Equal prize money debate irks Serena
By Pritha Sarkar
LONDON (Reuters) - If Elena Vesnina was red faced after being on the receiving end of a 48-minute 6-2 6-0 semi-final mauling at the hands of Serena Williams -- at least it wasn't as bad as the 19-minute wipeout American Alice Marble inflicted in 1939.
On that occasion, three-times Roland Garros champion Hilde Krahwinkel Sperling probably felt she had hardly warmed up before she found herself walking off the court after suffering the quickest ever semi-final defeat at the All England Club.
Seventy-seven years later, the ease with which Williams made it through to her ninth Wimbledon final once again raised the question of whether the women deserved equal prize-money.
"Yeah, we deserve equal prize money. Yeah, absolutely," declared Williams with a withering look that clearly said 'subject closed'.
After years of campaigning by figure-heads such as Billie Jean King, Wimbledon introduced equal prize-money in 2007. But every time there is a lopsided match in the latter stages of the women's competition, the subject comes up for discussion again.
Just like in 2009, when then world number one Dinara Safina had to defend her prize purse after capitulating in only 51 minutes against Serena's older sister Venus in another one-sided semi, Vesnina was also quizzed about the issue.
"We deserve what we have right now," said the Russian, who pocketed $645,000 for making it to the last four.
"We also had good quarter-final matches in the women's side," she added, although none of those four encounters spilled into a deciding set.
"It's not about the score. It's just amazing that we have such a great champion like Serena on the women's side.
"I don't think it's the right topic to speak about (today)".
A day after Centre Court ticket holders were treated to more than seven hours of breathtaking shot-making, with Roger Federer and Andy Murray needing five sets to subdue Marin Cilic and Jo-Wilfired Tsonga respectively, those visiting on Thursday were filing out after only two hours of women's on-court action.
With Thursday's Centre Court tickets costing almost $190 each, did the fans feel short-changed?
"I was initially disappointed Serena's match was over so quickly but Vesnina had no chance as Serena was dominating so much," said Toby from Buckinghamshire.
"But in the end I didn't feel let down as there is also some element of enjoying someone putting in such a supreme performance."
It was a sentiment shared by Serena, who eventually shared her thoughts on the topic.
"I would like to see people, the public, other athletes ... just realise and respect women for who they are and what we are and what we do," said the 34-year-old American, who will be chasing a 22nd grand slam title on Saturday.
"I've been working at this since I was three years old. Actually maybe younger, because I have a picture where I'm in a stroller... Venus is pushing me, and we're on the tennis court.
"Basically my whole life I've been doing this. I haven't had a life. I don't think I would deserve to be paid less because of my sex, or anyone else for that matter in any job."
Angelique Kerber, who needed 72 minutes to overcome Venus 6-4 6-4 in the other semi, was also adamant that the combined duration of Thursday's matches was no reflection on how much entertainment the women had provided.
"We are giving everything on court, everybody," the Australian Open champion said.
"We give our best. You never know if it's two hours or, at the end, eight hours."
(Reporting by Pritha Sarkar, editing by Clare Lovell)