With Andy Murray's quarter final match against Juan Carlos Ferrero due to be played later today it seems an appropriate time to respond to a question posed by Oranjepan in the comments to a blog I wrote exactly two months ago.
The question that was asked was 'Is it right that Men and women play for equal prize money when men play five sets and women three sets?' The reason that I didn't respond at the time was that although I could argue for and against I hadn't got an answer. This has been bothering me for some time but I believe I have come to a conclusion and so I am now prepared to tackle this thorny issue.
My initial response to this question has always been that is clearly inequitable. The men play more sets and, therefore, should get more prize money. One might be swayed be the argument that since the gentlemen's matches are longer on average, then they should get rewarded proportionally more.
However, a moment's reflection shows that this analysis is too simplistic. Consider going to watch a film, the ticket price is not calculated per minute. To go and see Blood: The Last Vampire costs exactly the same at our local cinema as it does to watch Public Enemies despite the fact that the latter lasts for two hours and twenty minutes which is fifty-one minutes longer than the former.
In addition, one only has to consider how people would react to the suggestion that the winner of the gentlemen's singles is a greater champion that the winner of the ladies' singles because he has played more games. Nobody would find that acceptable. They would argue that they are both the winners of their respective competitions and that it is churlish to say that one is greater that the other. One must conclude that if neither is greater than the other then they should both receive the same prize money. I am now convinced that the current state of affairs is as it should be. There is still one un-answered question, though; Given that they are rewarded with the same prize money, is there any reason why women should not play five sets?