Simon's slam self-serving
If Gilles Simon's news conference after his straight-set Wimbledon loss yielded anything, it's that the French player doesn't believe women should be paid equally to their male counterparts. But there isn't a lot of reasoning behind his indignity.
After getting shellacked in three sets by Xavier Malisse, Simon took the tack that men's tennis is more entertaining than women's.
"My point was that I have the feeling that men's tennis is actually more interesting than women's tennis," Simon said.
Which is delightfully self-serving, no pun intended.
But this isn't about logic, it's about a gut resistance to the idea that women are just as valuable as athletes as men. It's a battle that women fought up until 2007, when Wimbledon became the last major to supply an equal purse for women. Keep in mind that none of the majors lowered prize money for men when they made the jump, but instead raised the amount women were paid.
Simon's initial comments were: "The equality in salaries isn't something that works in sport. Men's tennis remains more attractive than women's tennis at the moment."
Speaking of attractive, a reporter at Simon's news conference said Maria Sharapova pointed out she draws a bigger crowd and generates more interest than Simon.
"Well, I don't have to respond to that," Simon said. "It's not about me, one player, or another one. Maria is more famous than me. I know it. She deserves to win more money than me."
That's so kind of him.
Chicken or fish? Paper or plastic? Leno or Letterman? Boring power game or artful rallies? It's a matter of taste. If you were a Belgian in the age Justine Henin played Kim Clijsters, odds are you tuned in to the women's match. If you never got over Bobby Riggs' loss to Billie Jean King, maybe you just prefer golf.
King was the first women's tennis player who wouldn't take less for an answer, although other women in the WTA picked up the cause over the years, notably five-time Wimbledon champ Venus Williams. Her sister Serena addressed the issue by cheekily saying Sharapova is "way hotter" than Simon.
"You know, I started playing tennis at 2 years old," Serena said. "I'm sure he started when he was 2 years old, as well. I worked just as hard as he did. I'm sure he continues to work hard as I work hard, as well as everyone that's on a professional level. We are all very professional and all work hard."
Chairman and CEO of the WTA Stacey Allaster told Sky News: "I can't believe in this day and age that anyone can still think otherwise. This type of thinking is exactly why the WTA was founded and we will always fight for what's right."
As for the argument that five sets deserve higher pay than three? Eh. Not all men's matches, including Simon's loss Thursday, go five. (One quick-thinking reporter asked if he would forfeit 20 percent of his prize money because he didn't give the crowd its money's worth).
Do you pay for movies by the minute? There are probably some entertainers you would pay NOT to see. A comedian whose act falls flat can make 20 minutes seem like hours, but you wouldn't pay more for that. Plenty of people saw Lana Del Rey perform for free on "Saturday Night Live" and still felt like they should get a refund.
Even Simon allowed that the women's tour was equally popular to the men's at the moment the women tricked the last two Grand Slam holdouts, Wimbledon and the French, into delivering equal prize money.
"We have equal prize money because women's tennis was at the moment exactly the same interest for men," Simon said. "Just after, unfortunately most of these women stopped [playing]. We have Roger, [Rafael Nadal], Novak [Djokovic], and it was a huge difference."
No doubt those are compelling players. A rivalry like Federer and Nadal can certainly increase interest. But so did Martina Navratilova versus Chris Evert and Steffi Graf versus Monica Seles -- well before pay was equal at major events.
So is it a sliding scale?
Perhaps the ticket price should be determined after a match, based on how entertained people felt. But those experiments don't usually go well. In 2007, Radiohead put out an album and asked for people to pay whatever they thought it was worth. ComScore estimated that 62 percent of people downloaded it for free. The band's next album required cash.
Ultimately, Simon's comments do less to raise the issue again than to point out that it's a matter that is settled -- at least at the Grand Slam tournaments. Purses for the majority of WTA tournaments continue to be smaller than those on the ATP.
Of course Simon thinks he deserves more money; so does everyone on the planet with the possible exception of the guy who just bought an island in Hawaii. But there is one place where he gets it wrong.
"I mean, it's not me," Simon said. "It's just the public. It's really not me. It's just everybody."
There may be people who agree here, but he sounded desperate to deflect responsibility at the end of his news conference on Thursday. Because mais non, Simon, not everyone agrees with you.
And I think I speak for everyone when I say that.