He Said What? – Gilles Simon Speaks Out Against Equal Prize Money

The new ATP Player’s Council, voted on by ATP Tour players, was announced before Wimbledon got underway on Monday. Those elected will serve two-year terms, expiring in June 2014.

1-50 Singles: Kevin Anderson, Roger Federer, Jarkko Nieminen, Gilles Simon

51-100 Singles: Robin Haase, Sergiy Stakhovsky

1-100 Doubles: Mahesh Bhupathi, Eric Butorac

At-Large: James Cerretani, Andre Sa

Alumni: Brian Gottfried

Coach: Claudio Pistolesi

Gilles Simon, currently ranked #13 in the world in singles, had this to say about his election.

“I have been on the Tour for a long time, and have learned a lot about tournaments and players. I have some ideas to share with the other players, and feel it is important for us to work together and make good decisions. Tennis is at the top and we want to continue to improve.”

As a bighead figurehead in a governing body that is in no real position of power, Simon seems to feel that has given him carte blanche to say what he wants. Because god knows, his tennis doesn’t.

In an interview translated from the French Huffington Post, Simon feels that “equal prize money has no place in tennis,” and “that we provide a more attractive spectacle.”

“We often speak of equality in wages. I think this is not something that works in sport…I think today men’s tennis is ahead of women’s tennis…[In a] Grand Slam, men spend twice as much time on the courts than women.”

Do I believe Simon has a right to express his opinion? Sure, he does. Do I believe he has the right to act high and mighty with demigod status purely because he is male? No. First of all, here’s my problem. The men play best of five sets a grand total of FOUR times each year, at the majors. The rest of the year, they slog it out in the same best of three set matches that the women do.

Secondly, the fact that Simon, of ALL the ATP players, is talking about tennis and aesthetics is laughable.

Exhibit A:

A 61-shot rally with no pace, no width of shot, no depth. Extremely high quality entertainment, that is.

Simon is not the first player to talk smack about the WTA, as Janko Tipsarevic has had that handled all by himself in recent years. Tipsarevic unleashed a diatribe at the WTA four years ago, stating:

“99% of male tennis players can’t stand women’s tennis. There’s no other sport with such a big disparity concerning level of play and the money women make. A friend of mine says that a woman who wins a Slam should only earn enough money to pay for her airplane ticket home. Who knows what else I would say if it wasn’t for Ana and Jelena whom I may consider friends. But of course, I appreciate the effort they’re putting into tennis, because I know they practise as hard as I do. [...] The way women think on court cannot be compared to men. Their only strategy is ‘hit the ball where your opponent isn’t.’ Nothing more! No ‘Put more spin on the ball, this is an important point, play to her backhand’. No way! [...] It’s that such kind of tennis works today. Look at the Williams sisters, Sharapova or Ivanovic who hits the ball like a truck on steroids. I get a bit critical when I see how much the women earn and how their opening rounds go. That’s what irritates me the most, I feel like going to WTA HQ and *something* all of them. Look at Federer who is so dominant, he has to work so hard to beat a Staracce or an Almagro, he may even lose a set and then look at Sharapova or Ivanovic who lose 3 games in the first 4 rounds. It makes me sick”.

Roger Federer defeated his first opponent at Wimbledon 61 61 61 and Andy Murray’s first round lasted 95 minutes; Vera Zvonareva’s opening match lasted 138 minutes over two days, and American Christina McHale defeated Great Britain’s Johanna Konta 10-8 in the third set. Clearly, Federer and Murray should be forced to take pay cuts for that lack of quality and competitiveness.

I firmly believe the ATP Player’s Council should be concerned with….the matters of ATP players. Is that so radical? Lower ranked players on the ATP can barely make a living, as we learned from (ex-ATP Council member) Sergiy Stakhovsky’s explosive interview earlier this year. In a year when we are celebrating 40 years of Title IX in the United States, it’s sad to see the amount of close-mindedness that still exists regarding female athletes by their male counterparts. The ATP is currently dominated by three men and clearly there’s some bitterness towards the inability to reach that pinnacle from some of the others.

6 thoughts on “He Said What? – Gilles Simon Speaks Out Against Equal Prize Money”

  1. Congrats. You found extreme matches from Wimbledon to use as examples. If the men play more sets of tennis for even FOUR tournaments each year, then why shouldn’t they be paid more at those tournaments. At Indian Wells, for instance, the men and women were paid the same (because they all played best of three matches). I will never understand the “they only play best of five matches FOUR times a year” argument. I don’t even disagree that women should be paid the same at the slams; they should. I’m just saying that the “five sets FOUR times a year argument” is such a lousy excuse, when those are the four tournaments that men could make the argument that they should be paid more.

    I fail to see to your point that because Zvonareva’s match lasted 138 minutes it was a quality match. I thought you just told me that long rallies don’t equal quality rallies (see Exhibit A). If that’s true, long matches must not necessarily equal quality matches either.

