Kim Clijsters & Novak Djokovic. Photo from the Bleacher Report.
Women’s tennis is supposedly the world’s premier professional sport for women, and in a lot of ways it is. The women get to play on the same courts, in the same stadiums, with the same equipment, in the same tournaments, with a lot of the same fans. Not a lot of women’s sports can say even two of those things and on top of it all, women’s tennis and men’s tennis actually competes against each other in mixed doubles. It is an admirable model in many respects; but do not be fooled, women’s tennis is absolutely in the equal but separate category.
Women still play shorter matches, are allowed coaching in between sets, and are still considered the opening act to the main event. Case in point: the men’s final is ALWAYS the last match on the schedule. It represents the “big finish”. Regardless of a whether it is a Grand Slam or a smaller tournament, if men and women compete at the same tournament you will always have Federer/Nadal/Djokovic closing down the show on Sunday and Sharapova/Williams/Azarenka will still play second fiddle on the Saturday. It represents a very real manifestation of the saying “save the best for last.”
So I say, alternate men’s and women’s finals on the last day of Grand Slams! Is it really that big of a deal? From a scheduling perspective it truly cannot be that hard, but from a perspective of equality/equity it is very significant. Alternating finals is a simple change on the behalf of women’s sports that re-directs some of the respect that is so naturally afforded to male athletes. No longer would men represent the epitome of sports.
Understandably, there might be some resistance from the men and I’m sure there will be an argument in there somewhere about sponsorship dollars. Personally, I would argue that men’s tennis generally provides better final tennis as it has become common place for less than competitive women’s finals. But that is not indicative of skill but rather of the depth of the field at any given time and women’s tennis is currently struggling to find a rivalry to get behind. It’s not like the men don’t have lopsided finals either. To say that Seles/Graf, Hingis/Davenport, Williams/Williams, Williams/Clijsters are not deserving of closing the tournament is disrespectful and extremely symbolic of something that seems natural and never goes questioned. So get on it Billie Jean King, let’s see the women on the final Sunday of Wimbledon. It will give little girls something to aspire towards and little boys will grow up thinking that men and women have always shared the spotlight.