WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND (AP) - Roger Federer avoided wading into the subject of equal prize money for men and women at Grand Slams events.
After his second-round victory at Wimbledon on Wednesday, Federer was asked about comments by 13th-seeded Gilles Simon of France, who is on the ATP Player Council and said men should be paid more than women at tennis tournaments.
"I hope it doesn't become a big issue during Wimbledon. It's obviously a debate that's out there ever since, I guess, the Slams have made equal prize money. There's nothing you can do, anyway, about it," Federer replied.
"It's just a matter of who believes what, and then that is an endless debate. So whatever you believe," he continued.
Simon told reporters at Wimbledon in French that he thinks "men's tennis is ahead of women's tennis" and "men spend twice as long on court as women do at Grand Slams."
He also said men "provide a more attractive show" in their matches.
All four Grand Slam tournaments pay equal prize money to men and women, something Simon said he doesn't think "works in sports."
In a statement released Wednesday via a WTA spokesman, the CEO of the women's tour, Stacey Allaster, said: "Tennis, including the Grand Slams, is aligned with our modern, progressive society when it comes to the principle of equality. I can't believe in this day and age that anyone can still think otherwise. This type of thinking is exactly why the WTA was founded and we will always fight for what's right."
The All England Club began paying women the same as men in 2007, one year after the French Open started giving the same prize money to the men's and women's singles champions. The other two Grand Slam tournaments, the U.S. Open and Australian Open, already had been doing that for years.
When Wimbledon started paying players when the professional Open era came in 1968, women's champion Billie Jean King took home a little more than a third of what was earned by men's champion Rod Laver.
"It's always been talked about, but we (have) different physiques, as well. I think we earn our money, as well," 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic said after winning in three sets Wednesday. "I mean, I was out there 2 1/2 hours today."
At the Grand Slam tournaments, men play best-of-five-set matches; women play best-of-three.
At most other events, all matches for both genders are best-of-three.
"It is tough for the guys, especially at Wimbledon, because it's five sets. At all the other tournaments it should be the same," said Heather Watson, the first British woman since 2002 to reach the third round at the All England Club. "We play the same amount of sets and have to work just as hard."
Simon was elected last weekend to a two-year term on the ATP Player Council. Federer, a 16-time Grand Slam champion, was elected to a third term.
Similar to Federer, U.S. Open champion Sam Stosur called the topic "a debate that's never going to finish."
But she also took a stance on equal pay.
"I think we deserve it. I think people come out and watch us play because they want to watch us play. I think there are a bunch of men's matches that go five (sets) that are pretty boring to watch, as well. It's not like a best-of-five match is better than a best-of-three, I don't think," Stosur said.
"I don't think the duration means it's better," she added. "You want good quality."
One female player asked about Simon's comments, 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens, said: "I don't care what he says about anything. He hit me with a ball the first time I was a ballkid. He hit me in the chest, because he lost a point and lost the set. He turned around and slammed the ball with his racket and hit me ... and I've never spoken to him since then."
Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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