in protecting the fairness of their competition than any crime off the field, no matter how horrible. Then again, weed seems to be on its way to being legalized most everywhere and sexual assault is really, really, really awful. Maybe the knee-jerk reaction is the right one.
  2. A Slew of Suspensions • #2 — University of Southern California football player John Shaw has been suspended indefinitely after admitting his story about spraining his ankles while saving his nephew from drowning was a lie. The indefinite duration probably has something to do with the fact that the true story of the ankle sprains is still either not known or not known publicly. This type of blundering is a good way to remind ourselves, right before the college football season starts, that as much as they look like grown, professional, super-hero athletes, college athletes are still basically kids.
  3. A Slew of Suspensions • # 3 — The University of North Carolina has suspended four of their college football players after an “alleged hazing incident that left walk-on freshman wideout Jackson Boyer with a concussion.” Not much to really say about this one. Even if it wasn’t hazing, it sounds like assault. I suppose it’s helpful to also remember that there are around 125 college students on each of the 125 (symmetry not intended) division one college football teams in the country. That’s 15,625 men from age 18 to 22 who, when they get into trouble, are going to be in the news.
  4. Actual Sports • U.S. Open Upsets — Heat and humidity fray the nerves of even the most casual commuter in New York. So it’s no surprise that it works its evil on tennis players sprinting around mid-day for two to five hours. Two big names on the women’s side of the U.S. Open lost yesterday to relative unknowns. Number four ranked Aga Radwanska lost to Peng Shuai and Sloan Stephens lost to Johanna Larsson.

What's with all the screaming and grunting in tennis?

Dear Sports Fan,

What’s with all the screaming and grunting in tennis? Why do they scream so much? Why don’t we ever hear other athletes scream? Is it just some weird tennis thing?


Dear Paula,

You’re absolutely right. One of the most noticeable things about watching tennis on television is its sounds. Tennis is a funny mixture of silence punctuated by horribly loud and awkward noise. Let’s dig into it.

The Silence of Center Court

First of all, it’s silent most of the time. The U.S. Open is known as the loudest and rowdiest of the major tournaments but that’s just because sometimes, once in a while, the crowd makes a little noise. There’s a weird division in sports between sports where the crowd makes as much noise as possible and sports where the crowd isn’t supposed to make noise at all. Tennis and golf are the most notable examples of the non-noisy sports. In golf, players are known to scream at the crowd for any little noise it makes at the wrong time, while in tennis, play won’t even start until the crowd has hushed. Given the number of times you hear athletes in noisy sports claim that, beyond just not being negatively effected by crowd noise noise, they can’t even hear it, golf and tennis’ attitude towards crowd noise seems a little silly.

The Sound of Screaming

Once you get used to the contemplative sounds of tennis — the silence, the rhythmic thwacking of ball on racket, the scraping, scuffling, or squeaking of tennis shoes on the court — you are interrupted by the only real jarring sounds in the sport: the screaming and grunting of the players themselves. Tennis players are so loud partially because they are miked well and partially because there’s not much crowd noise to drown them out but also because there seems to be a couple of major voice-viruses that have taken hold in the ranks of professional tennis players and refuse to be eradicated.

The first of the voice-viruses you notice is the grunting. Tennis players grunt a lot. Depending on player and situation, these grunts range from short, strained grunts to obscene sounding moans to full on horror movie screams. Matt McCarthy wrote an article for about why tennis players scream so much. His answer is that it gives them a competitive advantage. The effects, he writes, are many. Grunting allows players to hit the ball harder than they would otherwise. Screaming serves to release tension and relax the screamer. Moreover, screaming has a negative effect on your opponent. In a control study, participants were “21 to 33 milliseconds slower, and they were 3 to 4 percent less accurate at predicting where the ball was going” when distracted by screaming.

Tennis’ Classic “Come On!”

