Women’s tennis stars far from riding men’s “coattails”

Women were once again reminded of the prejudices held against them despite the modern age on Sunday.

Instead of promoting the BNP Paribas Open tennis match between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, Raymond Moore, a former professional player and the BNP Paribas Open tournament director, made it quite clear that in his mind women’s tennis is a joke.

"In my next life, when I come back, I want to be someone in the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association), because they ride on the coattails of the men. They don't make any decisions and they are lucky," Moore said, as reported by ESPN. “If I was a lady player, I'd go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport."

Yes, Federer and Nadal are remarkable athletes. Federer is one of seven men to capture a career Grand Slam, and Nadal won the 2008 Olympic gold medal in the singles competition. Both men are extremely talented, but they in no way have been the sole contributors to the sport. 

After her match, Williams rebuked Moore’s outrageous claims and stated, "I think Venus (Williams), myself, a number of players have been — if I could tell you every day how many people say they don't watch tennis unless they're watching myself or my sister, I couldn't even bring up that number."

The WTA has fought discrimination for years. Whether striving for equal pay or having to deal with absurdities such as judgment for grunting during matches, these athletes are constantly reminded true equality is still miles away.

That didn’t stop Moore’s comments from catching Williams off guard.

"Yeah, I'm still surprised, especially with me and Venus and all the other women on the tour that's done well," she said. "Last year, the women's final at the U.S. Open sold out well before the men. I'm sorry, did Roger play in that final or Rafa or any man play in that final that was sold out before the men's final? I think not.”

Apparently, Moore failed to remember players like Steffi Graf or Billie Jean King, both of whom made giant leaps in the sport with 34 Grand Slam titles between them, which is three more than Federer and Nadal combined.

Women are just as talented as their male counterparts and capture audiences male sports have failed to reach. Instead of dividing the sport, focus on building players up and uniting the two associations.

Viewers love the sport, and hearing such discriminatory comments only fuels their desire to support their favorite athletes. The WTA is the global leader in women’s professional sports, and over 395 million people watched the competitive season in 2015.

Azarenka, who has addressed the biases women players face several times during her career, stated, "What women do best is rise above those comments. You don't hear complaints or bad comments towards men … It's our duty to keep just working hard through whatever comments there is.”

Hopefully, society will soon recognize women athletes for the powerhouses they truly are. Until then, they will continue to do what they do best: dominate on the court and draw millions of fans across the globe. 

Breanne Williams is a junior majoring in mass communications.