Serena on the Men’s Tour?

John McEnroe created controversy (what else is new?) when he said that Serena Williams would be no more than #700, if she competed on the men’s tour.  Is he right?

In his interview with NPR, promoting his new book, he said, “But Seriously,” McEnroe qualified her greatness that if Serena played on the men’s circuit she’d be “like No. 700 in the world.”

“That doesn’t mean I don’t think Serena is an incredible player. I do, but the reality of what would happen on a given day is Serena could beat some players, I believe, because she is so incredibly strong mentally,” McEnroe said.

“But if she had to just play the circuit — the men’s circuit — that would be an entirely different story.”

1998: Karsten Braasch vs. the Williams sisters

Winder Bill provided this anecdote: “Another event dubbed a “Battle of the Sexes” took place during the 1998 Australian Open between Karsten Braasch and the Williams sisters. Venus and Serena Williams had claimed that they could beat any male player ranked outside the world’s top 200, so Braasch, then ranked 203rd, challenged them both.

“Braasch was described by one journalist as “a man whose training regime centered around a pack of cigarettes and more than a couple bottles of ice cold lager”. The matches took place on court number 12 in Melbourne Park, after Braasch had finished a round of golf and two beers. He first took on Serena and after leading 5–0, beat her 6–1. Venus then walked on court and again Braasch was victorious, this time winning 6–2.

“Braasch said afterwards, “500 and above, no chance”. He added that he had played like someone ranked 600th in order to keep the game “fun”. Braasch said the big difference was that men can chase down shots much easier, and that men put spin on the ball that the women can’t handle. The Williams sisters adjusted their claim to beating men outside the top 350.”

My Opinion

I think that – even though I do not like how she acts on the court – Serena may be the best female tennis player ever; but if she were on the Men’s Tour, she would not be in the top 150.

And, if they aren’t as strong players as men… and they play only best of three at majors… and their TV ratings are lower … why DO women get equal tennis pay?

What do you think?

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22 thoughts on “Serena on the Men’s Tour?

  1. Regardless of how well they play, it has always galled me that the women, who play best of three sets get equal pay as do the men, who play best of five sets. In fairness the women should receive 60% of the men’s pay, unless they are willing to play best of five sets for equal pay.

  2. Yes why do women get equal pay in the majors? The Wimbledon seat prices for Ladies final day are also cheaper than for the Men’s final day. It seems barmy that the prize money is the same. If they played best of 5 sets (or the men played best of 3), I could just about understand the logic.

  3. JMac was soooooo wrong on this………Serena would do good to be around 1000.

    This is such a stupid a silly debate – Serena is the greatest FEMALE player ever, period. She cannot even beat her male hitting partner and when she plays top college men players in her workouts loses to them easily as well. It was a dumb and lazy question from the NPR host and JMac was just being honest.

    So we EVER discuss if Sugar Ray Leonard could have beaten Ali or Mike Tyson????? Duh of course not.

    All this because Bobby Riggs tanked vs Bille Jean in the Astrodome for a huge gambling payday…….plus he was the biggest star for a few months. Hahahahaha

  4. It’s really not even worth a debate. No matter what number you want to assign to the discussion (top 150, 200, 300 etc) the reality is that top women athletes cannot compete with top male athletes in any sport that involves “phisicality”. Not in professional basketball, baseball, football, hockey, tennis, golf, soccer, etc. It is not a criticism of women; Serena is a phenomenal woman tennis player and woman athlete. Men and women play different games. Appreciate them for what they do vs others women. Should they get equal pay? Only if they generate the same revenue as men. They do not; not even close. Just a fact.

  5. I don’t think that she’d be top 1000, in fact I’m not sure that she could play top 6 for the top men’s college teams. Why? She’s 5′ 9″ tall, well below average for men players. Her serve is the biggest on the women’s tour but would be below average on the men’s tour. She has the most powerful groundstrokes on the women’s tour but would be below average on the men’s tour. Her court coverage is the best on the women’s tour but would be below average on the men’s tour. And she can get away with 40+ unforced errors in a women’s match where she is physically dominant but she’s not steady enough for the men’s tour.

  6. I don’t think Serena could beat any of the nbr.1’s at any division one college.

  7. Hey Joe,
    It’s a lot of show, but John Mc is competitive with Courier and Roddick on the exhibition tour. He’s still amazing. I don’t think Serena would know how to handle him.
    I agree with those that say she wouldn’t be able to beat the top college players, who wouldn’t even make the top 1000.
    However, she would trounce the Monday morning guys!!

  8. A former pro at my club who was briefly on the satellite tour (ranking in the 700’s) played Steffi Graf when she was 18 or 19 beat her 2 and 2 and said it was easy . He was only 5’9″ so it wasn’t like he could just serve he off the court.

