Women’s Game Needs To Progress To Five Sets – Because They Can

Posted: January 17, 2017 in Tennis
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It’s been a constant rumbling within the world of tennis over the best part of a decade: Why won’t the sport pay equally for both men and women in major tournaments? Why does gender make a difference to the rewards handed out come the end of the tournament which requires the same amount of matches to emerge victorious?

The answer for most has been a basically simple one; when they play five-set matches at majors, then they can expect to earn the same as their male counterparts.

To a certain point, you can understand that view. If you don’t put in the same amount of work, you shouldn’t expect the same rewards, regardless of whether they actually have any say in it or not.


For it’s hardly like female tennis players have simply refused to play five-set matches, for they have never been given a choice in the matter. It has never gone to a vote to my knowledge and no female tennis player has publicly stated that they would be unwilling to move to five sets for a major, emulating the males on the tour.

So what exactly is stopping the LTA from allowing women to play five set matches? I wouldn’t fancy it to necessarily be a scheduling issue, as it would be easily possible to move some matches around, playing a few extra games on outside courts.

And surely in this day and age, it cannot be because they believe women are incapable of playing matches of such length, because that is utter nonsense. That earlier stated view is seen by some as a sexist attitude, but the stance of tennis authorities that women are unable to compete for a potential five hours and their matches don’t have the same draw as the men.


Women’s football is played at the same duration as the men. Why not tennis?

Few other sports holds women back in the same way. Female footballers play the full 90 minutes, those playing cricket play the full 50 overs in their one-day internationals. Laura Trott is now one of Great Britain’s most successful ever athletes competing in the same event as others that have excelled. Even WWE have dropped their sexist attitude towards women, having them perform in some the more dangerous matches and headlining their main events, a vast change from the pillow fights they put them in a decade ago.

The reasoning is that it isn’t simply a case of female tennis players needing to ‘earn their equality’. These are all supreme athletes in peak physical condition, more than capable of going the same distance as their male counterparts.

At the end of a match that goes to three sets, it is very rare that you will see the competitors come off looking exhausted, collapsing into the handshake as you do see the men come the conclusion of a gruelling five-setter. Daria Gavrilova’s victory over Naomi Broady at the Australian Open on Tuesday was a pulsating three-setter that was tight in every set, but both were able to jog up to the net

There is clearly so much more energy left in the tank that they could go on longer. Sure those one-sided matches that occur at times could be stretched out even longer for a demoralised loser, but this also could see them having more of a chance of recovering from dropping a set, as opposed to the current climate that leaves them one set away from being out of the competition.


Gavrilova defeated Broady in a pulsating three-set match and looked like she still had plenty in reserve.

This in turn loses then respect as competitors, their accomplishments diminished by the men they play alongside. All achievements are met with musings of ‘what if?’ as though there could still be more they can do to win your adulation.

Serena Williams has been one of the most dominant athletes in history, but for this reason she has often not received the respect she deserves for her accomplishments. She is obviously more than capable of going to five set matches, or perhaps she may find more of a challenge, should any opponents be more suited to a longer game.


The women’s game needs to be moved to five sets for major tournaments, to mirror the efforts of the men’s game. Not because they need to play the same amount as men to be deemed worthy of equal prize money; but because they are more than capable of doing so.

The women’s game would benefit massively from switching to that format for major events, giving them greater exposure and a chance to be viewed equally, perhaps promoting women’s sport even further than transformations in football and cricket have, putting them on a pedestal that perhaps only major athletics events can.

This isn’t simply a case of money anymore. It is athletes at the peak of their physical powers being given the freedom to display those talents on the biggest of stages. That is the main reason to elongate women’s tennis to five sets. They’ve definitely ‘earned’ that right.


Thoughts on the progression of women’s tennis? Get involved in the comments section below!


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