Barbara Rittner: Serena Williams is an Absolute Superstar


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Barbara Rittner: Serena Williams is an Absolute Superstar

Tennis - Barbara Rittner, the Head of German Women's tennis since 2017 and Tournament Director of the new WTA grass court event in Berlin, speaks about the equality between men and women in tennis on several fronts including prize money and court distribution in an interview to Tagesspiegel.

The former German Fed Cup captain says that tennis is on the right track when it comes to equality in prize money between men and women. "As a player, I was less concerned about that. From today's perspective, we obviously made much less money back then.

That is why I think that we are on the right track when it comes to equality in tennis. Everyone can see it how they want. And of course it feels unfair when a Nadal plays a semi-final for five hours and a Serena Williams might only need 43 minutes to do it.

That may not be the case at the moment, but you have to see it in its entirety, and I also know people who prefer to watch a women's match because the rallies are usually longer and therefore more interesting. And it has also been proven that the tournaments where women and men play are best attended.

Roger Federer has publicly campaigned for equality in payment. I think that's very important. In general, I am also in favor of playing the big tournaments in the same format, i.e. two winning sets for women and men. That would be absolute equality."

Several tennis experts say that with the Big Three (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic) dominating tennis right now, the men should get paid more. The 46 year old Rittner agrees that the men are currently attracting more attention but adds that the same could change in a few years time.

"It is undisputed that there are more well-known names playing among the men at the moment. Therefore, of course, in case of Nadal, wherever he plays it is always full. But that can change again in three or four years. Because how often do you have that three or four players dominate for almost 20 years and are absolute crowd pullers? There is currently a generation change in women's tennis.

Most recently, Serena Williams or Maria Sharapova were the big ticket sellers, but there are many young players who can close this gap. Let's just think of Naomi Osaka, Bianca Andreescu or Coco Gauff, who can become one."

The women have also complained that the men get preferred court coverage at the combined events, like this week in Brisbane, but Rittner is not sure if she agrees with that view in general. "I'm not sure if that's really true.

It always depends on the country in which you are playing. In addition, the organizers are also required to distribute this approximately equally. The names also play a role, and it's hard to get past the players like Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.

And by the way, a Serena Williams is no longer scheduled on any small court in the world." Rittner recognises the contribution of Serena Williams when it comes to campaigning for gender equality. "She is an absolute superstar and therefore incredibly important.

When she says something, you listen to her. And she is committed to others, she is not a selfish person. She is a feminist and wants to make a difference." Finally, like everyone else, Rittner says the men and women should have a combined team event, which is something she would like to see.

"There is still a much higher number of men's tournaments. You can still work on that. In addition, the status of the Fed Cup is significantly lower than that of the Davis Cup, even if the ITF has recently done everything possible to destroy that competition.

But why not just play a team World Cup together? Maybe as the fifth Grand Slam over 14 days? I would find that exciting. The various associations would have to sit down at one table to find out how to make a team competition really strong. There is still a lot of potential."