Can you imagine Marion Bartoli or Sabine Lisicki playing against Petra Kvitova in the Wimbledon finals?
I can. Bartoli and Lisicki both had a chance to make the finals this year—not by chance, but by quality of play.
Maria Sharapova made the finals, which NBC was happy about.
In women’s tennis these days, networks care about one thing only: sex appeal.
When I read the headlines before the finals, all I saw were pictures and headlines of Sharapova: Is she the best grass court player today, is she the best women’s tennis player today, why Sharapova will win.
If someone read those articles, they would have no idea who the other finalist at Wimbledon was.
It was Petra Kvitova. A young, up-and-coming tennis player who is only 21 years old and is semi-attractive. ESPN or other sites could have done so many stories on her, but chose to go with Sharapova.
Kvitova is young, left-handed, could have won Wimbledon last year if Serena Williams didn’t get in her way in the semifinals and she is good for women’s tennis.
Over the past few years, women’s tennis hasn’t seen too many new faces arrive on the scene. There has been a lot of parity, which is good, in a way, but old faces are still winning the Grand Slams.
For example, since 2000, the Williams sisters have dominated Wimbledon. Only three times in the last 11 years has a non-Williams sister won Wimbledon: Amelie Mauresmo in 2006, Maria Sharapova in 2004 and Petra Kvitova in 2011.
Since 2007, the Australian Open has been won by three players: Sharapova, Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters. Since 2006, Clijsters, Serena, Justine Henin and Sharapova have won the US Open—no new names.
The only real tournament with a lot of surprises has been the French, but Li Na and Francesca Schiavone were both pretty old when they became champions and future wins look unlikely for Schiavone, and maybe even for Li.
It would have been perfect to discuss the rising stars of women’s tennis in an article about Wimbledon this year. Sabine Lisicki is only 21 years old, Victoria Azarenka is also 21, and of course, Kvitova is only 21 as well.
Tennis fans follow and cheer on the attractive players. This may be human nature, but the media deserves some blame.
I’ll never forget the US Open fourth-round matchup between Caroline Wozniacki and Maria Sharapova last year. It was more hyped then the finals. The commentators weren’t really doing their jobs. Instead of discussing the tennis match, listeners would hear, "These women are beautiful,” or, “That’s why they call her Ms. Sunshine."
Why does it matter how "beautiful" the women are? How well they are playing is more important. Well, Wozniacki has very little talent, and we are seeing that as of late.
Now, after Kvitova won the finals, I thought maybe people would give her some credit.
No. I saw headlines like, “Why Sharapova Collapsed,” or, “Sharapova loses Wimbledon.”
Sharapova didn’t collapse; she was completely outplayed. Kvitova had stronger ground strokes and Sharapova doesn’t have a consistent serve. With a complete dominance the whole tournament, Kvitova deserves all the credit for winning Wimbledon.
It’s not just the major stations promoting attractiveness. It’s also the tournament directors.
“It’s not a coincidence that those [on Wimbledon’s Centre Court] are attractive,” said Johnny Perkins, a spokesman from the all England Club.
This is a sad statement.
Only the Williams sisters have managed to eliminate the “attractiveness” discussion from tennis commentary. Instead, the media has focused on topics that could undermine their reputation such as their lax training and practice schedule, their failure to play in loads of tournaments, their injuries, etc.
The bottom line is: Serena and Venus are the two most athletic, talented women tennis players in history.
Serena was right to question a decision by Wimbledon officials not to place her match on Centre Court. She deserves to be on Centre Court more than any other player.
I don’t see the preoccupations with women's tennis changing too much. The topics will always be, “How far will Wozniacki go?” or, “Is this Sharapova’s tournament to win?”
But I can still hope that fans and writers will start to appreciate the new talent emerging.