The year is 1973. 30,000 spectators sit in the Houston Astrodome on a humid September day, with 90 million more worldwide watching on TV, as Billie Jean King fights for a victory over Bobby Riggs, a spokesperson against female tennis players. On the court, both athletes were testing their skill, but off-court the battle was more complex. Known as the Battle of the Sexes, King had secured the win in three-sets, paving the way for women’s tennis. The match was essential for the acceptance of women’s tennis around the world, and from that day, it would seem as if tennis would be changed forever.
It is 2020, however, and women are still facing backlash for their participation in Tennis. In the past few years, there have been many that have tried to set them back, but female tennis players will not let that happen without a fight.
On August 9, Coco Gauff posted a video on her Tik Tok in response to a comment that said, “Bro, what do you not understand? She plays GIRLS tennis, the skill gap is unmeasurable. A pro girl wouldn’t even win against a boy’s state.”
Gauff had to explain the difference between skill and gender. She argued that a male would only be better than her because they had more skill, not because they are a man.
In a press conference in 2016, Raymon Moore explained that the WTA relied on the success of their male counterparts to be acknowledged in the sport. He told women to thank the men for giving them the opportunity. Serena Williams responded with disappointment.
“I don’t think anyone should be on their knees thanking anyone like that,” Williams said.
Even on the internet, women are disregarded. When searching for the athlete with the most Grand Slams, Google, the search engine, will feature the snippet of Roger Federer and his statistics. You have to go looking for the correct answer, which is actually Serena Williams. Williams has, in fact, three more grand slams than Federer’s twenty.
Featured snippets are “Google providing a quick answer or summary with a content snippet from a relevant website. These featured snippets are most likely to show up when your search is in the form of a question”, however in this case Google is letting Serena Williams, female tennis players and other female athletes down.
It is hard for women in tennis to be appreciated when there are people trying to tear them down. Regardless, it continues to be a sport for women to excel and flourish as it boasts more opportunity than many other sports.
Female tennis players earn more endorsements and TV screen time than any other female athlete. In 2007, the Wimbledon and the French Open were the last two tournaments to join the other two Grand Slams in offering equal prize money for men and women.
Even prominent male athletes acknowledge the talent women have in the sport, and continue to support the movement for equality. British tennis player, Andy Murray, has been consistent in his support in the women’s rights movement and continues to use his platform to fight for equality in Tennis. In an interview after Murray’s gold medal win in the 2016 Olympic Games, a BBC reporter seemed to forget that all female tennis players existed and stated that Murray was the first Tennis player to receive two Olympic gold medals. Murray was quick to correct the misstatement and noted that both Serena Williams and her sister, Venus Williams, had won four Olympic gold medals each, well before any other man
Recently, Novak Djokovic announced the launch of a union to represent men’s tennis players. This union does not include the WTA. Rafael Nadal and Federer have objected to Djokovic’s breakaway plan and will not show support if the women are not included.
“It is a time for even greater collaboration, not division,” Federer and Nadal said in a joint statement.
Tennis continues to be a sport that allows female athletes to showcase their talent to the world. Although the women frequently outshine the men, they still face a battle for recognition. The Battle of the Sexes may have turned us in the right direction towards equality, but we are still paving the path 47 years later.