All of this talk about screaming in tennis reminded me of another article I had read, also from, about a year ago. This article, about why tennis players say “come on” so much by John Koblin looked deep into the history of tennis for an answer. Like many cultural phenomenon, there really isn’t a clear answer. Tennis players yell “come on” a lot just because that’s what tennis players yell. Not for lack of trying but Koblin couldn’t even get a straight answer on when it began. Nonetheless, the article is very enjoyable, especially when it verges on the comic as in these two paragraphs:

“Sharapova’s working on a daily double,” said [Pete] Bodo, who’s been covering the game for four decades. “She’s got the horrible scream plus the really desperate comeonnnn. It doesn’t even sound like come on! It sounds like something else.”

“You used to be able to hear, like, ‘Come. On.’ Now it’s just like a yell,” said [Nick] McCarvel. “[Petra] Kvitova is famous for this. She’ll say pojd—which is come on in Czech—and it comes out asprruhhh, and you’re just like, ‘Wait, what?'”

As you watch the U.S. Open this year, also listen. You’ll hear silence, screaming, grunting, and “COME ON!!”

Thanks for the question,
Ezra Fischer

Cue Cards 8-26-14

clapperboardCue Cards is a series designed to assist with the common small talk about high-profile recent sporting events that is so omnipresent in the workplace, the bar, and other social settings.

Yesterday — Monday, August 25

  1. Traditional Hegemony Trickling Back in Baseball? One of the unique and refreshing things about this season in Major League Baseball is that most of the traditional powers have been struggling and some teams that have been very bad for decades have been doing well. The two extreme examples have been the New York Yankees who are the winningest team ever but have not been good this year and the Kansas City Royals who have been one of the sorriest teams for the past thirty years but are doing great this season. Yesterday the two played each other and the Yankees won 8-1. This was their fifth win in a row and makes me wonder/worry if there’s enough time left in the incredibly long baseball season for things to turn back around.
  2. The U.S. Open Begins — Big tennis tournaments usually start pretty quietly. There’s enough predictability in tennis and the tournaments are big enough that the first few rounds are usually pretty easy for the big names who get to play much less well known names. The most common story (until there is an upset) will be how some well-known player almost lost or, when that’s not possible, how the well-known player had to try harder than expected. In day one, Andy Murray had to try harder than expected against Robin Haase and Venus Williams had to try harder than expected against Kimiko Date-Krumm and an annoying bumble bee.
  3. Rematch of British Titans — Last year’s English Premier League Champions, Manchester City, and Runners-Up, Liverpool, played yesterday afternoon. This might explains some funny furtive departures from the office in mid-afternoon and then more funny returns smelling slightly like ale. The defending champions trounced Liverpool 3-1 and from watching part of this game, I can tell you that it wasn’t even that close. Manchester City dominated almost as much as Germany did Brazil way back a few months ago. The English Premier League is fun to watch but mostly makes me miss the World Cup.

Why Are U.S. Open Tennis Courts Blue?

Dear Sports Fan,

Why are U.S. Open tennis courts blue? What happened to the normal green and red variety that we all played on growing up?


— — —

Dear Simon,

U.S. Open tennis courts have been painted blue since 2005 primarily because the organizers of the tournament thought they could make more money with blue courts than the traditional green and red variety. The blue court is good for its organizers for reasons of branding and visibility. Since 2005, many other tennis tournaments have copied the U.S. Open and made their own court color changes.

The most understandable reason why the U.S. Open and other tournaments switched from green and red painted asphalt to blue is that it makes the tennis ball easier to see for players and spectators. The tennis ball itself is a shocking neon green-yellow. This is the kind of green-yellow normally found in road signs or reflective vests because it’s very easy to see. Still, tracking a green ball going a hundred miles an hour or more is likely to be easier if done against a background that provides a good contrast. A duller green isn’t going to offer must color contrast. Red is opposite green in a color wheel but the green of the tennis ball is a lot closer to yellow than it is green green.

In this clever color wheel from, you can see that blue or purple are better opposites for a tennis ball than red or green.
In this clever color wheel from, you can see that blue or purple are better opposites for a tennis ball than red or green.