    “The ATP is currently dominated by three men and clearly there’s some bitterness towards the inability to reach that pinnacle from some of the others.” – How is this statement related, at all, to the rest of your post? I don’t understand how some ATP players being bitter about not reach the pinnacle relates to their opinions on equal pay with the WTA.

  2. I’m pro equal pay because people often compare the current generation of women’s players to the men’s when its very clear that the men’s generation of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic is arguably the greatest of all time. Women’s tennis is experiencing one of its worst spells, but thats not something to blame on the current players who simply pick up rackets and go to play the sport they love every morning. The problem with women’s tennis lies deep in the fact that the current generation didn’t get a clear transfer of power. Players like my favourites Henin and Kim retired early, Sharapova who seemed to be rising into the next Graff lost time due to a shoulder injury, the William sisters didn’t look particularly interested in the game. What this brought up was that younger girls who hadn’t gotten their games to the right levels of maturity got to achieve greater things the easy way and that fooled them into believing that their games were good enough instead of working more on them. The WTA is also to blame. The women’s game is not marketed the way it should, and that makes it hard for people to know who the lovely talents in the women’s game are. For example, here in Africa, i only get to watch the semifinals and finals of only the premiers. Any other women’s tennis, i have to wait for the majors. There are lots of poor marketing strategies which damage the women’s game instead of building it. On court training during the tour matches is also another thing which clearly has its effects on the ladies’ game. When you add up these things, you get the biased attitudes towards the women’s game.

    On the other hand, the men’s game is blessed with some heavy names which market the sport to even people who are not interested in tennis. That contributes more to why its much appreciated. Take for example, here in Africa, football is such a big game that tennis is almost nothing, but during the Champions league final between Chelsea and Bayern Munich, from the place where i was watching it from, people kept on switching between the Federer-Djokovic Rome Masters semi and the football. That can only happen when clearly the names in the sport are so big.

    To sum it all up, my view still remains that equal pay should stay because you can’t compare the two separate generations in the game at the moment. The men’s is at its peak whereas the Women’s is not at its best. But a few years from now, WOmen’s tennis could be the bomb and men’s tennis, the most boring thing. Should we change the pay structure then? NO ! I would give an ear to those who say that women should play five sets too at the majors, but not so much because Women are Women.
    Thats my opinion :) Love your tweets by the way.

    1. First of all, the big three (and maybe Murray) constitute the draw to the ATP. Put the rest up against Sharapova, Serena, etc, and it’s no contest in terms of popularity.

      Kym: “If that’s true, long matches must not necessarily equal quality matches either.” You’re supporting my argument. Simon is saying that because they play best of five, makes it better theater. Wrong.

      I personally prefer the WTA because of the parity and unpredictability. The ATP doesn’t have that, and to me that reflects poorly on the rest of the ATP as they aren’t good enough to compete with the biggest names at the biggest moments consistently. One stat says it all: 28 of the past 29 slams have been won by Djokovic, Nadal or Federer.

  3. But before this current generation of the wta, there were women who dominated women’s tennis more than the men are doing at the moment, and those ladies are considered the greatest of all time because of their ability to display consistency in their games. Consistency is lacking in the women’s game, and lets be honest, it doesn’t attract many people to watch it. I love tennis and i would watch women’s tennis irrespective of its state, but i judge the popularity of the sport by the way those who are less interested in it talk about it. The Nadal, Federer aand Djokovic dominance is something envied by the ogarnisers of the wta tour events, because they need those women who are going to set the bar so high, that inorder for one to win a major, you have to play your absolute best tennis.Save for Rafa fans for whom its truly understandable, the rest of us enjoyed Rosol’s win yesterday. It requires one to be at their absolute best to beat the best and thats where great tennis matches are born. We only have a few epics in the women’s game at the moment.

  4. Been following your lovely sarcastic comments on twitter for a while – didn’t realize you had a blog too. Agree with your arguments – think that to some extent SImon’s original comments on the matter stem from the fact that some of the lower ranked guys are struggling to make ends meet – the women are earning money that they could be. Fact is – the grand slam pay out only something like 6.5% of their revenue as prize money. That’s the problem he and the ATP council should be addressing. Not making the generalization that sports stars aren’t the brightest folk fact. I wrote an entry for the site I’m commenting under about the equal pay issue too. Check it out sometime.

  5. I think Simon and Tipsaveric are incredibly sexist. Their chauvinism is so distasteful and utterly mid-20th century that it really makes them look like neanderthals. I thought that Tipsy was an intelligent guy – must be the Serbian in him. We know what women-hating, LGBT-hating, mass-murderers Serbians have proven themselves to be over that last 25 years. Simon? WTF? I love watching women’s tennis and refuse to concede that just because they are women playing a game that men also play that they are not the very best in the world at their sport. I prefer a tour where a Stosur or Li or Bartoli can get up and snatch a slam (Which is what the ATP was like before Federer started his run) than watch the ATP where you know only one of four players will win.

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