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Tennis star causes Wimbledon racket with equal pay outburst

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Deborah Cowan
WVoN co-editor

The Wimbledon no 13 seed, French player Gilles Simon,  took the tournament by surprise this week.

Not with an outstanding display of tennis wizardry, alas, but with his outburst over women players receiving the same prize money as men.

In something of a hissy fit, the Frenchman declared that men’s competitive tennis is currently way ahead of women’s and that the women’s game does not attract as much support or attention.

He also recycled the old argument that men spend twice as much time on court in competition than women, and that, ipso facto, women do not deserve the same money as their (obviously superior) male counterparts.

He griped about sport in general, saying: ‘We often talk about salary equality.  I don’t think it’s something that works in sport.’

Mon dieu!

However, his French compatriot Marion Bartoli has returned the volley, insisting that women are still lagging behind men when it comes to overall pay.

She said: ‘Over the year, we are a long way from earning as much as the men. It (pay equality) is unique to the grand slams and certain tournaments.  We put in as much as they do. The physical demands, the training and the investment in ourselves are the same as theirs.’

You could try putting Simon’s outburst down to the infantile rumblings of a cantankerous Gallic temper, but this fiery Frenchman was recently elected to the council of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP).

Is this really the image the Association wants to portray to the tennis world (and a very lucrative global tennis market to boot?)

It’s more than five years since Wimbledon started to pay their male and female tennis stars equally.

They were the last grand slam tournament to do so – the US Open starting paying equal prize money as far back as 1973, and the Australian Open followed suit in 1984.  Wimbledon and the French Open didn’t relent until 2007.

At the time, John McEnroe said:

“I think when you’ve got men and women playing at the same tournament, it is ludicrous to have a difference in pay. It would be setting an example to the rest of society in general to have equal prize money.

“There’s probably no other sport, and very few professions in this world, where a woman can earn as much as a man.”

I’m serious, John McEnroe actually said that.

So why is Monsieur Simon getting all hot and bothered again?   Well, it seems that prize parity in Grand Slam tournaments is not all that’s got on his wick.

Grand Slam tournaments aside, the rest of the men’s and women’s tennis tours operate independently of each other.  This means that sometimes the top tier of prize money for them is still different.

But this too may be on the cusp of change.  The Rome Masters tournament recently joined up with the women’s event.  This was bad enough for M. Simon, but, as he quite correctly pointed out, it was all done without consulting him or other men’s players directly!

He said of the tournament: “The year before, the women, for their final, they had 20 spectators.  And so, in that case, you save them, but when you want a practice court, there aren’t any left.

Oh, boo hoo.

Obviously his comments have created waves in the tennis world, and invited the wrath of women, both players and spectators.

To this M. Simon thumbs his nose and says….  “Am I going to incur the wrath of feminist organizations?……. I don’t care.”

Oh, by the way.  In M. Simon’s opening match on Monday, he beat fellow Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu……when Mathieu retired after just two sets.

What’s the prize money for that, Gilles?

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