Saturday, April 13, 2013

More on the WTA - Are Five Set Matches The Answer?

by Savannah

I went on a bit of a rant about the WTA's emphasis on having any and everyone on the tour do a half naked photo shoot in a lame attempt to draw people to the tour. I also slammed fan sites for buying into this. I didn't talk about how the alleged tennis fans that populate these sites seem to have the collective mental age of thirteen year old boys because I thought that might be a bit of a cheap shot but I'm mentioning it in this post because, well I should've mentioned it yesterday.

But it's not fair to paint all of the people on fan sites with a broad brush. Under all the drivel there are true tennis fans, fans who won't waste hundreds of cyber pages on flat chested vs not flat chested and who want to talk about what measures can be taken to improve the play and reputation of women's tennis.

To support this point a view a fan calling him/herself "T-Rex" posted an article from The Economist from January 2012 that should've been required reading for all tennis fans, coaches, players, organizations and journalists, professional and non professional.

The first picture in the article is shown below.

 photo aba935be-4d14-485c-ab6d-8c2b30b7328f_zpsbb5877f0.jpg

The picture makes it clear what the focus of the article will be. Remember that this is over a year old.

...Introducing best-of-fives into women's majors would have numerous benefits. For a start, it should boost athleticism. That has been perhaps the most exciting development in the men's game over the past decade. As modern tennis has retreated to the baseline and rallies have lengthened, the need to prepare for a punishing, five-set encounter has made fitness a priority. The supreme conditioning of Mr Nadal and Serbia's Novak Djokovic, who have split all of the last seven slams between them, has allowed them to perform acrobatics that would have been unimaginable a few years ago. This has replaced the court craft of the 1970s as the visual treat for spectators.

By contrast, without best-of-fives, the fading of serve-and-volley tennis has arguably led to a setback for athleticism in the women's game, which probably peaked with Germany's Steffi Graf in the 1980s and 1990s. Players approach the net less frequently than ever before, and yet they have never had to build much stamina...

That is also, partly, because best-of-threes give weaker players more chance to cause an upset. A brief lapse in concentration or a lucky mishit can determine the outcome of a set and put a player firmly in control of a match. Best-of-fives, on the other hand, reward consistency. They also favour more cerebral players, who can adapt their game plans to counter troublesome opponents. That makes them more interesting to watch as well as harder to win. It is notable that over the past three years, eight different men have won Masters 1000 tournaments, where best-of-threes are played, but just four have triumphed at majors...

In itself, the shorter format demeans women. It gives ammunition to opponents of equal pay, who argue that women put in fewer hours and attract less interest than men. And the discrimination is unusually sexist...

Reform will not happen unless women demand it, however. And the leading players remain silent on the issue. That is hardly surprising. Having enjoyed success as things stand, they have little incentive to call for a physically taxing change, especially as tournaments like Wimbledon now pay them equal prize money to the men.

The last paragraph says all that needs to be said about why the WTA and the women players keep playing the "pay us" card while avoiding the issues raised in the above article.

There is no excuse for anyone in the top ten to be as physically unfit as Ana Ivanovic, Petra Kvitova, and Marion Bartoli. Thin does not equal fit. Showing up on court with a visible gut is obviously not fit. Thin may get you modeling work but with no muscle tone you won't play well on the court.

I hope people read the entire article and think about it. So often the reaction to any article critical of women's tennis is met with venom and attack from the supporters of women's tennis. It's not sexist to demand fitness. The proof of the articles premise was visible in Indian Wells and Miami where attendance at women's matches was horrible.

Let's think about it. And stop abetting the WTA tour in putting an inferior product on display.

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