Therefore, a blue or purple is going to create the best contrast to spot a moving tennis ball. This contrast is particularly important for television viewers. Not only are television viewers the largest group of people to watch the game, they’re also the one that injects the most money into the sport. No wonder their viewing experience was at the core of the decision in 2005 to shift to blue courts.

The other key reason to paint the U.S. Open courts blue is branding. In 2005, when the United States Tennis Association made the decision to move to a blue court, they did so, not just for the U.S. Open, but for all the major tennis tournaments played in the U.S. and organized by their group. As USTA executive Arlen Kantarian was quoted as saying in this article:

In addition, it provides an instant visual link between the US Open Series tournaments and the U.S. Open, helping to create a unified ‘regular season’ for tennis leading up to the U.S. Open.

If the USTA can create a visual signature, they may be able to promote their lesser tournaments as being just like the popular U.S. Open. Using color to promote a sports brand is nothing new, even in Tennis, as Christine Brennan pointed out in her 2005 USA Today article on the subject, the failed World Team Tennis league tried the gimmick in 1974. This time though, it seems to have succeeded. Or at least, the trend of colored courts has become very mainstream. The Australian Open changed from green to blue in 2008. Other big tournaments have experimented with purple courts. On a smaller level, on municipal and personal courts around the country, the demand for unique colors has increased. According to Andrew Cohen for Athletic Business resurfacing in green and red has dropped from about 95 percent of the market to between 50 and 75 percent. It’s common now for “sales reps [to] have to step in… to perhaps dissuade a court owner from choosing garish or excessively loud color combinations”

To close on a personal note, my instincts are often traditional when it comes to sports. The biggest change in tennis surfaces over the past fifty years hasn’t been the colors, it’s been the surfaces themselves. Until 1974, all four of the major tennis tournaments were played on grass or clay. When the U.S. Open and later the Australian open moved to asphalt, they kept the green and red surfaces of grass and clay as a way of connecting with their pasts. Shifting the color to blue doesn’t have much of an effect on the way I watch or think about them but it does make me treasure the natural grass of Wimbledon and traditional red-clay of the French Open.

Whatever the surface, enjoy watching the tennis!

Ezra Fischer

Wimbledon Men's Finals 2014: Federer vs. Djokovic

Federer 2014We all know the story: can the aging great champion hold off his younger competitors for just one more day? The thing is, that story was done for Roger Federer years ago after he was caught and surpassed, first by Rafael Nadal and later by Novak Djokovic, his opponent today. At age 32, which in tennis years is old, old, old, that classic plot just doesn’t work for Federer anymore. It’s actually hard to find sports parallels for what he’s doing in this year’s Wimbledon. Now Federer is John Glenn returning to space at age 77; he’s Miss Marple solving crimes in her dotage; he’s Sean Connery headlining action movies into his late sixties. Just by getting to this year’s finals, Federer has done the remarkable. If he were to win, he’ll propel himself straight into the inconceivable.

Tune in (or click in if you’re one of the millions of people who no longer tune their televisions…) to ESPN to see what happens. The match starts in a few minutes at 9:00 a.m. ET but could go for as long as four or five hours. I’ll be rooting for Miss Marple. Will you?

Federer – Nadal For the 33rd Time

We take a brief break from Olympics previews and Super Bowl hype to talk about a tennis match that’s going to be played on Friday morning at 3:30 a.m. ET in Australia between two rapidly aging tennis players. Why is this worth breaking into our regularly scheduled programming? Because for almost 14 years, since the first time they played, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have been the most compelling personal rivalry in sports and there’s a chance that this could be the last time they play until they’re both on the senior exhibition tour. So grab your television remote, program your DVR for ESPN at 3:30 a.m.. Don’t make any mistake about it — delete some stuff, add an hour or two to the scheduled end time, and make sure nothing else supersedes it. Then figure out how to call out of work on Friday.

What’s so Great About their Rivalry

nadal federer
Federer, regal, Nadal, resolute.

[Editor’s note — I wrote another post about Nadal and Federer way back in 2011. It’s still available here.]

