British No 1 Johanna Konta has written a plea for more equality in tennis, to mark International Women’s Day.
Konta, who will face Marketa Vondrousova on Friday in her first match at Indian Wells, said she felt a need to “fight against marginalisation”.
As a member of the Women’s Tennis Association’s player council, Konta is well aware that the men are still better remunerated overall, despite the grand slams’ policy of equal prize money.
And even at these enlightened tournaments, muttering continues – not least from certain male players – that the women are not as much of a draw, and thus should not be rewarded to the same extent.
“I find it a bit surprising,” Konta writes, “that there are people out there who are unhappy that women get equal prize money at tournaments where the men and women compete together.
“I hear the ‘men play best of five but women play best of three’ argument often but this doesn’t resonate with me. The quality of a match isn’t judged on its length or on its competitors, but on its quality. There are as many compelling, engrossing and dramatic matches in both women’s and men’s tennis.
“I urge people to remember the incredible match played by Angelique Kerber and Simona Halep at this year’s Australian Open; or that my quarter-final match against Simona in Wimbledon 2017 was reportedly the most-watched match of the entire Championships on the BBC.
“We are all tennis players, doing our best in an incredibly competitive sport. Let’s celebrate our sporting prowess, women and men alike, and continue focusing on what makes our sport so compelling: the desire to win.”
There will be four British players in the main singles draws at Indian Wells. The women are Konta and Heather Watson, who has drawn the unseeded former Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka in the first round.
The men are Kyle Edmund, who will be in action for the first time since he reached the semi-final of the Australian Open, and Cameron Norrie, who came through the final round of qualifying overnight with a comprehensive 6-4, 6-2 win over Sergiy Stakhovsky – the Ukrainian who, as it happens, has been the leading critic of equal pay on the tour.
The victory has carried Norrie to a projected ranking of No 102 after Indian Wells, although this is dependent on other results. Should he win his opening main-draw round, against fellow qualifier Taro Daniel of Japan, he will not only earn a meeting with former world No 1 Novak Djokovic, but probably also push himself into the top 100 for the first time.
Should he make it, Norrie would be the fourth British male to crack the top 100 in a little under three years, after James Ward, Edmund and Dan Evans. Nobody is saying that this is a generation to rival the great Australians of the 1960s, but given that we waited almost 12 years after Andy Murray (who first brought his ranking down to double-digits in September 2005) for another man to do so, it’s worth acknowledging that the British tennis scene is less of a monoculture than it used to be.