Girl Power!

WTA players comment on ‘Year of the Woman’

The top seven seeds in the Volvo Car Open gathered for All-Access Media Hour at the Daniel Island Club on Monday and were clearly ready to talk tennis. But most of these elite players from around the world also reported that they are aware of the challenges facing women of every profession, walk of life and country.

CNN and other news outlets have dubbed 2018 as “The Year of the Woman,” with CNN noting in an article on their website that women are “more engaged, energized and resolute than ever. Issues that were long ignored are finally coming to the surface, and women are beginning to speak up and use their voices and influence to demand real change.”

We asked the VCO’s top seeded players to comment on the “Year of the Woman” designation and give us their reaction to the momentous movement from their perspective as professional female athletes.

“I think it’s really great that women are having such an amazing year and are having such an impact…on the entire world right now,” added World No. 14 Madison Keys, who works with Fearlessly Girl, a movement that is empowering young women. “Being a female athlete, I think there have been a lot of amazing women who have won tournaments this year. There are a lot of inspiring stories. I think it will continue to be the year of the woman.”

“Everyone is feministic now more with the ‘me, too’ (movement) and all these things,” stated Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova, who is currently ranked No. 16 in the world. “I think that WTA and ATP work good together. I think tennis is not only a men’s sport. There are some great athletes in tennis all around.”

“I think it’s a very important movement,” added World No. 22 Johanna Konta of Great Britain. “We make up half of the world’s population, maybe even a bit more. I think it’s a great time to be a part of it. We are very lucky in women’s tennis to have predecessors such as Billy Jean King, who really blazed quite an impressive trail on really getting things moving in the right direction for our sport. We definitely have a lot to live up to with what she was able to do for us and the women alongside her. I think overall, I feel really excited and very privileged to be a part of this sport. Women’s tennis, I think, is quite an impressive sport to be a part of.”

For reigning VCO Champion Daria Kasatkina of Russia, who is in town to defend her title, focusing attention on female accomplishments through designations like “Year of the Woman” is a worthy endeavor.

“It’s important especially for us, the professional athletes, because now we’re playing on the same level,” Daria Kasatkina. “I think it’s good because we’re all the same. We’re all still trying. We’re working hard. It means a lot and it’s very important.”

Germany’s Julia Goerges, the fourth seed in the VCO, wasn’t aware of the “Year of the Woman” title, but thinks the focus should not necessarily be on a specific gender but on how you live your life.

“I think it is about enjoying your life in general,” she said. “I think we shouldn’t say 2018 is this year, 2019 is that year. I think it’s about the way you live your life. I think every year can be a very good one. I think we should appreciate it that we can all be here, be healthy and enjoying our lives and the passion that we are doing…I think it’s important to enjoy any year you are living because you never know when it’s going to end.”

In professional women’s tennis, the pay disparity is less so than in other sports, but there is a separation that persists. Though, according to Keys, positive changes are being made.

“I think there’s been some improvement with pay disparity,” said Keys. “In the Middle East this year, the tournament directors offered to pay equal to what the men were getting paid. There’s definitely movement in the right direction, but I think as far as being paid equally…there’s still such a big gap. It’s not just a female tennis issue. I think it’s in general across the board we really need to work on equal pay for women.”

Konta echoed Keys’ sentiments and emphasized the need for an ongoing effort to eliminate the difference in pay between the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). She is hopeful that one day it will no longer be a topic of conversation as all players, regardless of gender, are celebrated solely for performances on the courts.

“I think it’s important to continue to strive for the stigma to be released from equal pay,” said Konta. “I think women’s tennis needs to be recognized on its own merit and almost move on from that subject. We prove our worth through our viewers, through the hours that we spend on court, through the magnificent matches that we put on, tournaments after tournaments and the slams. I think we’ll move forward a lot quicker if we stop comparing and start celebrating each player, regardless of gender, for what they bring to the sport.”

Although 2017 and the beginning of 2018 have seen their fair share of obstacles, there is no denying that women across all backgrounds are feeling empowered. Though, according to French professional women’s tennis player Carolina Garcia, women have always been powerful—it just took a push for others to see it, too.

“It’s important,” said Caroline Garcia, the VCO’s top ranked player. “It’s good to see that the power of woman is more recognized now. We have always been doing the same as men. …It’s not like we are more powerful. Everyone is similar. We just need to respect each other. It doesn’t really matter from which side we are and where we are from. Just respect everyone.”

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