Saturday, October 24, 2020

Equal Rights

Coach Wayne’s Corner


My initial plan for this article was that it was going to be titled “Why I Love Wimbledon” and I had intended to discuss all of the history and traditions that are associated with “The Championships.” Things like, the players must wear all white, and the lines judges and ball boys are all attired in Ralph Lauren. The ladies wear dresses and fancy hats, and the gentlemen, suit and ties, as well as the green and purple striped Wimbledon club ties which are sported by gentlemen members who are privileged enough to be sitting in the Royal Box.

I had also intended on commenting and congratulating Roger Federer and Serena Williams on how they own Centre Court.

However, even though I still truly believe that they both do own Centre Court, with neither one of them ending up being the champion in this year’s fortnight, I have had to reevaluate my thoughts and feelings. It got me thinking about a very controversial subject, in my opinion, regarding the Grand Slams (aka The Majors). I am referring to the difference of two out of three sets for women versus three out of five sets for men.

First off, I want to clarify the fact that both male and female competitors in all professional sports are now more fit and in shape than ever before.

With that said, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not qualifying or quantifying any relationship in regards to the amount of prize money paid to men and women in the sport of tennis. While I believe that the women’s game can be just as competitive as the men’s game, I do not feel that it is as physically challenging as what the men deal with in the Grand Slam events for the simple fact that the men are required to play three out of five sets.

Now before you throw down the sexist card on me, let me qualify my feelings on this subject. I thoroughly enjoy playing mixed doubles in both tennis and pickleball and I quite often find that the woman/women to be the better player/players of the foursome, so please don’t accuse me of being a macho, anti feminist, boneheaded jock!

You could spend hours comparing the amazing statistics of players like Serena and Roger; the number of major titles they hold, the number of weeks they have consecutively held being number one in the world, the longevity of their careers, etc. But the one statistic that does not appear is a win loss record in three out of five sets for Serena.

Personally, I have never competed in a tennis match lasting longer than two out of three sets. Even in my younger years, I don’t believe I was ever in any mental, emotional, or physical condition to actually survive a three out of five match! Not to mention the guts it must take for anyone to even just walk onto Centre Court at Wimbledon without throwing up and passing out!

Whether you are a man or a woman, all of the factors that are involved in regards to the mental, emotional and physical aspects of competing in a major tournament make you a special type of competitor.

However, the fact that the men have to win three out of five sets is what sets the two apart.

I would like to follow all of this up with the fact that I feel it is extremely unfair that Serena was seeded #25 because of her time off being pregnant and having a child. Obviously a situation that cannot occur on the men’s side of the game!

But, back to the purpose of my article.

Could a player like Serena compete against players on the men’s Pro Tour in a two out of three set match?

In my opinion, YES, she could successfully compete and win playing on the men’s tour! Could she successfully compete and win against the top ranked players on the men’s tour in a three out of five set match in a Grand Slam? That my friends, is the $64K question!

With that said, I find it to be ironic (yet a somewhat obscure and interesting statistic) that Serena Williams played a total of 166 games in the entire tournament, and that Kevin Anderson (because there are no tie-breaks in the fifth set at Wimbledon) had to play a total of 166 games, just in his quarter and semi final matches!

Once again, I am simply stating the fact that it is much more challenging to play three out of five sets than it is to play two out of three sets.

With that all now out in the open, I would like to give accreditation and accommodation to women who successfully compete in another sport, which has traditionally been dominated by men. I am referring to the sport of professional racing.

Female drivers, such as Danica Patrick in Indy Car Racing, have proven to be just as good, or even better than their male counterparts whom they are competing against! Danica is not given any breaks just because she is a girl. She has to drive just as fast and race for the entire 500 miles of Indy, just like the boys.

And finally, on a more humorous note, I was channel surfing the other day and I found myself watching professional bowling.  Even worse, I ended up watching a professional corn-hole (bean bag tossing) competition where the commentators reported on the strategies and pressures of competition, and even how much physical conditioning the competitors do to prevent injuries and improve their strength!

I did not take the time to watch either of these two somewhat odd competitive events long enough to observe if the participants actually experienced the mental, emotional and physical conditioning required of a tennis player who competes in a final match on Centre Court at Wimbledon. Not to mention the guts it takes an Indy 500 driver to strap themselves in for the ride of their life, however, I can only conclude that the answer is, no way!

Wayne Clark is a certified professional tennis instructor with over 25 years experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction. He has been the head instructor at The Marco Island Racquet Center since 2001. The Racquet Center offers clinics, private and group lessons for both tennis and pickleball. Coach Wayne’s Island Kids Tennis/Sports Juniors programs run year round, and offer classes for players ranging from kindergarten through high school. Contact Coach Wayne by email at coachwayneclark@aol.com or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.

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