Serena Williams – “Every Female Athlete is Ready To Play Five Sets”

Published 07/21/2019, 1:58 PM EDT
Serena Williams


The format of Grand Slam matches, with men playing best of five sets and the women playing best of three sets has been followed since the inception of Grand Slam tournaments. In regard to this difference, Serena Williams believes that women can also play best of five sets matches at majors.

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The US Open editions from 1891 – 1901 (except for 1893) inculcated the tradition of best of five sets in the woman’s domain, and during those years, the title matches between the women went up to five-sets. 

“I think one of the things about that argument, the reason I think it’s null, is because we have said we’re willing and ready,” World Number nine, Serena Williams said in reference to the incorporation of the five-set format in the women’s game. “I think every female athlete is ready to play five sets. Actually, the tournaments have said, no, we like you guys playing three sets. I don’t think it’s a fair argument at all.”

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Serena Williams

Considering the response which Serena Williams got from the organizers, the tournament directors not interested in conducting long matches since they do not gain majorly out of it. The scheduling of the matches also becomes tedious when lengthy matches take place.

Moreover, ATP and WTA are concerned with the marketability of tennis. The prolonged matches lead to chaos in the broadcasting schedule of the matches. As data shows, there are more tennis fans in the world who follow men’s tennis than the women’s game, and hence, for commercial reasons the television networks will not be interested in paying for a five-set match broadcast for the ladies.

The women’s tour practiced the best of five sets practice from 1984 to 1998, in the year-ending tournament (which is the WTA Finals). The format was discontinued due to poor televisions ratings and scheduling of the matches. These facts sum up the reasons behind the negative response which Serena Williams received from tournament organizers. 

The ATP men slam aces every now and then during their service games, and most of the times, the server comes up with a winner after a three-shot rally, consequently, the server swiftly wraps up his game by holding his serve. Whereas, the women tend to play long rallies or the number of shots played per rally are more than that of men and it eventually increases the match duration time.

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Relatively, in the women’s game, the practice of holding the serves is highly inconsistent and hence the games can go either way, to the server or to the returner. In a nutshell, the game duration of women is more than that of men, and the men outnumber women in terms of number games played. 

Simona Halep

Lastly, in a physical sport like tennis, fitness matters the most. The women tennis players of this era are fitter than ever, both physically and mentally, but when it comes to a five-set match in Grand Slams for women, it’s a different ball game.

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For instance, Simona Halep played long matches to earn her Australian Open 2018 finals ticket and she was exhausted in the third set which she played against Caroline Wozniacki in the championship match, and later she was admitted in the hospital due to dehydration, and beyond the shadows of doubt, she one of the fittest tennis players on the women’s tour.

Although the WTA players get more than 24 hours of rest between matches during major tournaments, long matches eventually deteriorate their performance or their level of play when they make their progress further into the tournament.

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Mahalakshmi Murali

1907 articles

Mahalakshmi Murali joined EssentiallySports in 2018 as a tennis author and has gone on to pen more than 1800 engaging articles, probing into various aspects of the sport and its illustrious players. With her expertise on the sport, Mahalakshmi has interviewed stalwarts from the sport such as Serena WIlliams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou and Kevin Anderson’s physio, Carlos Costa. Equipped with her vast experience and a keen understanding of the sport, Mahalakshmi now co-heads the tennis department.

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