I’ve often wondered why women continue to play the best of 3 set matches all year long, as opposed to the men who are required to bump up to the best of 5 at Grand Slam tournaments, Davis Cup and Olympics Finals.

The only time women have played best of 5 sets in any professional tournaments in the modern era was the WTA Tour Finals from 1984-1998.

To find any pro women tennis players duking it out in 5 sets before then you’d have to go back to 1901 during the US National Championships (which later became the US Open) and 1973 when Billie Jean King famously played Bobby Riggs during the “Battle of the Sexes”.

So, is the disparity in playing time between men & women because women are perceived to be weaker than men?  Or, less fit?

Studies have shown, in fact, that women actually have several physiological advantages when it comes to endurance over men.

This includes women’s better tolerance for heat and humidity due to smaller body size, the ability to burn more fat & less carbs as a result of estrogen’s effects on metabolism and greater body fat reserves, and the power of estrogen to act as an antioxidant & protect muscles from “exercise-induced damage”.

So, there should not be any excuses since several top players and WTA officials have also been advocating for playing the best of 5 at Slams for several years, right?

It seems that the tournaments themselves and the ITF (International Tennis Foundation, the Grand Slams governing body) just don’t want it to happen.

According to a 2014 NY Times article, Serena Williams and the WTA Tour players council approached them on “many, many, many occasions, but it’s not what the tournaments, in general desire… All the women players have agreed to it, but it’s not what they want at this time.”

David Brewer, the US Open tournament director, indicated that the imbalance is simply due to tradition that needs to be changed slowly, over time.

But former WTA CEO Stacey Allaster said in 2013, that despite the fact woman are “Ready, willing and able”, the stumbling block has to do with length of matches.  She added, “It would take a lot longer to have our matches if it were five sets.”

Specifically, by adding more sets to women’s matches, it could cause turbulent changes to the overall tennis and broadcasting schedule(s) which networks & tournaments don’t want.

In the meantime, several women players have come forward to demand equal pay as the men, despite the tremendous disparity in presence on the court(s).

Serena Williams herself recently commented on this issue after her 48-minute, 34 second destruction of Elsie Vesnina in the 2016 Wimbledon semi-finals (6-4, 6-0), the fastest ever SF at the All England Club: “I don’t think I deserve to be paid less because of my sex, or anyone else for that matter in any job.”

That was her response when her result was compared to the men’s semi-finals matches that each went 5 sets and lasted a combined 7 hours and 11 minutes…

With all due respect to Serena, the “job” that she worked at her Wimbledon SF and the ones that the men worked at their SF matches were not the same.

Just as a virtue of being a woman, her threshold was far lower than the one the men played.

As a result, she and all the other women do not deserve the same pay.

This issue doesn’t come down to “sex” at this point.  It comes down to the fact that they are not playing the same tournament without best of 5 sets.

And, I think it disingenuous if women players ask for more for doing less while continuing to hang on the crutch of feminism.

It’s not fair to the men, and it certainly doesn’t help the cause of equality.

If Serena and the WTA have a beef with anyone about equal pay, it should be with the ITF who are banning females the ability to go the distance and to earn the same pay.

Let’s face it, playing best of 5 requires more mental and physical stamina than players who only play best of 3.

They have to reach deeper and engage in a battle of wills that pushes players to their physical brink and beyond.

It becomes less a show of muscle and short-term power and more a game that showcases athletes’ technique, power, mental fortitude and endurance.

No, unless the same level of play is instituted for both men and women, then equal pay should not even be a question.

It’s time the women join the same ranks and we see the meaning of true guts and competition from them like we do with the men.

Billie Jean King showed us how to do it 43 years ago.  What are we waiting for?

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