By Gustavo Borges
Guadalajara, Mexico, Oct 20 (EFE).- One of the vice presidents of the Women’s Tennis Association acknowledged Thursday that professional tennis is now free of gender discrimination.
But Giulia Orlandi said one of her organization’s priorities is to achieve a total balance between men and women and that more work remains to be done in that regard.
“There’s no discrimination in tennis, but we’re still not 50-50 with men, like we deserve; we’re working with the ATP to ensure tennis is a sport with equality (of) rights and conditions,” she told Efe at the Guadalajara Open Akron, a WTA 1000 event.
“(Our) situations is similar, but in some tournaments we need to adjust the prize money.”
Orlandi recalled that tennis is the biggest sport for women worldwide and attracts more investment than any other, adding that the WTA, the main organizing body of women’s professional tennis, has retained its vitality as it approaches next year’s 50th anniversary.
“We had problems due to Covid, although we managed to play in 2021. And 2022 has been a normal calendar year. We’re putting the virus behind us,” Orlandi said. “We carried out a vaccination campaign and invested very heavily. An incredible amount of work was done to keep people healthy out on Tour.”
The WTA vice president of officiating and supervisor said there is excitement surrounding the 50-year milestone and pledged that some surprises are in store in 2023.
Orlandi also praised the new generation of players and said they are ready to take the baton from greats who have recently retired or are winding down their careers.
“We’re at a moment when veterans are exiting (the stage), and young players are assuming (the mantle); it’s a transition year, and there are several girls playing super well. Almost all of them are here in Guadalajara: Coco Gauff, Liudmila Samsonova, Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, Belinda Bencic and Paula Badosa, among others,” she said.
Each of those up-and-coming players has her own personality and unique strengths, according to Orlandi, who said it remains to be seen if any of them emerge as a clear challenger to 21-year-old Polish world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who has won the French Open, US Open and six other titles in 2022.
While recently retired Swiss legend Roger Federer and his two main rivals – Spain’s Rafael Nadal and Serbia’s Novak Djokovic – have battled it out in a well-documented Grand Slam race, Orlandi noted that two female players have won more major titles than either of those three.
The women’s Slam record is still held by Australia’s Margaret Court (24), although 41-year-old American Serena Williams has 23 major titles and has strongly suggested that – despite a lavish send-off at this year’s US Open – she will put off retirement a bit longer.
The WTA senior official also noted that another women’s tennis all-time great, Germany’s Steffi Graf, won as many major championships during her illustrious career (22) as Nadal, the current men’s record holder.
The 2022 women’s tennis calendar is winding to a close with this week’s event in Guadalajara and then the WTA Finals, an elite singles and doubles tournament that will take place from Oct. 31 to Nov. 7 in Fort Worth, Texas. EFE