There’s many factors that play into a rivalry. One is the consistent excellence of both players in comparison to the rest of their competition. During the heart of their careers, from 2003 to 2011, Federer or Nadal won 26 of 32 grand slam (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, or the U.S. Open) tournaments. More impressive in a way is that for their careers, all but three of their losses in Grand Slam finals have been to each other. From 2005 through 2010 either Nadal or Federer was the number one tennis player in the world and the other was second.

As remarkable as those numbers are, they are augmented by the ease with which Nadal and Federer’s rivalry can be translated into narratives. Federer is almost five years older and was established as the number one tennis player in 2004. For three years beginning in 2005, Nadal sat in the number two spot. Able to surpass all his other competition but not Federer. Then in 2008, the younger Nadal finally overtook Federer. Time takes its toll on everyone, right? Not so fast — Federer battled back to be number one in 2009, only to have it stolen back by Nadal in 2010. The story would have been great if it had just been “younger great player overtakes older great player” but the back and forth, the rallies by each player that mimic the rallies within a tennis match, make it epic.

Epic too is the stylistic clash between the two players. Federer is often described as a magician. When he is at his best, he makes creative, surprising shots that no one else would think of, much less have the ability to make; and he makes them seem effortless. Nadal is his natural opposite. He’s a fierce competitor who wears his opponents down by taking their best shots and returning them faster and harder than they were hit. Federer is right handed, Nadal is left handed. Federer dresses himself like the tennis royalty he is, replete with golden insignias and elegant tennis bags. Nadal favors neon colors, sleeveless shirts, and at one point in his career, capris. Federer projects calm and control on the court. Nadal is all furious grunts and obsessive compulsive pre-serve routines.

Although it used to be common, Federer and Nadal have only played each other twice in grand slam tournaments since 2009. This Friday will be the third time in the last five years and there’s a chance it could be the last. Federer is 32 years old, which is quite old for a tennis player to be competitive. Nadal is only 27 but has been hampered by serious knee injuries in the last few years. It’s definitely a “fourth-quarter” competition towards the end of their rivalry. This only makes it more compelling to me. I love it when two players who have such history with each other play. There’s a sentimentality, a respect between the players that is rare; and a deep seeded hatred. Regardless of what they say in public, while they are still playing, these guys want to beat no one more than the other. That this might be their last significant meeting only brings the magnifying glass down a little closer. And based on the weather in Australia these days, things could get pretty hot!

Cue Cards 9-8-2013: College Football & Tennis

clapperboardCue Cards is a series designed to assist with the common small talk about high-profile recent sporting events that is so omnipresent in the workplace, the bar, and other social settings.

Sport: College Football
Teams: Innumerable
When: Saturday, September 7
Context: The second full Saturday of the season
Sports Fans will be Talking About:

  • The first couple weeks of the college football season are full of uneven match-ups between big, powerful schools and the weaker teams that they actually pay to visit their home field. Yesterday had its share of that type of game (Clemson vs South Carolina State, Louisville vs Eastern Kentucky, Rutgers vs. Norfolk State, etc.) but it had some really even and exciting games too.
  • Michigan beat Notre Dame 41 to 30. This was the marquee matchup of the night because it was between to traditional football powers with big fan-bases that are both expected to do well this year. Michigan’s quarterback, Devin Gardner has an interesting story. He was recruited in 2010 to play quarterback but never got much playing time. Last year he switched to Wide Receiver and was excelling at that position until the quarterback got injured and he had to quickly switch back. Now he’s the starting quarterback and he is fun to watch.
  • Georgia upset South Carolina, also 41 to 30. The story will be about Jadeveon Clowney, the star defensive end on the South Carolina team. He became a star last year after this play and is likely to be the first pick of the NFL draft next year. He hasn’t played very well so far this year though, and his team is not doing great either.

What’s Next: No more College Football until Thursday night when Texas Tech faces Texas Christian University at 7:30.

