By Ashley Babich
Well, someone was drinking his daily dose of haterade!
The usually-admired French ATP player Gilles Simon (ranked #13) enflamed some in the tennis community this week when he expressed his opinion about equal prize money between men and women at Grand Slam tournaments.
Simon is a newly elected member of the ATP Player’s Council, and he will serve a two-year term which ends in June 2014. He used this new role as an avenue to discuss his thoughts about gender and money. (Really, he might as well open the can of worms the rest of the way and bring up politics and religion, too, right?)
In the words of Simon:
“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.”
Apparently, when Simon says, “some ideas,” what he really means is ‘erasing tennis history and angering all female tennis players and scores of tennis fans.’
Simon went on to say that “equal prize money has no place in tennis” and that the men “provide a more attractive spectacle.” (Goodness. Someone sure is bursting at the seams of his adidas-sponsored clothes with confidence.)
“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.”
After his comments went public, Twitter was abuzz with Simon-bashing, and many users were quick to point out that the four Grand Slams are the only tournaments where there is a set difference; at all other tournaments throughout the year, both men and women play to best of three sets.
This is obviously a polarizing topic, and not many other players will touch it with a ten-foot tennis racquet.
When asked about Simon’s comments after his 2nd-round win at Wimbledon, Roger Federer minimized the need for debate:
“I hope it doesn’t become a big issue during Wimbledon. It’s obviously a debate that’s out there ever since, I guess, the Slams have made equal prize money. There’s nothing you can do, anyway, about it. It’s just a matter of who believes what, and then that is an endless debate. So whatever you believe.”
But one tennis player who would take a decisive stand and offer a true opinion on Gilles Simon?
WTA American player Sloane Stephens:
“I don’t care what he says about anything. He hit me with a ball the first time I was a ball kid. He hit me in the chest, because he lost a point and lost the set. He turned around and slammed the ball with his racket and hit me … and I’ve never spoken to him since then.”
So, David Nalbandian, looks like you’re off the hook for a while. There’s a new tennis tough guy in town.
Ashley Babich is a writer for Tennis Grandstand and has co-authored for the tennis blog Four Hands on Court. Follow her on twitter for more humorous updates at @tennissmash.