Equal pay for equal work – unless you play tennis
Equality is something we all believe in. Irrespective of ethnicity, gender or religion all humans should have equal rights and receive equal pay for equal work. Regular readers will also know I am not against a bit of affirmative action when required to correct imbalances that have existed for generations.
Then we have tennis players. Professional tennis players, to be specific. The Australian Open is on, which is why I am contemplating this. I contemplate it every year, an indication it still annoys me.
For those not into tennis, a little background, otherwise you won’t get my work rate analysis. There are lots of tennis tournaments every year. At most of these tournaments both men and women play best of three set matches. I’m fine with that – level playing field, equal remuneration, it is all good!
Matches are made up of sets and sets are made up of games. Games are decided on points, but nothing as simple as 1, 2, 3. No, no. The first “point” is actually 15, the second is 15 and the third is 10. Once the player reaches 40 (15 + 15 + 10 if your maths are rusty) just one more winner will see him/her tuck that game under his/her belt. Unless the opponent is also on 40. NOW a player has to win two points in a row to take the game. Trust me, THIS can go on for a while. A player wins a serve, goes to “Advantage”. The opponent wins the next point, they are back to 40-40. So a game can be short and sweet or long and laborious.
Each set may have as few as six games or as many as thirteen including a tie-breaker.
Then there are the four Grand Slam tournaments; Wimbledon, US Open, French Open and Australian Open. At these four tournaments the women play best of three set matches and the men play best of five set matches. The fifth (or third for the women) set continues ad infinitum until there is a two game advantage, no tie-break. The longest ever (so far, that is) was between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010. The match lasted eleven hours and five minutes. Exceptional, indeed, but an indication of what can happen in Grand Slam tennis.
I just cannot accept that equal money for unequal work is fair.
Gilles Simon of France is reported as having said men “provide a more attractive show” in their matches. I don’t think that is a very sensible argument, personally, although he and I agree about the unfairness of it all.
For me, it simply comes down to work. The other day Ayumi Morita and Gael Monfils left the Australian Open at the same stage, Round 3. Ayumi played a total of 66 minutes; Gael played 283 minutes (nearly 5 hours). Yet they both went home with $22,750 if I understand the prize pool correctly. If I was Gael Monfils, I wouldn’t think that was very fair. Certainly not equal pay for equal work.
The ultimate winners, by the end of the tournament, could conceivably have played 21 sets (women) and 35 sets (men). Of course not all matches go to the maximum number of sets and conversely the last set can continue forever, but as a measure, it is a useful statistic.
Men will play a minimum of three sets in each match. Women play a minimum of two. These are the only tournaments where the men are guaranteed to play at least one set more per match that the women. Women play two or three sets per match. Men play three, four or five sets per match.
Why don’t women play best of five sets if they want the same money? Do the same work! I don’t believe it is a question of endurance. Women can run marathons and compete in triathlons. We give birth, for goodness sake! Damn hard work, if you’ve never done it!
I don’t personally believe being paid the same money for what is clearly less work is doing women any favours in the broader equality battle. I understand that the costs of competing are the same whether the player plays five sets or three. The coach charges the same, the travel costs are the same and the physiotherapist charges the same. I understand that. To me, those factors do not make the current remuneration structure fair and this is not a case of justifiable affirmative action.
There will be some tennis fans who cry “But I couldn’t listen to the screaming of the women for five sets”. I tend to agree, frankly, but that is a different debate altogether!
So, play five sets, ladies!
Other options of course are to bring the men back to three sets, but then the Slams would lose that special glow they have, or pay the women proportionally less, which I can’t see happening. Hard to go back now the equal pay is there.
There there are all the scheduling changes any change to the number of sets would bring. Fitting in all those TV ads and ensuring the overseas networks got their time slots. Logistics could be interesting.
Can you convince me it is fair? Because I can’t see it! Here I am trying to educate my kids about equality and I am having great difficulty justifying this situation!