In Tennis Love Means Nothing

By Stepfanie Lam

Sophomore, Biology Major

In tennis, every shot is the perfect balance of precision, strength, and control. The moment the match begins, time screeches to a halt as the two competitors dance to the rhythm of the ball, each trying to outwit the other. And when one of the individual finishes the match with a calculated and elegant cross-court forehand, the crowds erupt into cheers and the winner will wave with a smile infused with joy.

Wimbledon, one of four grand slams that take place every year, is also one of the biggest events worldwide—even the Queen of England attends. Other grand slams include the French Open, the Australian Open, and the US Open. To put it in perspective, winning a grand slam is a scientist’s equivalent of winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

This year’s results though have made Britain proud—their very own Andy Murray won the Wimbledon Men’s Single. He is also the first British man to win the singles title at Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936. Murray has always been runner up in the final, never the winner. It was reported that he broke down on the court and began crying after losing an epic match against Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final in 2012.

Another unexpected contender is Marion Bartoli of France. I have watched her play live at the Bank of the West Tournament every summer in Stanford and I have to admit, I am impressed with her tenacity and consistent ground strokes. She has defeated one of the greatest female tennis players, Justine Henin, in Wimbledon 2007 and is known for her unorthodox style of play. She uses two hands on both her forehand and backhand—something that is unheard of because it requires a lot more running in getting to the ball. Another interesting fact is that her father, her full time coach, is a medical doctor.

Both of these individuals have made history this year by being the underdogs who won against all odds. But their success has been tainted by rampant sexism that exists in today’s society. A BBC presenter, John Inverdale, commented on Bartoli’s appearance after her win, “Do you think, Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little, ‘You’re never going to be a looker, you’ll never be a [Maria] Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight’?”

Even in this momentous occasion, all society thought of was Bartoli’s appearance and yet, Murray’s prominently large nose was never mentioned. No Bartoli is not six feet two nor is she blond but isn’t tennis supposed to be about the skill of individual as opposed to their appearance? “Inverdale’s remark exposes the wider culture where sexism and explicit discussion of the female body is still acceptable. Women are judged on their appearance everywhere, the better to ignore their skills; in a male, ugliness is always more forgivable.” [Tanya Gold].

It is well known that men’s sport is generally more prestigious and has access to more coverage. On the other hand, women are often patronized and objectified. As one commentator mentioned during a live coverage of a swimming event “…comes up covered in a beguiling sheen of sweat.”

Tennis, or any other sport, is a way for individuals from all over the world to come together and demonstrate their athletic abilities, not to incite lust in the audience. What I love most about tennis is that eventually, the outcome of the match comes down to each player’s determination to win. Once you find your resolve, your body performs the necessary motions naturally, almost effortlessly. On the court, I can embody the gracefulness of a dancer and the strength of a wrestler, a visceral feeling I cannot experience anywhere else.

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