Sport: Tennis
Players: Novak Djokovic vs. Stanislas Wawrinka and Raphael Nadal vs. Richard Gasquet
When: Saturday, September 7
Context: The Semifinals of the U.S. Open
Result: Novak Djokovic defeated Stanislas Wawrinka 2-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 and Raphael Nadal defeated Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-6, 6-2
Sports Fans will be Talking About:

  • The Djokovic-Wawrinka match was an epic. The five setter took four hours and nine minutes. A single game in the third set involved 30 points over 21 minutes — a game is won by the first player to get to four but you have to win by two, so these players were stuck at deuce for a long time! Djokovic is the #1 ranked player in the world, so he was expected to win but Wawrinka made a lot of fans yesterday by playing clever, valiant tennis.
  • Raphael Nadal, on the other side of the bracket, continued his dominant run to the finals. Brian Phillips (@runofplay) is one of my absolutely favorite people to follow on twitter. Here was his comment on Nadal from the quarterfinals but it would apply equally to yesterdays match:

What’s Next: The women’s final between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka is on Sunday “not before” 4:30.  The men’s final will be on Monday.

Cue Cards 9-7-2013: Baseball, Soccer, and Tennis

clapperboardCue Cards is a series designed to assist with the common small talk about high-profile recent sporting events that is so omnipresent in the workplace, the bar, and other social settings.

Sport: Baseball
Teams: The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox
When: Friday, September 6
Context: The last month of the regular season
Result: The Red Sox won 12-8
Sports Fans will be Talking About:

  • As the daily forecast showed yesterday, it’s always a big deal when these rivals play. In this case the rivalry was augmented by the standings in the last month of the season. Boston is firmly in first place of the division and will make the playoffs and the Yankees are two and a half games out of the last wildcard playoff spot.
  • Yesterday made it two games in a row versus Boston that the Yankees have scored eight runs and been leading the game in the sixth inning and still lost. This is unusual and probably quite depressing to Yankees fans.

What’s Next: They play again today at 1:05. Not the most important sporting event because of all the college football on, but close.

Sport: Soccer
Teams: The United States and Costa Rica
When: Friday, September 6
Context: A World Cup qualifying game
Result: The United States loses 3-1
Sports Fans will be Talking About:

  • The Streak is over. After winning 12 games in a row, the United States has lost. Unfortunately this game was more important than the past six or seven because this one counts towards World Cup qualification. Still, the historic streak will cushion the blow for many fans of the team.
  • Three U.S. players got their second cumulative yellow card during World Cup qualifying games in this match. This triggers a one game suspension for them. One of the players was star striker Jozy Altidore who fouled someone needlessly right before the game was over. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann was critical of Altidore for this. 

What’s Next: The United States will face Mexico in another qualifying match on Tuesday. Win and they almost definitely qualify for the World Cup; lose and there will be much wringing of hands and worrying of brows.

Sport: Tennis
Players: Serena Williams vs. Li Na, and Victoria Azarenka vs. Flavia Pennetta
When: Friday, September 6
Context: The Semifinals of the U.S. Open
Result: Serena Williams defeats Li Na 6-0, 6-3 and Victoria Azarenka defeats Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 6-2
Sports Fans will be Talking About:

  • In this country at least, the stories will mostly be about Serena Williams and how dominant she looked. Serena is 31, far past the age that tennis players tend to start losing their ability to play at the highest level, and she just keeps on winning against other very good players convincingly.

What’s Next: The women’s final is on Sunday. The men’s semi-final matches are today when Raphael Nadal plays Richard Gasquet and Novak Djokovic plays Stanislas Wawrinka. Nadal and Djokovic are expected to win but watch out for Wawrinka who just upset Andy Murray soundly in three straight sets.

Is Tennis Sexist? Andy Murray at Wimbledon

Dear Sports Fan,

Is tennis sexist? After Andy Murray won at Wimbledon last week I heard a bunch of stuff about gender politics. What gives?


The Championships - Wimbledon 2013: Day Thirteen
No one claims Andy Murray is sexist, but what about the sport he plays?

—- —- —

Dear Amy,

I don’t know if tennis is inherently sexist. There are a couple things about the sport and its culture and history that are controversially gendered if not out and out sexist. Two things happened last week that brought these feelings to the surface.

