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June 29, 2001

by Bill Hogan



I try not to be sexist, but, as a rule, I don't watch women's basketball (or hockey, boxing, softball or golf, etc…). I love football, but if there were a women's football league, I wouldn't watch that either.

As with all rules, there are exceptions. My exception is women's tennis. I enjoy watching women's tennis.


Correction, in keeping with the long-standing tradition of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, I enjoy watching Ladies' tennis.

And I don't mean ogling Anna Kournikova while she sweats and grunts her way around the court in spandex. (Although I must confess to an occasional leer, I will never admit to ogling).

Besides, as a rule, Anna isn't usually around in the latter stages of a Grand Slam event. In fact, you won't see Anna at all during these fourteen days at Wimbledon (unless, of course, you count the endless stream of commercials featuring her off-court "talents").

There is some controversy over the fact that the men's (excuse me, gentlemen's) champion will earn more than the ladies' champion. Hasn't that been the norm in all walks of professional life for centuries? In this case, however, it seems even more unjust. The fact is, the women…er, ladies… deserve a bigger slice of the pie. They are the real draw at a tennis tournament.

Talent, personality, rivalry, the ladies have it head and shoulders over the men. As a rule, I don't watch much tennis (The Championship at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open satisfiy my yearly net interest), but I can name more women players than men.

Pete Sampras has no personality and Andre Agassi is annoying. That's the extent of my knowledge of men's tennis.

The men have been suffering from a lack of identity and interest since John McEnroe hung up his racquet. Where are the bitter Connors-McEnroe rivalries? Where's the personality?

On the other hand, with the Williams sister's strength and style, the remarkable "comeback" of Jennifer Capriati and the success of Lindsay Davenport, American women are really something to watch.

Martina Hingis is a great source of controversy. The over-opinionated Swiss star is never at a loss for words - or excuses. She keeps things lively.

And these ladies can flat out play. I saw Capriati hit a 109 mile-per-hour service ace in her second round match. Bobby Riggs would pull his own groin in order to avoid challenging one of these ladies to a winner-take-all match.

Then there is Anna. Throw in a little spandex, sweat and grunting we've got ourselves a match. (When the men grunt, they sound like sissies).

* * * * *

Is it me, or is there something unnatural about playing tennis on grass. I know it's been done for over a hundred years, but it still seems awkward.

When I think of "lawn sports", I think of bocce ball and croquette, and I think of lawn darts (when I think of lawn darts, I remember the modified "rules" we used as kids and how easy it would have been for somebody to lose an eye).

I mowed my lawn yesterday and could have easily turned an ankle maneuvering around the plants and trees in my yard. And I wasn't trying to chase down a well placed drop shot.

I've had a hard-hit softball take a bad hop off the turf and smack me in the mouth. Let me tell you, the name SOFTball is definately a misnomer!

I guess when the grass is manicured in the manner of a putting green, it's possible to keep the bad hops to a minimum, but it's only the first week and center court already looks like my back yard after a fifth grade birthday celebration.

And how come the players don't wear spikes? They run, cut, pivot, zig and zag on grass - in sneakers!

Golfers wear spikes and they don't have to run, cut or pivot (it's occasionally necessary to zig or zag in order to avoid a errant tee shot, but does that really constitute the need for spiked shoes?).

I wonder, this being the twenty-first century, if anyone at the All England Lawn Tennis Club ever entertained the idea of using astro-turf. That would eliminate any hazardous divots and make the use of sneakers a little more sensible.

Does anyone else use the word sneakers anymore? I went in to a Footlocker looking for sneakers. I didn't realize I had to be so specific. I found tennis shoes, basketball shoes, running shoes, cross-trainers and walking shoes. I don't play tennis. I rarely play basketball any more and I gave up jogging (rather, my knees gave up jogging). My idea of cross-training is playing a round of golf, then watching a baseball game on television. I walk, but the "walking shoes" looked like something a nurse would wear. Ultimately, I settled on the pair my eleven-year-old thought were the coolest.

* * * * *

When the powers that be realize there are more sportsfans like me out there, maybe we'll see more ladies' matches in prime time on center court. And maybe the ladies will collect a check at least equal to that of the men.

In a country where the Queen rules, for a fortnight each summer, so too, do the ladies of Wimbledon.


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