Why WTA players prefer men’s game? Social constructs plague tennis.


In a world where male characteristics are often perceived as superior, tennis reflects this trend. Diane from Women Who Serve guides us through the intricate realm of gender perceptions in this sport. By shedding light on moments where even WTA players show a preference for men’s tennis, we uncover the deep-seated social constructs shaping these perspectives. Join us as we delve into this complex topic, challenging traditional assumptions in the world of tennis.

Hailey Baptiste
Hailey Baptiste

In 2022, young American WTA player Hailey Baptiste, in an interview in Charleston, told Pam Shriver that every shot in tennis was executed better by ATP players. (She also revealed that she’d named her pet after one of the ATP’s kings of sexism–a man who was given a pass throughout his career for that sexism.) No one noticed. Well, I did, and I reported on it, but Baptiste was/is hardly a tennis household name.

Now world number 2 Aryna Sabalenka has revealed that she prefers to watch men’s tennis; she stated that there was more strategy in the men’s game and that she finds it more interesting to watch. Now three (so far) camps have formed on X: those who think that Sabalenka has betrayed the WTA, those who think that it’s ridiculous to ever watch women’s tennis, and those who think that women’s tennis is fine, but that it’s more exciting to watch players who are faster and stronger.

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka

The second camp has always been with us and always will be. But, as I said to someone in the third camp (and yes, it was a total waste of my time to say it), the belief that stronger and faster, i.e. male attributes, are “better” is a a product of socialization. What if we were taught that crafty and flexible were “better”? Or that the greatest skill lies in playing while sitting down and rolling on wheels?

The second camp (and perhaps some in the third) rely on the “a man could beat Serena Williams” argument. Well, duh. Men are physically stronger–haven’t they heard? The reason that I hated the Battle of the Sexes and wish that Billie Jean King had never participated in it is that it promoted the idea that tennis is tennis, when actually, men’s and women’s tennis are very different from one another. King shouldn’t have had to defeat a man to prove that she was an elite athlete. Yet the same people who like to remind us that men and women are different seem to forget that when it comes to sport.

I wish that Sabalenka hadn’t said what she said, but she’s never had much of an editor, so it wasn’t a surprise. I’ve never believed that stronger and faster is “better;” my favorite player of all time to watch was Aga Radwanska. I appreciate and enjoy (most of the time) hard hitting, but I don’t consider it to be superior hitting.

I used to watch a lot of ATP matches, but I don’t now–not because of the tennis–which I enjoy–but because so many of the players are so sexist, and I don’t enjoy watching people who consider me inferior.

The Sabalenka comment will be a thing for a while, and then fans and so-called fans will move on to something else. But the belief that male attributes are always superior to female attributes will, I’m afraid, not fade away.

How do you perceive the differences between men’s and women’s tennis? Do you believe that societal norms influence these perceptions, or do individual preferences play a greater role? Tell us in the comments below.


  1. I prefer to watch women’s tennis because there is a bit less brute strength and a bit more finesse. Watching guys ace each other into the ground is just boring. I also like watching doubles for the same reason, although it is hardly ever shown.

  2. It is just watching women play is her job! Women tennis is so much better unless it is your job! This is what Aryna means.

  3. There are currently 4 ATP players facing domestic abuse accusations : Alexander Zverev, Thiago Seyboth Wild, Nick Kyrgios and Nikoloz Basilashvili… Just saying…

  4. Womens tennis players have been told for years their product is inferior to the mens. This is demonstrated by less media coverage, less prime time tv coverage, less stadium time, etc. There is no real barometer to what it means to be ‘inferior’- by virtue of being women, female tennis players are simply seen as less deserving. It’s difficult not to absorb and internalise this message, and I wonder whether this goes some way in explaining Baptiste’s and Sabalenka’s responses.

    By criticising their female peers, male tennis players do a gross disservice to the sport, particularly to young children who have not yet learnt that ‘womens tennis is inferior’. I for one stopped supporting mens tennis because I was sick and tired of their criticism of the womens tour- unfounded, illogical arguments based on their own privilege and ego. Andy Murray is the only player I can think of who looks beyond these tired, outdated views on womens tennis and really appreciates and values the contribution made to the sport by female athletes.

  5. Even though women have gone far in their fight for equality, there is still a lot of work to be done. We still live in a men’s world, a world built by men for men, and women have to adapt. As Diane clearly explained in this article, male characteristics are viewed as inherently superior.

    Even though women’s tennis has achieved unprecedented success in women’s sports, the battle is not over and WTA players should not get relaxed in enjoying the benefits that Billie Jean King and others fought so hard for. That being said, the comment of Aryna Sabalenka is not very wise, especially since she’s earning a living from women’s tennis. It’s one thing when male players criticize women’s tennis, but why do women saw off the branch they’re sitting on?

    And Sabalenka is not the only one. Commenting on Garbine Muguruza’s retirement, none other than world No.1 Iga Swiatek commented: “I never really had anyone on the WTA to follow, so Garbine was one of them for a while, until I started playing on the Tour, as it was pretty rare to be a crazy fan of anyone.”

  6. I’m not clear why sabalenka wouldn’t fight harder to promote womens sports. I always find it disappointing when WTA players talk about not having any female role models or players they look(ed) up to. On the ATP, it’s so common for the male players to name Federer, Nadal, Djokovic as their idols. However, I also don’t think we should ‘normalise’ male tennis players criticising the women- I see
    this as equally as egregious, if not more so, than female players criticising the sport. It is incredibly irresponsible for any professional male athlete to criticise their colleagues, particularly in the fight for equal pay. Tennis has the power to challenge so many stereotypes, thereby elevating the sport globally. Yet, so many male players refuse to do so, which then in turn impacts the sport as a whole.

  7. I’m afraid that the new generation of players doesn’t truly understand the courage, risk and power it took for the women’s tennis players of the past to take the sport where it is today and they don’t understand that the fight is not over! The top players are too relaxed in enjoying their good paychecks, not realizing that nothing is set in stone and that the status could easily be taken away if the strategic and smart moves are not continuously being made.

  8. Men are better in most sports where physical attributes like height, weight reach, speed, etc., are critical. It doesn’t mean they are mentally tougher, smarter, more creative, etc,, which usually figure in sports as well. But Martina once said that the best women players would have trouble against the top 100 players because of the physical differences, which are very important in tennis. Now Billie Jean, as I recall, led the premise that that should make no difference to determining prize money, which I believe is is made up of money spent by the audience at the venue and importantly the television contracts. If women bring in as much audience and tv viewers, they should get paid as much as the men do. I think the tennis world agreed with that and so do I. The old rule applies — follow the money.


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