Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka reignite the 'misogyny' row in WTA: Are the fans right to be disappointed in the world's Top 2?

Aryna Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek are under fire for their recent comments
Aryna Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek are under fire for their recent comments

Women's tennis has seen its fair share of struggle before reaching its glory days. Over the years, the female stars have endured a lot of hardship before eventually achieving the same status as the men's players. However, recent comments from Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka have threatened to reignite the 'misogyny' row that had dominated women's tennis for decades in the past.

Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka add fuel to the 'misogyny fire'

Iga Swiatek was the talk of the tennis world after the World No.1 claimed that 'she never really had anyone on the WTA to follow' during a recent press conference. The Pole was talking to the media about Garbiñe Muguruza's retirement from tennis and admitted that she watched the Spaniard win titles while growing up.

Swiatek further added that Muguruza had been her favorite player for a while before going on tour, but also insisted that she predominantly followed Rafael Nadal.

The Pole was growing up in the era when the WTA was dominated by Serena Williams, however, Swiatek's admission of 'not having anyone to follow in the WTA' came as a slight shock to some fans.

Aryna Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek are the two best players in the world
Aryna Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek are the two best players in the world

Similarly, Aryna Sabalenka added more fuel to the fire by claiming that she enjoys watching men's tennis more than women's as it is more 'interesting and logical'. The fans were left disappointed by such comments and felt that the two modern ambassadors of sports were undermining the women's game.

While Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka are free to voice their opinion, there is also a sense of responsibility on their shoulders. The women's game has already had its fair share of misogyny in the past and such comments from the current tennis stars do not help the cause.

The history of misogyny in tennis

Women's tennis wasn't always as glamorous as it is now. Over the years, many female tennis stars have worked the extra mile to bring women's tennis equal to men's and eradicate inequality.

In 1970, a group of nine women decided to move away from the male-dominated tennis association and formed an alliance for women's tennis, which would later turn into the WTA. However, there was still a huge difference in pay between men and women at Grand Slam events.

Tickets for women's tournament remained unsold and their position in tennis was under threat. Eventually, Billie Jean King and Margaret Court started attracting more crowds to the stadium, which later continued with the emergence of tennis greats Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf, and Serena Williams, who played a huge part in elevating women's tennis.

Now, after decades of hard work and pursuit of equality, the women's game is getting the recognition it deserves. However, the recent comments from top WTA stars like Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka have led to a renewed debate about misogyny in tennis.

They have perhaps given added ammunition to those who continue to undermine the women’s sport and may lead to renewed prejudices from the younger, newer tennis fans

Are the tennis fans right to be disappointed by Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka's statements

The fans have every right to be disappointed by the comments of Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka, as they are currently among the best players in the world and their words carry massive weight. And statements like these, which show the women's game in a lesser light, might pull people's interest away from the WTA.

The statement from Swiatek comes as a surprise, considering that the Pole revealed, during an interview with Sportowe Fakty in 2023, how women in tennis were judged differently.

During Swiatek's match against Maria Sakkari at the WTA Finals 2021, the Pole burst out in tears on-court. Swiatek ended up losing the match and was knocked out in the round-robin of the WTA Finals. Talking about that incident in 2023, the Pole admitted that she felt that women are treated differently than men when it comes to showing emotions on-court.

"If I pretended to be indestructible, I would be distorting reality. I prefer to show my real face. Women are judged more harshly, as if we had no control over our emotions at all. During the ATP Finals, we saw that men also react differently on the court, sometimes they are aggressive, sometimes they also cry. However, in men’s tennis, it is accepted and interpreted as a passion that leads to success,” Iga Swiatek said.

Moreover, Swiatek recognized last year that the prize money in some WTA events was still not at par with that of their male counterparts and even commented that she felt women's tennis was more 'consistent' as compared to men's tennis.

And that is just an added reason why fans may have felt let down by her recent comments given that they expected the Pole to realize how her comments could be misinterpreted and used in a negative context by those who look for reasons to undermine women's tennis.

So, any controversial remarks by players who are considered icons of modern tennis would hurt the WTA's reputation and might encourage misogynistic perceptions of the sport. With Swiatek and Sabalenka set to lead the next generation of women's players, it is their responsibility to be more cautious with their views and act as role models for the future generation of tennis stars.

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