Women and Tennis

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Throughout history, tennis has been considered both a man's and woman's game. It was a woman, Mary Ewing
Outerbridge, who brought the game of lawn tennis to the US in 1874. Outerbridge learned the game while on vacation in Bermuda and shared the concept with her friends and family. Her brother, director of the Staten Island Cricket and Baseball Club, soon added a lawn tennis court to the club's lineup. By 1884, women were competing alongside men at Wimbledon. Maud Watson won the first women's singles tennis title in 1884 and again in 1885.

Since the 1970s, tennis has become one of the most popular sport amongst girls and women.

Equal pay and gender equality issues

There remains ongoing debates on whether female tennis champions should receive the same amount of money as their male counterparts. The debate centres on two issues: 1. women's finals are shorter, with a maximum of 3 sets, as opposed to men's finals which can go up to 5 sets; and 2. entertainment value. In 2007, Wimbledon offered Equal pay to male and female champions, and this has been followed in 2009 at the Australian Open. The campaign for equal pay, spearheaded by female players such as the 2007 Wimbledon champion Venus Williams, argued that: "For us, it was about gender equality, not about how much we can get paid, but it was about being on equal terms as human beings."

Billy Jean King and women's tennis

Billy Jean King (b. 1943), who won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, 16 Grand Slam women's doubles titles, and 11 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles, is also one of the pioneers of women's tennis, a prominent advocate against Sexism in sports and society. She is known for the "Battle of the Sexes" in 1973, in which she defeated Bobby Riggs, a former Wimbledon men's champion. King is the founder of the Women's Tennis Association, the Women's Sports Foundation, and World Team Tennis. When the open era began, King campaigned for equal prize money in the men's and women's games. As the financial backing of the women's game improved, King became the first woman athlete to earn over US$100,000 in prize money in 1971; however, inequalities continued. King won the US Open in 1972 but received US$15,000 less than the men's champion Ilie Năstase. She stated that she would not play the next year if the prize money were not equal. In 1973, the US Open became the first major tournament to offer equal prize money for men and women.

Women's Tennis Association

The Women's Tennis Association, formed in 1973, is the principal organizing body of women's professional tennis.

Tennis and gender equality projects

In 2006, UNESCO announced a partnership with the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour will seek to raise both funds and awareness through a “Promoter of Gender Equality” player programme at both global and national levels as well as mentoring, scholarship and fellowship projects designed create opportunities and the environment for women and girls to succeed in all walks of life. Grand Slam Champion Venus Williams volunteered to serve as the first global “Promoter of gender equality”.

“Through this partnership with UNESCO, our goal is to let women and girls throughout the world know that there are no glass ceilings, and to do our part to support programmes that provide real opportunities for women to succeed in whatever they set their minds to,” said Williams.

UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said the partnership is aimed at “strengthening national commitment to women’s empowerment and enhancing women’s capacity to fully partake in all forms of societal development.”


See also


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