Last Sunday Andy Murray won the Men’s Finals at Wimbledon. Wimbledon is one of the four big tennis tournaments of the year and the only one that takes place in England. It drips with history and nationalism. The last time a British man had won Wimbledon was 1936 and before last week the British people were desperate for a local champion. Way back in 2006 ESPN ran an article about this entitled “Decline of the British Empire” in which it detailed the continued failure of the best British men’s tennis player at the time, Tim Henman:

“WIMBLEDON, England — The autopsy was predictably grim. For the 13th consecutive year, Tim Henman — led by the dour and disheartened British scribes — discussed his failure at the All England Club.”

The same year, the ESPN scribe Greg Garber identified a 19 year old Andy Murray as being the future hope of the British people. Seven years later, he finally won. As you might expect, the reaction of the British fans was enormous. re-posted the almost messianic image on the front cover of the English newspaper The Times. After 77 years a Brit had won Wimbledon!! But wait, hold on a second, said a few small voices, hadn’t some British women won Wimbledon in the intervening years between 1936 and 2013? One of those voices, that of the feminist blogger and media personality Chloe Angyal, was in tweet form, retweeted almost 20,000 times:

Murray is indeed the first Brit to win Wimbledon in 77 years unless you think women are people.

The reverberations of this statement made it into the mainstream press even in England where The Guardian ran an article about the controversy and pointed out that not one but four British women have won Wimbledon since the last British man before Murray won the tournament.

Meanwhile, also on Twitter, another gendered conflict was brewing. A fan (or theoretically a troll) tweeted Andy Murray to say that he thought Serena Williams, the great women’s tennis champion, could beat Murray on grass. Murray went with it and tweeted back that he thought so to and that maybe someday they would play. For those readers who are tennis fans or over the age of 50 this probably brings back memories of Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs’ Battle of the Sexes in 1973. Riggs was a former top men’s professional tennis player. At the age of 55 he became one of the sport’s great villains by claiming that women’s tennis was inferior to men’s and that he could, even at his age, beat top female players. His challenge was taken up first by Margaret Court, a great women’s player, and then after he beat her, by Billie Jean King. King was another great women’s player but not as great as Margaret Court, who won 24 major tournaments in her career, which remains a record. King was and is much more high profile off the court as an advocate for the game of tennis and for sexual equality. King beat Riggs soundly in front of a television audience of over 50 million.

The proposed match between Murray and Williams has none of the chauvinistic feel of the Riggs v. King spectacle. Both players are close to the top of their abilities and, though this would likely make it less of a close contest (Serena herself said she doubted she’d “win a point,”) it also significantly lowers the stakes when it comes to humiliation. Both players have responded to the idea as a fun exhibition for the sport of tennis and my guess is that if the match happens it will be all about making creative points on the court, not political points.

1973 was a breakthrough year for women’s tennis in another way — it was the year that the U.S. Open, the first major tennis tournament to do so, equalized the prize money between men and women. It took a long time for the other three major tournaments to follow suit. The Australian Open equalized in 2000 and the final two, the French Open and Wimbledon, didn’t until 2007. These moves have not been without criticism from players who point out that men and women tennis players are getting paid for different amounts of work. What’s that you say? That’s right, men continue to play best three out of five sets in major tournaments while the women play best two out of three. This may not sound like a big deal but it means that women’s finals at Wimbledon have averaged around 90 minutes in the past 30 or so years, while the men’s finals have averaged 150 minutes.[1] Many protest that the message this sends is that women are less able to hold up against the rigors of a long match, and tennis will remain at least somewhat sexist as long as this is true.[2] As the UK Telegraph concludes in their article about this conundrum, “equal pay can ultimately be justified only be equal play.”

Thanks for your question,
Ezra Fischer

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Possibly ironically, I got this stat from a blog post that used it to argue in favor of giving male tennis players more money for winning than female tennis players.
  2. Any readers who think that women actually couldn’t stand the rigors of a long match, please read Brian Phillips’ excellent Grantland piece about the Iditarod which features Aliy Zirkle, a woman who places a close second in the 1,000 mile week-long pain-fest of a dogsled race.