Williams wins despite not playing in her nightie

So the female athlete of the year wins the 2010 Australian Open – congrats are due to Serena Williams for beating Justine Henin in three sets.

Especially since the history between the two players is so ugly, with Henin the beneficiary of racist crowd support on at least one memorable occasion between the two tennis superstars.

When Serena Williams was beaten by Justine Henin-Hardenne in the French Open semi-final, she was booed every time she questioned a decision – even when she was clearly in the right. And, towards the end of the match, every first serve she missed was greeted with loud cheers.

The return of Henin provides even more depth to women’s tennis, one of the very few sports with anything like pay equity between women and men.  Not that we should take that for granted, with many now calling for women to be paid less at Grand Slams because they play fewer games.

Leaving aside Billy Harris’s delightful observation, which tells athletic female tennis players where he’s at:

It’s about what the people want to see, how many people want to see it, and what they’ll pay to see it.

If Penelope Cruz played Scarlett Johansson in their nighties for 20 minutes, and the whole world tuned in to watch, then they would deserve to be well paid. Economics.

Women have been asking for decades to play the same number of sets as male tennis players.  The reasons they haven’t been allowed – because women are too fragile apparently – are the same reasons women used to be told some kinds of paid work were inappropriate.  Absolute nonsense in other words, and designed to shore up inequality.

Let’s leave it to Martina, she might know a thing or two about this after all:

Women’s tennis always was as entertaining as men’s, it’s just taken time for people to catch up. We were always happy to play five sets but we weren’t allowed.

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