Tennis is a highly popular sport around the world, and surprisingly the gender of the players isn’t really a deal-breaker when it comes to the watchability of the sport. Both men and women enjoy levels of fame and financial success in the sport, and history has shown that through the years both men and women have equal chances of winning against each other, making for a fairly level playing field when it comes to a mixed-gender match.
Take, for example, one of the biggest battles of the sexes in recent history: Billie Jean King versus Bobby Riggs. This 1973 match was the second in a series of three matches featuring professional tennis’s best female and male players of the time. This particular match saw the female beat the male competitor in a best-of-five match format. The debate over how and why King beat Riggs raged on after the match, yet no one can deny that the victory was King’s.
However, tennis may be the last remaining high-profile sport that has different rules for men than women. The most prestigious of tennis tournaments including the top four majors, or grand slam tournaments, have women playing for the win in a best-of-three match scenario whereas the men play for their win in a best-of-five match scenario.
This difference in the number of matches a person must play in order to win not only results in a longer playing time for men therefore seeming like they are working harder for their win, but also requires the male counterparts to have more stamina and endurance in order to thrive in a longer athletic timespan.
It is also arguable that this discrepancy gives the advantage to weaker female players who have more of an opportunity to cause an upset over a higher-ranked rival due to the fact there is not as much time to correct a mistake or lapse in judgment when you only have three matches to earn the title. A best-of-five match rewards consistency in game play, as well as in adaptability in game play for those who can identify their opponents’ “tells” and habits.
Historically, these tournaments paid the men’s champion prize money at a higher rate than the women’s champion as well, but this issue has been remedied recently.
Another difference between men’s and women’s tennis is in the game play. The fact that men are physically stronger means they can hit the ball harder, creating a faster speed, making it more difficult for their opponents to return the ball and creating a faster-paced game. Men also achieve more aces when serving than women, so women have more of a return, back and forth volleying game than men do.
One thing people may find surprising is that there is no gender difference in tennis racket options. Although rackets themselves have a variety of options, as a product they are gender-neutral. The options that are offered when choosing a racket include various weights, varying head sizes, grip size options and racket flexibility. None of these options would necessarily exclude a male or a female from successfully using a particular racket.
Although most of the rules remain the same between men’s and women’s tennis, the greatest differences is the way in which each gender plays the game. Due to the increase strength, some say watching a men’s game is more exciting and fast-paced than a women’s. However, there are dynamic players of each gender that make following the sport exciting and fun.