As a lifetime champion of political correctness, I’m deeply offended by the flagrant sexism of Wimbledon officials.
We all know that treating the sexes equally is the cornerstone of modern morality. What other cornerstone can there be anyway? The Decalogue? The Sermon on the Mount? If you think that, wake up and smell modernity.
In that – unassailable! – spirit, men and women get equal prize money at Wimbledon and other majors, even though this clashes with many time-honoured practices.
Such as equal pay for equal work: men with their five-set matches spend almost twice as long on court. Also, at the risk of sounding unchivalrous, some women players look a bit… well, what’s the kind word… Rubenesque.
Thus they clearly don’t spend as much time not only playing but also training, which is additionally proved by the technical problems most of them have. There’s no physiological reason why women can’t, say, kick their second serves the way men do, yet very few are capable of it. And don’t get me started on women’s volleying.
All things considered, the women get paid more than twice as much per hour, without being as good, which offends the champion of equality in me.
But I’m willing to dismiss such crass arguments as irrelevant. As a religious man, I believe that equal pay has nothing to do with equal work. Women players are entitled to equal pay because their activists say so, and it was the Word that was in the beginning.
What does strike me as odd is that Wimbledon officials have introduced clearly discriminatory – sexist! – measures. Because this week is rather hot, they’ve decreed that a cooling-off period of 10 minutes should take place between the second and third sets whenever the heat-stress index (combination of air temperature, surface temperature and humidity) exceeds 30.1C.
Now yesterday, over my wife’s objections, I played for a couple of hours when air temperature alone was over that cut-off point, and I can testify that it wasn’t easy. My partner and I split the first two sets and agreed not to play a third, a luxury that professionals can’t afford.
Yet I’m old, overweight and dipsomaniac, which presumably none of the Wimbledon competitors are. One would think that trained athletes can endure a bit of hot weather, but I’m willing to allow that they put more effort behind their tennis than I do.
Fair enough, we don’t want players to keel over and die of heat stroke or cardiac arrest. So by all means, do let’s have a cooling-off period, the same one for all the players.
However, and this is where I get confused, the Wimbledon officials have decided that only the women need to cool off before playing the third, and for them last, set. The men can play five straight sets, sometimes lasting over six hours or even longer, without such annoying interruptions.
Yet men are statistically more prone to cardiac problems, and every once in a while male footballers, to name a different sport, collapse and die while playing, something women don’t do.
So are the men at Wimbledon so much fitter than the women that they don’t need a break to play twice as long in deadly heat? And if so, isn’t that a tacit admission that the men train harder, which brings us back to the issue of equal pay?
Let me tell you, tennis madness isn’t just about loving the game. It’s also a medical condition afflicting those who run the game or write about it.
The other day, for example, a tennis correspondent for one of our broadsheets opined that “Serena Williams is the best player, male or female, in the tournament.”
This isn’t just stupidity and ignorance – no one who has ever watched, never mind played, a tennis match can be that stupid and ignorant. It’s a psychiatric disorder.
A sane observer would know that any decent male county player in Britain (or an American college player) – never mind professionals playing at Wimbledon – could wipe the court with Serena without breaking a sweat.
And even those who know nothing about tennis can’t fail to see that all four of Serena’s limbs each go their own way at the completion of her strokes, while the men’s limbs all move in compact synch. This means she has technical problems, which she overcomes only by sheer muscular strength.
That’s why she’s perhaps more favoured to win the tournament than any other male or female player, which is probably what the hapless hack wanted to say. But what he actually did say proves that tennis madness is a real disease reaching pandemic proportions.
On a personal note, I’m supposed to play a tournament match tomorrow, when the temperature where I am will hit 41C. My wife told me I could only do so over her dead body, and I’m still weighing my options.