By Chris Rattue
Novak Djokovic exudes the persona of a narrow character, a man zooming through a tunnel of extreme dedication, ruthless planning and success. And now he sounds as blinkered as he looks.
The finely groomed Serbian tennis maestro has roared past the extraordinary Roger Federer and the running machine Rafael Nadal in a wonderful era for the men’s game. But Djokovic is no Muhammad Ali when it comes to landing a few clever blows for social issues, in this case gender equality.
Maybe all we deserve in these days of user-pays fanaticism and CEOs who qualify as small economies is a world No 1 in one of the world’s most popular sports who looks at women’s tennis and sees nothing to love.
Blokes get more viewers, blokes should get more money, said Djokovic. Prizemoney should be “fairly distributed” to the men’s game which “attracts more attention, spectators and who sell more tickets” he told the planet with a right-wing bookkeeper’s zeal.
There are arguments and numbers for and against Djokovic’s claim. But there are also wider arguments around making sacrifices – if that’s what is involved here – for the greater good. And a man as rich as Djokovic is in a great position to make them.
The whole idea that “fair distribution” of resources should reflect who is allegedly better than someone else is the narrow, self-interested view that has created such a huge gap between a few haves and a load of have-nots in many societies. We want more and to get it, you deserve less.
As it turns out, Djokovic earns about twice as much prizemoney each year as tennis queen Serena Williams. But old Dosh-ovic appeared disinterested in wider angles that could slow the progress of a career prize pool that stands, rather tall, at $143 million.
Actually, tennis is one of the few sports in which the women’s game has been, at times, a raging success capable of overshadowing the men. It might actually be the only one, and it is hard to completely disentangle how the the men’s and women’s games influence and bolster each other no matter how easily Djokovic feels he can figure it out.
Women’s tennis is at a bit of a low ebb right now, because there aren’t any great rivalries unless you count Williams beating up the drugged-up Maria Sharapova. But women’s tennis has a magnificent history and remains extremely high profile.
There are further intangibles to consider. Nadal may have indeed pulled in more punters than Sharapova, maybe. But I’d rather watch Williams squashing Sharapova (apart from the Russian’s idiotic shrieking) than Nadal running another one of his boring marathons on clay.