I have a good friend who rags on the women’s tour every chance he gets. In fact, he used to call me at all hours just to give me his latest observation on why the women’s tour sucks.
There was a time when I would engage him point for point, and we would have these prolonged arguments about his inability to comprehend the distinction between equity and equality. And then I got tired and decided to hell with it. I concluded that he was entitled to his opinion and I to mine and that I just was not going to fight with him anymore. And I haven’t.
I’ve stopped arguing about why I think it’s perfectly reasonable for women and men to earn the same amount on the tour even though men play more sets on average than women do. I understand that some think it’s unfair that a player like Marion Bartoli was able to earn the same amount of money for her opening match as Karol Beck, even though she won with a score of 6-0 6-0 and he played a brutal five-setter. There was a time when I would point out that it was not Marion’s fault that she happened to be so much better than her opponent, nor was it Beck’s fault that his opponent happened to be named Feliciano Lopez. But I’ve stopped saying even that much. There’s no point. I’ve come to the acceptance that folks on opposing sides of this issue will probably never have a meeting of the minds.
So when Maria Sharapova returned from injury and shoulder surgery to make it to the quarterfinals in Paris, my friend could not stop gloating. “Do you concede now?”, he demanded to know. “The women’s tour sucks. Imagine Sharapova has been out for months. Months! She is currently ranked outside of the 100! And yet she comes back and makes it to the quarterfinals of Roland Garros! And she can’t even slide on clay!!”, he exclaimed, utterly scandalized.
I could have pointed out that Maria is a former # 1 player, not just any random player returning from injury and rehab. I could have reminded him that Agassi had done the same damn thing, and not because he was injured but because he fell in love with a limited TV star. I could have pointed out that Maria had actually struggled in every single one of her matches, and that none of her Roland Garros games featured a Bartoli-like score. But being a mature individual, I told him to piss off instead.
But I have to admit (and he will be ecstatic to read) that there is a part of me that is thrilled that Sharapova lost to Gisela Dulko today. Not because I prefer Dulko or dislike Maria. (I don’t, and I don’t). Not because I have not been impressed with Maria’s incredible work ethic and her tremendous mental fortitude. But because I want my friend to shut to hell up. And because there is a part of me that accepts that no player, no matter how good he (Rafa) or she (Maria) is, has any business coming back from serious injury and assuming a position of immediate dominance of the tour. There is much too much depth on both sides to allow that.