I just read a Christophe Rochus interview in which he was hammering women's tennis on a Belgian website. At first, I was stunned. Then I became more disappointed by his basic analysis that anyone could make, it lacked any insight you'd expect from someone so familiar with the game. I finally decided to answer back in order to brush aside the critics of the women's game.
Here are some of the highlights (or lowlights) from his interview with the Belgian press. After this excerpt, I'll evaluate some of the controversial statements Rochus made during the interview:
"I am upset at the fact we even compare both tours, which have nothing in common. Justine Henin would not be able to beat a player ranked 500 in the ATP. It's like comparing men's football and women's football. On the men side the level is very high from the first round. Even Federer and Nadal could be forced to play their best from the early stages of a tournament.
"On the women's side any match from the early rounds is a joke. The level is so weak while the gap between a top 10 player and a top 100 players is huge. Truth to be told it is impossible to compare the effort put for men's players who reach the second week of a Grand Slam with women's players at the same level of a major. I should not even mention a best of 5 sets format is not the same as a best of 3 sets one. Everything is different. Just look how easy it is to come back to winning ways for players who decided to have a long break."
Correct: The level between men's tennis and women's tennis is different.
Christophe is right when he says the level between men's tennis and women's tennis is different. It is not even debatable, but I would guess anyone knows that by now. They are two different sports. I'm not sure why we are wasting the time to compare them.
They do have similar and different rules, however, they do not necessarily match. The speed is one key difference. Men run faster than women and can't play the same way because of this. It is one of the reasons why we see so many female athletes having identical games. They strike the ball flat while trying to be aggressive on each point. They have to do this in order to compensate from their slower movement on a court.
Wrong: It is easier for top ten female players.
According to Christophe, top-10 female players have an easy run through the quarterfinals. He suggests that the difference between the No. 100 male player in the world and Rafael Nadal is small and the difference between the No. 100 female player in the world and No. 1 player is huge. (May I remind everyone that Rochus played Nadal twice and lost both times to the Spaniard. How do we explain that gap?)
At the 2009 Barcelona Open, Nadal won 6-2, 6-0. At the '09 Australian Open, Nadal won 6-0, 6-2, 6-2. Rochus also played Federer twice. Federer won 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 at Wimbledon in 2001 and then again earlier this year in Doha, 6-1, 6-2. He's right. The early rounds are a joke. For him.
Let's also not forget that Federer reached 23 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals, which show how deep the gap is between him and the rest of the field. Forget the first two rounds being easy, the first five rounds must have been easy! Moreover, Nadal and Federer claimed 17 of the last 19 Grand Slam tournaments played. This shows that the domination in male tennis is much more absolute.
The opposite is happening on the WTA Tour. The current No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki was unable to reach the final of a major this year. We also saw two players outside the top five in the final of the French Open. If there's a wide-open field, it's on the women's side.
Debatable: A 40-year-old player can't come back and win a tournament.
Rochus also went on to compare the comebacks of Kimiko Date Krumm to Thomas Muster. He claimed it is easier for a woman to come back than for a man, which is another proof of the weakness of women's tennis (or so he claims). Even if there is some truth in what he says, I don't like the comparison he made. Date Krumm worked hard to come back into the top 100. She made the final of a tournament this year, defeated a top-10 player and dedicated herself to tennis. Muster tried one match. He doesn't intend to make a full comeback. Apples, oranges.
Right, but irrelevant: Men and women players earn the same amount of money despite not playing the same numbers of sets.
This is a classic statement to favor of men over women. Of course his argument is players should be paid by the amount of hours spent on a court, which is absurd. It is exactly as if a businessman was paid by the amount of hours spent in the office instead of the amount of sales.