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Venus Williams of the US returns a shot against Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic during their semifinal match of the Toray Pan Pacific Open tennis tournament in Tokyo last week. Williams said she is open to playing five-set matches just like the men. Kiyoshi Ota / EPA
Venus Williams of the US returns a shot against Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic during their semifinal match of the Toray Pan Pacific Open tennis tournament in Tokyo last week. Williams said she is open to playing five-set matches just like the men. Kiyoshi Ota / EPA

Quality matters much more than quantity in women’s tennis

It is the content that matters and that is the only reason women should be playing best-of-five sets, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

At the US Open last month, Andy Murray waded into the equal prize money debate, saying women “should play best-of-five sets” in an interview with the New York Times.

Last week, Stacey Allaster, the WTA chief, said her players were “ready, willing and able” to play best-of-five set matches at majors to justify equal prize money.

Stars of the women’s tour such as Venus Williams and Angelique Kerber have said they are ready to accept that challenge.

But seriously, this debate seems a bit skewed. Tennis is not a 9-to-5 job and the players are not pay-by-the hour like the Walmart staff. So calls for women to work the same hours, or sets, as the men to justify their equal pay, or prize money, seems a bit pitiful.

It is as absurd as women turning around and saying, “OK, we will play five sets, but men should play in skirts for the sake of equality”.

The price of a book is not decided by the number of pages, nor do the fattest books automatically get nominated for the Booker, Pulitzer, Kafka or Nobel. And the Oscars are not given to the longest movies.

It is the content that matters and that is the only reason women should be playing best-of-five sets. The greatest matches in men’s tennis – the epics and the classics – have all been played over five sets.

If moving to best-of-five sets would lead to similar matches on the women’s tour, and it might, then they should embrace it. The need to justify their equal prize money should not be the criteria.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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