At all 4 Grand Slams, women tennis players play best-of-three matches while men play best-of-five. In every other tennis tournament, men play best-of-three set matches as well. But why is that? Can’t women handle a best-of-five match?
These are questions people have been asking for years now. The truth is that 150 years ago, women used to play best-of-five matches. Although there were some great matches and women “fought to the end with wonderful tenacity,” some male officials at the United States National Lawn Tennis Association (now called USTA) decided to change the women’s tournament back to best-of-three sets because they believed they couldn’t handle the pressure of playing extra sets.
“I do not think any such change should be made without first canvassing the wishes of the women players,” Elizabeth Moore, a former American tennis champion, said. “Lawn tennis is a game not alone of skill but of endurance as well, and I fail to see why such a radical change should be made to satisfy a few players who do not take the time or have the inclination to get themselves in proper condition for playing.”
This issue surfaced again in 1973 after Billie Jean King won Bobby Riggs in “The Battle of the Sexes”. After her legendary win, King along with other female tennis players pushed tournaments to establish equal pay. In 1976 however, an article was published by the New York Times featuring some offensive statements by star players such as Jimmy Connors and Arthur Ashe. They pointed out that at Slams because women played best-of-three matches in comparison to men’s best-of-five they do not deserve equal pay.
In 1976 women tennis players took a vote and decided to play 5 set matches yet no tournament allowed it. The years that followed and with the progression of women’s tennis the WTA decided to that the WTA Finals would be best-of-five set matches. After 23 years, in 1999 the the tournament turned back to best-of-three matches because they believed it was tough for most players.
Today, tennis is much more physical and athletic than when it first started and both men and women are getting equally paid at the Grand Slams. And yet, women’s tennis players are constantly on the defense trying to prove what they are worth. It is believed that women do not get to play best-of-five sets because they don’t have powerful serves and are easily broken and also that their rallies are much longer than the men’s.
Many people believe that men’s matches offer better value for money due to the fact that historically their matches are longer. But there have been numerous times where women’s matches have been more memorable than men’s like the 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 of Serena Williams’ and Victoria Azarenka’s third round of the 2015 French Open.
How is it possible to surpass the belief of “quantity-trumps-quality” when men play with a different format than women? Women have always wanted best-of-five matches but they are not given the chance. And everyone knows by now that women more than deserve this chance!
These polls say it all:
*Feature Image: Google Images