Friday, January 18, 2008

I thought Casey's Nan was going to have a heart attack

The Australian Open has already been worth its weight in "Garny-air" * and we're not even finished with the first week yet. As if the wonderfully gladiatorial match between Marat Safin and the beleaguered Marcos Baghdatis last night were not enough (and won't Our Lleyton be licking his chops trying to work out how he can best use the distractions of the Baghdatis kerfuffle to his advantage, and rightly so; take it home to Turkey, Greece and Cyprus, boys), we now have the magnificently gutsy and skilful defeat by Casey Dellacqua of a surprised and increasingly aback-taken and rattled Amelie Mauresmo, whose demeanour immediately post-match I thought uncharacteristically churlish.

Go Casey. Even if she loses in the next round to the scary Jelena Jankovic (and let's face it, the odds are against her), she will still now be able to afford her own room and decent transport and some serious athletes' food. And if the plug that Todd Woodbridge so cleverly set up for her in the on-court interview after the match has the effect it deserved, she'll be getting all her PlayStation stuff for free for the foreseeable.

Does anyone know the real/official reason why the women don't play five sets? Surely it's time? After three sets the shortest of which was 28 minutes and the other two of which went over 40, both Dellacqua and Mauresmo looked to me to be good to go for at least one more set, and I would question the notion that women don't have the stamina for five sets in any case. From what I've seen of women's stamina over the last 50 years it wouldn't be any kind of problem, and it would shut up a lot of the blokes who complain about women expecting equality when they only play three sets -- where, frankly, I think they have a point.

I'm more than wiling to be corrected on this one, but isn't the persistence of the three-sets-for-women rule a bit of a hangover from the days when Ladies were thought to be Delicate? Or is it just that certain sorts of blokes don't want to have to watch the horrid spectacle of women sweating and straining, or maybe just don't want to know how tough women can be?

Askin'. As I say, happy to be informed and if necessary corrected, as long as it's by someone who actually knows the answer and isn't just doing the autopilot antifeminist thing, of which I am getting very, very tired.

* How one gets the pronunciation 'Garny-air' from the spelling 'Garnier' continues to bemuse. Dudes, if it were a French word spelled like that, it would be pronounced Garny-ay. If it were a French word pronounced like that, it would be spelled Garnière. And if it were an English word spelled like that, it would be pronounced Garny-uh -- as the very smart Alicia Molik, I notice, somewhat emphatically does whenever she's doing promos for them.


genevieve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tony said...

Before Billy Jean went from a Moffitt to a King. Earlier than Gertrude "Gorgeous Gussy" Moran flashed a pair of Teddy Tingling knickers. Back even before Suzanne Lenglen flopped in the USA. Way back, Sherman. Women played best-of-five sets in the US (Not) Open.

But that changed to best-of-three before WWI and stayed that way until the 1990s when it was used (I think) at the Players' Championships, but it was again abandoned. Mainly because of scheduling problems for the TV people.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Ah good, I was hoping you might turn up and know the answer -- t'anks. TV scheduling problems, eh? Why are we not surprised?

Anonymous said...

TV scheduling is obviously a major consideration, but there could be more to it. Having women play prior to the men serves to highlight the physical speed and power of the men, in order to enhance that 'spectator' experience. You can see something like this in many sporting events; for instance, lighter weight boxers can fight prior to the heavyweights, or schoolboy even kiddy footy can happen prior to a major football game (in the latter examples it's not a gender thing).

A question might arise about the disparity of women's tennis players arising over the length of extended five set matches, where physical speed and strength might prove a negative spectacle through this aspect proving dominant over art, style and gamespersonship.

But tho anon I'd tend to think nowadays the women would go the distance brilliantly. It might, in fact, prove to be a far greater spectacle, as art, style and gamespersonship can outplay speed and strength!

Five set matches would be a shock to the system, which would take quite some reorganising. Sponsors get altered coverage, tournaments as established would be upset, perhaps moving women to the head of the day's play, throwing up the obvious question of whether women's tennis could carry those changes from the critical demands of viewer-spectators and the corporate machine feeding voraciously off it.

Risk of failure rears its head here. The costs to the game could be too scary should it fail for some reason. Being a physical sport, there could be a functioning limit on account of sheer physicality, as demanded by that viewer-spectator commercial marriage.

But, again, I like the idea of it.

While the commercial machination might not get around to it, or may take too long, perhaps the best way forward for the implementation of modern five set women's tennis would be to, simply, ask the players themselves. If they feel they can enhance the game as it's known, that's a force to be reckoned with.

Perhaps they have? Are?

A further thought might be to consider how women's cricket might hold up if brought to prominence. I dunno, just a thought. Physicality in a physical sport might prove forever the major factor (when presented commercially). Yet surely this also highlights the money that goes into development of same.

Or, women's surfing..

feral sparrowhawk said...

I think its mainly adjustment costs. Scheduling is one of these, but another is that the women players have never trained for it. There's no question women are capable of it (my recollection is that women get closer to men's times in long distance races than sprints), but for the most experienced players (who presumably have the most clout) it would be a shock to the system. Younger women would adapt better, but have less influence to bring about a change.

Also, it would be pretty hideous to play only one best of 5 tournament a year, so it is hard for any of the Grand Slams to lead the way.

kate said...

I have no doubt that women could play for five sets - and it doesn't matter that they haven't trained for it, because they'd all be making an adjustment at the same time. All fair.

My question is "why make women's tennis more like men's?" Men's tennis is boring. So why not make men's tennis more like the women's game?

Mindy said...

My question is why can't women comment on men's matches, but there must always be a man commenting on the women's matches.

Pavlov's Cat said...

And what an excellent question it is.

Kerryn Pratt, Nicole Bradtke and in particular Tracy Austin run rings around all of the blokes except for the non-sneerers and non-snickerers (also, strangely, the most intelligent): Courier, Mark Woodforde (always an excellent commentator on women's tennis, and where the hell has he got to this year?), the sophisticated Darren Cahill, and the ever-lovely John Fitzgerald.

The last three of whom are all South Australians, it occurs to me as I read that sentence. We grow 'em pre-trained over here.