Here at the Japan Open men’s and women’s final in Tokyo, the broadcast is in Japanese and the on-court announcements are in English. One thing that might require some translation is the reason for the huge disparity in prize money. The women’s champion will get $27, 000 and the men’s champion will get $118, 000. That is more than a 400% difference! It’s not like the men are playing best of five set matches either. It’s hard not to interpret the difference as a statement of Japan’s opinion about women’s tennis and possibly a woman’s place in the workplace. This is pretty ironic considering that Japan has five women ranked in the top 100 and no men in the top 100.
One thing that might require some translation is the reason for the huge disparity in prize money. The women’s champion will get $27, 000 and the men’s champion will get $118, 000.
It’s a good thing that there are two matches today because the women’s final between Nicole Vaidisova and Tatiana Golovin ends with Golovin retiring at 6-7(4), 2-3, due to an Achilles tendon problem. That’s what the tournament gets for shorting the women financially. Why should they play an entire match if they’re not getting paid fairly? I thought we’d settled the issue of equal pay on the tennis circuit long ago.
Vaidisova, ranked number 18, and Golovin, ranked number 23, are very similar players. Vaidisova has more power, especially on her serve, and Golovin is the better defensive player, but they’ve both reached the fourth round of at least one slam, they both have two-handed backhands and they both have a strong disinclination to approach the net. Of course, that could describe any number of players on the WTA Tour today, especially players raised in Eastern Europe and Russia.
After trading breaks in the first set, Vaidisova managed to hit a few more hard serves than errors in the tiebreaker to take it 7-4. In the first game of the second set, Vaidisova hit a short lob to Golovin who was at the net. Golovin let the ball bounce then hit a forehand instead of an overhead. See what I mean about disinclination to play the net? She turned an offensive shot into a neutral shot and allowed Vaidisova to return a low dipping ball that Golovin sent long with a two-handed backhand volley.
This is not a problem in the men’s final. If my eyes do not deceive me, I believe I am watching a match between two, yes, make that two, serve and volleyers. Mario Ancic and Wesley Moodie (who?) are in the second set tiebreaker after Ancic has won the first set 6-1. If Ancic wins the tiebreaker, he wins the match.
If my eyes do not deceive me, I believe I am watching a match between two, yes, make that two, serve and volleyers.
I’ve never heard of Wesley Moodie. He’s a 26 year-old South African who is currently ranked 95 in singles and 28 in doubles. It’s safe to say that, up until now, he’s been a doubles specialist. After 2008 on the ATP tour, only players in the singles draw will be allowed to play doubles with two exceptions so it’s a very smart move on Moodie’s part to make a move up the singles ladder. It’s as if he’s changing jobs before the company closes down.
On his second match point, Ancic serves then angles a low backhand volley deep into the deuce corner. Moodie gets to it and hits a running forehand that curls around Ancic and lands just inside the baseline. “Yaaaaah, ” the Japanese announcers yell in unison. Well said, that was a fabulous shot by Moodie under the pressure of being down a match point.
Moodie hits another beautiful passing shot for a set point of his own then wins the set with a service winner on his second serve. He’s on fire. He’s playing out of his head. Service winners on second serve, low dipping returns and picture pretty passing shots, he’s doing it all.
With Ancic serving at 4-4, Moodie gets two break points then Ancic gives him the game with a forehand error. Moodie can now serve for the match.
Ancic knows he has to break Moodie or it’s all over and this leads to a mistake early in the game. Ancic sneaks in behind a short forehand return and Moodie passes him easily. Ancic has to attack else he’ll lose the match, but he needs to choose a better time to do it. At 30-30, they have an honest-to-god baseline rally. When was the last time I was happy to see a baseline rally? It ends with an Ancic backhand over the baseline followed immediately by a long painful scream – Ancic has given his opponent match point. He made that mistake out of indecision. He started to run around his backhand, changed his mind then ran out of time to get into position to hit the slice properly. Service winner, game and set to Wesley Moodie.
Ancic bites his lip to keep from crying. He puts a towel over his head and drops over in his chair. He let the match get away from him and lost the opportunity for a tour title. It’s gotta hurt. During the awards ceremony, he barely moves a muscle to avoid betraying his emotional state further.
He should take solace in the fact that his opponent had to play the match of his life to beat him. Today’s match is similar to Gilles Muller’s victory over Andy Roddick at this year’s US Open and Joachim Johansson victory over, ahem, Andy Roddick at last year’s Open. Everything Muller and Johansson hit stayed in the court and aces were just popping off their rackets.
Unfortunately, today was not a good advertisement for equal pay. It wasn’t just that the women’s match ended with a default. Serve and volley tennis is more exciting, especially on a hard court. On a grass court, serve and volley points can be too short. Best of all is a match between two full-court players such as Roger Federer and, well… let me think, oh yes, James Blake. Or Amelie Mauresmo (on a good day) and Justine Henin-Hardenne.
Maybe they should determine prize money based on style of play. The pay scale for the winner of a final, as an example, might look like this: baseliner – $30, 000, serve and volleyer – $40, 000, full-court player – $45, 000. Any leftover prize money could go to the recently established “Full Court” franchise of tennis academies around the world.
Tennis academies would benefit and we would be highly entertained.