Billie Jean King would like men to play best-of-three matches at Grand Slam events


SINGAPORE — Billie Jean King would like to see men playing best-of-three-set matches at Grand Slam tournaments.

The tennis great, who fought for equal rights and equal prize money in her playing days, said Thursday that men and women should play the same amount of sets at major tournaments, as they do on the ATP and WTA tours.

“Personally, I don’t want the men playing five sets anymore. I think it takes too much out of them,” King said at a WTA Finals event timed to coincide with International Women’s Day. “Like one time the players played in the Australian Open final. It took six hours. They could hardly walk off the court. I guarantee you that it took a year off their careers.”

Men play best-of-five sets at the four Grand Slam tournaments, but play best-of-three elsewhere. Women have played best-of-five matches in the past, but that has been rare.

“Everyone keeps saying we don’t want to. We’re very willing. All the women are willing to play three or five sets,” said King, comparing the argument about prize money to music concerts. “It doesn’t matter if [the artists] play for one hour or six hours. They get paid the same amount.”

King said team tennis, in which men’s and women’s events are played consecutively with cumulative scoring, is a better way.

The season-ending WTA Finals will move to Shenzhen, China, in 2019. Once there, the prize money will be increased to $14 million, double the current purse and more than the $8 million in total prize money at the ATP Finals in London.

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