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 in the same ATP release.

“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 a piece by Maimouna Barry translated from the French Huffington Post, Simon feels that “equal prize money has no place in tennis,” and “that we [the men] 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.” (h/t Throw Up the Deuce, translated from Serbian.)

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.