Saturday, 6 July 2013

Today’s Wimbledon Women’s Final was a load of old tut – what about an apology from Billie Jean King?

Yesterday, I watched one of the greatest tennis matches I have ever seen. All I had asked was that Djokovic and Del Potro become embroiled in a physically and emotionally exhausting five-setter to give Andy Murray a better chance in tomorrow's final. What I got was a match of unparalleled brilliance: it was a privilege to see two such fine players at the very top of their game, especially as one of them was playing with what looked like a very nasty knee injury. The Murray-Janowicz match that followed wasn’t as good – but it was fascinating to watch the Surly Scot bully the Bond-villain Pole’s terrifying serve into submission in four engrossing sets. What a day of sporting treats!

After dropping my son off at the airport early this morning (you know you’re getting old when Junior starts visiting countries you’ve never been to) I arrived back just in time to watch the closing stages of the British and Irish Lions’ quite magnificent series victory against Australia. I’m not a huge rugby fan – I absolutely loathed playing it at school – but it was easy to admire what was being achieved in Sydney. (My wife asked if we could expect to see John Terry join the on-pitch celebrations in full Lions kit, but we had to make do with Daniel Craig being rather short in the dressing-room.)

I’m not surprised today’s women tennis players are so quick to lavish praise on Billie-Jean King for so determinedly battling to raise the profile of and the prize money in women’s tennis. Given how cosmically dull and uninspiring the women’s game is now – it has been for years – and given the paying public’s utter lack of interest in it, it’s a surprise that most of the competitors (if that’s the right word for all those 6-0,6-1 rabbits that pollute the first two or three rounds of every slam) are paid anything at all for flailing around the court ineptly, shrieking and crying for about 40 minutes before someone marginally less useless puts them out of their misery. Anyway, you’ve heard me bang on about this subject before (here, for instance).

In a general state of sporting euphoria, and being too knackered to do anything useful on an oppressively hot day, I decide to test the validity of my prejudice against the female game by watching the smiley-face German Sabine Lisicki (Serena Williams’s conqueror at this Wimbledon) play the dumpy and somewhat weird little Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli in today’s final. I lasted until the second game of the second – and concluding – set. It was unbelievably embarrassing and abysmal and awful: a true car-crash of a match. Bartoli – appearing in her second Wimbledon final - was stolidly competent, while her opponent (appearing in her first slam final) went to pieces after the very first game, eventually losing 1-6, 4-6. It was a disgrace to the championships and to the sport’s greatest arena.

To quote "Lord" Sugar, it was "a load of old tut".

For not putting up any sort of a fight, Liisicki will receive a cheque for – and I’m not kidding - £800,000. That’s twice as much as the Argentine giant Juan Martin Del Porto will receive for thrilling millions of tennis fans for over four and a half hours on the same court the previous day against the best player in the world. Meanwhile, Bartoli ended up £1.6 million richer. At the end, the winner said “I cannot believe it.” No, dear – neither can we.

No doubt all those who have fought for – and acceded to - the endless demands for pay parity between men and women in the sport will have watched this afternoon’s match. I hope they had the decency to feel thoroughly ashamed of themselves for having perpetrated such a grotesque injustice.

Billie Jean King (who, to be fair to her, campaigned for pay parity in an era when women’s tennis wasn’t a joke, and when it could attract paying spectators without parasitically leaching off the men’s game) was recently asked about equal pay for equal work. Know what she said? Hey, why don’t they shorten the men’s game to best of three? That would mean men would have longer careers because they wouldn’t get injured so much. Isn’t she a compassionate little poppet? So, in order to justify money being picked from the pockets of male players ranked below 50 (many of whom, despite being genuinely impressive, find it hard to pay the expenses necessary to travel the globe to compete in tournaments) in order to boost the earnings of women players ranked above 50 (the vast majority of whom are utter rubbish), this feminist icon would deny tennis fans the sort of splendidly thrilling matches we witnessed yesterday. With that kind of dreary levelling mentality, I’m guessing she’s an Obama Democrat.

If I should ever have the misfortune to meet Billie-Jean King, I will demand an apology from her on behalf of all true tennis fans. Meanwhile, the authorities should think about moving all women’s tennis onto outside courts at slams unless one of the players is a babe (Sharapova) or of local interest (Laura Robson here, Serena Williams in the US, for instance) until it’s once more ready to compete in the market-place with the superbly healthy and crowd-pleasing male version. Another performance as awesomely pitiful as this afternoon’s should make the argument for such a move unanswerable.

Before I’m accused of rampant sexism, I should point out that I’m all in favour of women bosses (I’ve worked for many) and equal pay for equal work and getting rid of glass ceilings and blah blah blah. What I’m against is taking money from talented, deserving people and handing it to untalented, undeserving people purely on the basis of gender or race or religion.


  1. Women's tennis. Biff. Uhh. Bong. Aagh. Biff. Uhh. Bash. Aagh. Swish. Uhh. Oh I say, does't she look delightful. 'Thanks Dan. May I have cheque for a million quid please.'

  2. You'll be gutted to hear (again) that we were present. The shampoo, strawberries, lunch and full tea were skilfully presented and the uniforms terrific..
    Love from The Liggers.

    1. If you mean you were present at the Women's Final, that's no problem. If you were at the Men's Final, you are both dead to me. Officially.

  3. I fear you are overheating. I really recommend Mark Twain's ' The Innocents Abroad' purely because I think it is gloriously amusing and soothing and you, and Mrs G, might, in my innocence, agree!
    Xx S

    1. Never really got on with Twain - have tried Tom Sawyer several times and just didn't get it. But, okay, I'll give The Innocents Abroad a go as I've just finished a book and need something fresh to start on. Thanks for recommendation.