I enjoyed watching the first week of the French Open at Roland Garros, but the second week has been a bit of a washout. These days it always feels a bit weird for me to watch men’s tennis because we get to view so much of the WTA via BT Sport’s brilliant almost-constant coverage.
Having seen a few men’s games this past seven days, I’m convinced that we’ve got the good end of the deal. When I was younger I used to prefer the men’s game because I knew more of the players, plus it was faster and more interesting to me. Now I’ve completely changed my opinion and prefer the women’s tour - and here’s five reasons why.
- Availability. As mentioned, there’s an abundance of women’s tennis available to us thanks to BT Sport, and their coverage is excellent. The commentators are knowledgable, with a mixture of those present at the tours and in a studio back at base, and there’s a minimum amount of pre- and post- match discussion. There are great update montages to keep you on top of things, and matches are often replayed when there’s no live coverage so you can catch up with what you’ve missed.
- Shorter matches. I’ve talked before about how I think tennis should switch men to three set matches all the time too, and I’m more and more convinced this is the way forward. More often, five set matches become a test of endurance rather than skill, and considering the amount these tennis athletes have to play, their fitness isn’t really in question. Three set matches can last anywhere from 40 minutes to three hours, and that seems like a reasonable stretch of time to play, and to watch.
- Competition. Most sports seem to go through cycles where one person or team is more dominant than the rest. Tennis is no different, and on the women’s side, we have had years of watching Serena Williams demolish the competition. As brilliant as Serena has been, it’s refreshing to see others starting to rise to the top - new faces winning Grand Slam competitions, and others gradually starting to claw something back from Serena’s huge lead in the WTA rankings. A bit of healthy competition helps everyone!
- Different style. Where I used to prefer the men’s tennis for being faster, nowadays, I like the slightly slower action provided by the WTA. One thing I noticed watching some of the men play over the past few days is how they have a totally different style, mostly waiting for the last possible moment then whipping the racquet at the ball to get maximum velocity. They still craft shots and winners but it feels totally different to how the women work their way around the court and piece together the puzzle of a point.
- A sport fighting the good fight for equality. The WTA fought a long time to get equal prize money as the ATP, and although the situation isn’t perfect, tennis is one of the more high-profile sports where the fight for equality is taking a turn in the right direction. As an F1 fan, it’s hugely refreshing and wonderful to see things working out.
Having said all that, the French Open has been a right royal disappointment this year. All those weekend days washed out with rain, none of my favourites getting through on the women’s side, and Andy Murray making a right old meal of every match. Roll on Wimbledon!