Let’s be honest for once
Sports editor Tom Hollingworth dares to tell the truth
Yesterday, having rather enjoyed ITV’s early coverage of the Tour de France opening stage, mostly because it reconnected me with the wonders of the Yorkshire countryside, my next television ‘must see’ was the 5.00pm soccer World Cup quarter-final between Argentina and Belgium.
Accordingly, I then debated with myself whether I would have my post-prandial nap before or after watching the start of the Wimbledon Ladies’ Final between the Czech former (2011) winner Petra Kvitova and the Canadian upstart Eugenie Bouchard.
In the end I opted to watch the opening game or two of the tennis … ended up watching the entire match as Kvitova blew Bouchard off-court, demolishing her 6-3, 6-0 in 55 minutes … and I still managed to get in a solid hour and a half of kip before the football.
Down through the history of tennis, there have undoubtedly been some amazing female players, but only a few really great ones.
The unpalatable (albeit non-politically correct) truth is that the vast bulk of them have always been distinctly average.
This state of affairs will never change because the general standard of female tennis – and the fitness of the players – is so poor.
Furthermore, there’s been a conspiracy operating in the world of tennis giving its female players a degree of positive discrimination that – in a technical sense, under equality legislation – would never have been allowed in any other field of human endeavour.
Let’s be blunt about it – on every level, the women’s game compares unfavourably with the men’s.
To get into the top 100 in the world rankings, a male player not only has to possess real talent but be super-fit, not least because – in Grand Slam tournaments – men play the best of five sets and, when you get to the ‘last 32’ stage (occasional crushing victories by Top Four players against low-rankers aside), easy matches are few and far between.
In comparison, the women only ever play three sets – the honest but unspoken reason for this is that so few of them are fit enough to manage five. In most Grand Slam events, the women’s tournament only becomes competitive at the quarter-final stage, i.e. when the ‘top 20’ players begin playing each other.
And yet both genders get awarded the same prize money.
I should estimate that 80% minimum of modern professional women tennis players are just content to pick up their (first or second round) losing prize money – marrying it with the free kit supplied by sponsors and the ancillary financial rewards of undertaking endorsements, advertising and modelling (if they’re attractive enough, of course) – and ‘live the good life’, without every really extending themselves in a sporting sense.
But let us return to the subject of yesterday’s Ladies final.
Despite the novelty of being able to watch Bouchard (apparently the ‘next big thing’ in female tennis) for the first time, the obvious choice as winner for me – as an average betting man – was Kvitova.
At six feet, she was three inches taller, probably a stone heavier and a natural heavy hitter. Having said that, she also looked lanky and slightly uncoordinated – hardly a stereotypical athlete.
Plus she sported a sizeable ‘spare tyre’ around her stomach. [In the men’s game, you never see podgy players – it’s a precondition of modern professional men’s tennis that you have to be lithe and supremely fit.]
The BBC, of course, honour-bound by its charter to be scrupulously fair and equal between the sexes, gave yesterday’s contest the five-star reverential build-up treatment.
However, I strongly suspect that, even as they did so, the presenters and pundits concerned (both male and female) duly ‘went through the motions’ for the benefits of the unattached viewer, whilst keeping to themselves the desperate hope that – by some means or another – the match might prove to be vaguely competitive and last at least two hours.
Kvitova’s dominance was such that, after as few as three games, the eventual outcome had become obvious and the atmosphere on Centre Court distinctly flat. The supposed Everest of the elite women’s game (the Wimbledon final) had descended into little more than a ‘no contact’ training session.
It was embarrassing. Not that anyone interviewed or commenting before and after the game was going to say it, of course.
They’re all part of the ‘tennis industry’ and they know which side their bread is buttered.