18-time Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova spoke out regarding sexism in tennis, stating that she believes it is still a big problem engraved in sports culture.
“Men still have more opportunities, more corporations are run by men, therefore they’re more ready to sponsor male athletes,” the 18-time Grand Slam winner told BT Sport. “Here’s a double standard, there’s no doubt about it in my mind. It’s still hard for some to accept strong women. With men, we’re so much quicker to accept their greatness. With women we doubt their greatness. I’ve seen it time and time again.
To further emphasize her point, Navratilova drew on an example between Roger Federer and Serena Williams. She believes that fans are more likely to accept a strong male character such as Federer prior to a strong female one such as Serena.
“It’s much easier for Roger Federer to be loved by everybody than for Serena Williams to be loved by everybody, just by the fact that he’s a guy. I don’t know how much of it has to do with Serena herself, how much of it has to do with the fact she’s African American and how much of it is that she’s a woman. In some ways people are willing to give people the mantle of the greatest of all time and at the same time they’re still not getting the respect they should be getting.”
Navratilova also mentioned that after “un-retiring” and returning to the WTA tour in 2000, the reaction she received was not as kind of that given to NBA superstar Michael Jordan, who also made a comeback around the same time.
“When Michael Jordan came back and played again it was ‘he’s unbelievable, he’s the best ever’ and when I came back and played some matches and won it was ‘there’s no depth in women’s tennis.’ With Serena it’s ‘she doesn’t have much competition.’ Well, Roger (Federer) didn’t have much competition for a while either but they weren’t bemoaning that fact, they were never saying there’s no depth in men’s tennis. They’re quick to say it about women.”