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Serena Williams points out sexism in tennis during chat with Natalie Portman

Serena Williams talked to Natalie Portman about biased allocation of show-courts in tennis
Serena Williams talked to Natalie Portman about biased allocation of show-courts in tennis
Mihir Gawade
TOP CONTRIBUTOR
Modified 27 Jul 2020, 16:37 IST
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The world of tennis is no stranger to gender equality discussions. Despite, on the surface, being among the more egalitarian of sports, tennis has had numerous examples of silent and casual bias towards the men's game. And one of the sport's greatest ambassadors - Serena Williams - has some more beans to spill on the discrimination against women in tennis.

Serena Williams, despite being a combined 39-time Grand Slam champion in singles and doubles, has faced instances of discrimination based on gender at various points of her career. The problem was particularly severe when she was younger, before she started showing the world she was not one to go away quietly.

Serena Williams talks about the bias faced by other women in tennis
Serena Williams talks about the bias faced by other women in tennis

During her Instagram Live session with popular actress Natalie Portman, Williams talked at length about the discriminatory behavior by tournament organizers in tennis.

She pointed out the disproportionate allocation of 'show courts' among men and women in the combined events, and the lack of show court opportunities given to other top female players who are not named Serena Williams.

Williams and Natalie Portman are both part owners of the newly founded National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) team 'Angel City FC', and the Instagram live was conducted mainly to promote the team - which is set to debut in the NWSL in 2022.

Serena Williams in conversation with Natalie Portman
Serena Williams in conversation with Natalie Portman

But the two leading women in their respective fields also took time to discuss the bias faced by other women in their fields. Portman, who has herself been a very active voice about the lack of lead opportunities given to women in the film industry, was keen to listen to Serena Williams about the gender bias in tennis.

Williams said that other top women don't get enough opportunities to play on the show courts, and revealed that she has often asked organizers to let other women take her place on the centre court.

Serena Williams reveals she tries to avoid playing on Centre Court

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The 'show courts' are the main attraction of any tennis facility. If you are playing at Wimbledon, you want to play on Centre Court or Court No.1; if you're at the Australian Open, you want most of your matches to be on Rod Laver Arena or Margaret Court Arena.

Natalie Portman along with Rashida Jones (L) at one of Serena Williams
Natalie Portman along with Rashida Jones (L) at one of Serena Williams' matches at Wimbledon

But 23-time singles Major champion Serena Williams admitted that often she herself tells tournament directors to move her match to the No. 2 Court, and let some other women take her place on the show court.

"I literally say, ‘Just put me on the 2nd court so we can have other players go on Centre Court’ and obviously that doesn’t go well with the tournament directors," Serena Williams said.

The 38-year-old further said that she feels compelled to make the sacrifice as other women don't get enough opportunities on the show courts despite putting in the hard yards.

"I’m like, ‘These other women really need a chance and they deserve it, they’ve been working literally their whole lives and you guys are just giving them 2 matches,'” Serena added

Some fans, however, tried to do a fact-check on Williams' claims of unequal allocation of show courts to women, and said that most big combined events - like the four Grand Slams and the Miami Masters - are in fact pretty unbiased in court allocation.

The tweet below presents the data of show court allocation over the last year, and shows that equal distribution has actually been the case in recent times.

However, events like Wimbledon have for a long time been under criticism for playing two men's matches compared to only one women's match per day. It is possible that Serena Williams' consistent efforts have borne fruit, and tournaments have made recent progress in this regard.

Serena Williams says she has been having the conversation with tournament directors for several years
Serena Williams says she has been having the conversation with tournament directors for several years

Serena Williams also asked Natalie Portman about the new 'Thor' film directed by Taika Waititi, to which the actress replied that they will begin shooting early next year.

Published 27 Jul 2020, 02:57 IST
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