Women fighting harder than ever to break through the male-dominated sporting narrative
At last weekend’s Australian Open final, Naomi Osaka’s victory over Jennifer Brady in straight sets left some fans wanting more. The debate reignited the conversation around whether women should play five sets in tennis as Andy Murray put the question to his 1.7 million followers. Yet as far back as the late 1990s, the likes of Steffi Graf and Martina Hingis were among those who had disproved the myth that women are incapable of playing five sets. In 1984 the Women’s Tennis Association had decided to introduce five-set finals at their end-of-season event, and six years later the tour witnessed its first match go the distance. A 16-year-old Monica Seles, just two months after becoming the youngest French Open champion, tussled with Argentina’s Gabriela Sabatini before winning after nearly four hours. Afterwards, she smiled and said she had “enjoyed every minute” on the court. The longer format remained for 14 years, producing three five-setters in that time, and acts as a reminder that female tennis players have the stamina to sustain the fight. Elsewhere, the myth of men’s unequivocal physical superiority has been debunked by female athletes, too. Kathrine Switzer was the first registered female runner to complete the Boston Marathon in 1967, but had to wrestle away from race organisers clinging to her vest during the race, such were their doubts about a woman’s ability to finish the distance safely.