  9. Folks — I can’t agree about this evaluation of women vs. men pay. We live in a free society (thank goodness) and in truth the market can (and mostly does) decide these things. What’s it got to do with how many hours or sets they put in? If a women’s match draws more audience/advertising dollars, etc. then I’m all for equal or even MORE pay for women. In FACT and on the other hand, I still suspect that a lot more people watch Roger Federer than even Serena. And I’d personally pay more for watching him.

    Arbitrarily deciding that equal pay is mandatory seems sort of dictatorial and artificial to me. Sort of the same motive that seems to be behind anyone (ignorant of tennis) who’d suggest that Serena is the greatest TENNIS PLAYER ever.

  10. I have no problem with equal prize money for the sexes at joint events. Do I wish they played the same amount of time? YES! I really don’t like watching 5 set matches – just takes too darn long. I wish they all played 3 sets. (And there are even times I’d be content with 2 sets and a super tie-break.) Granted, my attention span is kinda short. Sure some players are more popular than others and draw a bigger crowd either because of their skill level, ranking, or just the expectation that they might do something spectacular or outlandish. I think it would be difficult (but not impossible) to factor that in and pay those players differently. But I’m fine paying the winning guy and the winning gal equal amounts because they were each the best in their event – regardless of what would happen if they played each other.

  11. Tennis has a history of men and women competing in the slams at the same time and place. Golf does not have that history. Compare the earnings of the top 100 men golfers in the world and the top 100 women. If the ATP really wanted to represent men tennis players, they would renegotiate with the slams, Indian Wells etc and play the events with the women playing before or after the men’s tournament (let them choose). Very soon the financial realities would become apparent and equal prize money would disappear. At Wimbledon, the condition of the grass would be a complication (again, let the women choose to go first or second) – To keep the two tournaments down to two weeks total, you could change the format to play every day and limit the men also to best two out of three sets. Lots of variations to contemplate but artificially set equal prize money that would be absurd for NBA/WNBA simultaneous played events has evolved in tennis with the men’s tour subsidizing the women’s tour. Does anyone really think ticket sales and TV rights proceeds would be equal, that the public financial vote would be equal? Billy Jean King pulled off one of the great financial cons in history and it is protected by overzealous PC journalism whose latest victim is John McEnroe. Forgive me if some of this is overstated.

  12. I was in Athens, Ga. for the NCAA M & W Championships in May. Serena could not qualify for the 64 individual draw in the men’s . They are #1 & # 2 players in NCAA who have earned the most points during the year. They are so fast and hit the serve so big that she could not qualify. That’s how good men’s college tennis is today.
    John gave her a compliment when he said 700 — no way.

  13. Gerorge…. Kudo’s to you, this is a pretty sensitive subject. I thought your blog would be “lite up” even more then it has!

    I think we are all in agreement….those of us who have had the opportunity to play against some quality Division 1 players from back in the day….who are now tennis friends…..will tell you if you can draw them out, when they had opportunity to play or hit against the best women players of that era…the women players were no match against top Division 1 players.

    That takes nothing away from Serena….but Mac is pretty savvy at being able to promote his book!

  14. Billy Jean got the equal pay for women which should never have happened. Mac must be trying to sell a book because he certainly didn’t need to mention her playing men. I believe Serena is the female player today and had been for a long while. A while back Steffi, Chrissie (on clay) and Seles before being stabbed and Martina were pretty good. None this good for this length of time. Phil

  15. Lack of foot speed and inability to handle significant spin put the top women at a major disadvantage. I would not expect Serena to beat a man in the top 1000. The women are much better now than they used to be, but, years ago, when I was practicing law 60 hours per week at Ropes and Gray, I beat then #7 in the world Wendy Turnbull 6-2, and I was a nobody.

  16. Wow I feel like I’m back in the 1950s and so disappointed I can’t even comment. I guess this is truly a men’s blog so I won’t be reading it anymore.

    Christine, you SHOULD comment, if you feel differently. george

  17. Mars – Venus communication dilemma once again – is it incorrect that women’s professional tennis has a subsidy from men’s tennis at the majors due to the advent of “equal” prize money or is it simply male, chauvinist piggy behavior to point it out?
    Or, is it not what is being said but the tone of the comments that upsets Christine? Should the US men’s golf championship divert proceeds to the US Women’s golf championship in order to have equal prize money? The analytical reality is debatable and my conclusions are perhaps wrong but am I out of bounds for stating them?

  18. spike. if you say johnny mac can do it, then i question my opinion. youre usually
    right when it comes to assessing a player’s abilities.
    christine. you should give your opinion. i’d love to hear a woman’s perspective
    on this subject.

  19. The way I see it, Serena and Maria Sharapova are making Many Millions of dollars playing
    a sport they love. So who really cares if low level men can beat them, they don’t even
    have the skills to play the balls against other men. Money talks (well you know the saying).

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