Bayview Village Tennis Camp (www.BayviewVillageTennisCamp.ca), the Greater Toronto Area’s leading provider of first-class tennis camps and clinics for players of all ages and skill levels, is commenting on the need for gender equality in the sport of tennis following several controversial events.
Two major controversies shook up the sport of tennis in March. First, tennis superstar Novak Djokovic made disparaging comments about female tennis players, saying they should be paid less than their male counterparts. His comments were followed by those of Indian Wells tournament director Raymond Moore, who said women should be on their knees thanking male tennis players for carrying the sport.
“These comments show we really have a long way to go in achieving gender equality in tennis,” says Peter Nielson, director of Bayview Village Tennis Camp. “I know from teaching lessons for several years that many young girls are very interested in the sport, but its comments like these that can really discourage girls at a young age of getting involved.”
Following public outcry, Djokovic issued an apology and Moore resigned from his position. However, critics say that the comments are indicative of wider gender inequality issues that are present in the sport.
“It’s not the sport itself that has a problem,” says Nielson. “Both boys and girls really enjoy tennis, and you see a lot of female involvement at the junior level. However, this is certainly a case where there’s some troubling beliefs still present at the professional level, and that can filter down to younger players.”
At major tournaments, only men play best-of-five-set matches, while female players have shorter sets. Not only do these rules send the message that women cannot play at the same level as male players, it is also believed to be part of the reason why female matches are less popular. Best-of-five matches are considered more exciting.
“You see this with every sport,” notes Nielson. “There’s a lot of attention and money placed on the male players, while the female players just don’t get the same focus. It’s no wonder people don’t turn out for these games. At our camp, we have boys and girls playing by the same rules and standards, but changes really need to happen at the professional level.”
The outcry over these recent controversial comments is seen by many as a positive development for the sport of tennis. Hopes are that it will spur change in the game itself, making the matches more equal.
“It’s a shame, because tennis is one of the sports that is really well-suited to young girls,” says Nielson. “Size doesn’t matter so much in tennis. Instead, you need agility, speed, and precision, which both girls and boys can have in equal measure. It would be sad to see girls get turned off a game they would enjoy due to sexist comments from a public figure.”
Nielson says that while these issues are still prevalent in professional leagues, they’ve been long left behind in most junior sports leagues, camps, and lessons. He says that its important young children aren’t deterred by attitudes that are expressed at the professional level.
“The best way to fight against these views is to have girls get involved in the game,” says Nielson. “When a girl wins a tennis match or can beat a boy at the game, then she’s not going to care as much about what Djokovic says. The great thing about sports is that they teach children self-confidence.”
Bayview Village Tennis Camp is the top tennis camp in the GTA. Its Tennis Canada-certified instructors work to teach kids not only how to have fun with tennis, but also how to play smart and safe. More information about the junior and advanced summer tennis programs can be found at www.BayviewVillageTennisCamp.ca.
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