In almost every sport today, women and men compete in separate categories. Moreover, within some sports, they are divided into even more classes.
Boxers and weightlifters don’t just compete based on their gender but on their weight too.
Tennis at the professional level is divided simply into men’s and women’s events. Having said this, the ITF (International Tennis Federation) also organizes senior events.
These events are categorized by both gender and age.
The ITF even has a super-senior tour that has a category for over the 90s. With this in mind, what would be the result if men and women competed under the same category. Can female tennis players beat men?
It is incredibly unlikely that the number one ranked male player in the world would lose to the number one ranked female. At lower and junior levels, women are more likely to defeat men. Most countries don’t divide players by gender until they are teenagers.
Today I will be analyzing:
- If female pros can compete with the men
- The lessons from “The Battle of the Sexes” matches
- The advantages men have in tennis
What I’ve said does not mean that men are better at tennis than women.
The physical characteristics of men and women at the top level of tennis mean that it will be very tough for a woman to win against a man.
Can Female Pros Take On To Men Pros?
At the professional level, the closest women come to taking on men is in mixed doubles.
When playing mixed doubles, women must serve and return to the male player half of the time.
In terms of singles, there is no professional event that pits women against men for one reason. It is unfair to both the man and the woman.
In some areas, women will be naturally better. In other areas, men will.
If a typical woman and a man train flexibility to their max, the woman will still be more flexible.
The same is true for strength. The man who trains strength to the max will be stronger than the woman.
A good case study involves the Williams sisters and a now-retired former top 40 ranked German, Karsen Braasch.
During the 1998 Australian Open, Braasch, then ranked 203 in the world, beat both Serena and Venus back-to-back.
Braasch happened to be sitting in the tournament office while the girls were heard saying how they could beat any man ranked outside the top 200.
Braasch turned around and told them he was ranked 203 in the world, and they could play him if they wished.
Braasch had lost in the first round of the singles and the doubles, so he had some time to kill.
The sisters accepted his offer. He defeated 16-year-old Serena 6-1 in the set they played.
Serena said after the set that she hit shots that would have been winners on the women’s tour. She proceeded to say that at the same time next year, she could beat him.
After Serena was defeated, big sister Venus gave it a go. Unfortunately, Venus did marginally better, suffering a 6-2 defeat to Braasch.
Karsten Braasch wasn’t a typical player ranked around 200 in the world. Most players at this level train as seriously as the top 10.
They place immense importance on their diet and fitness. While Braasch was clearly a good player, it wasn’t quite like this for him.
A journalist once described Braasch as “a man whose training regime centered around a pack of cigarettes and more than a couple of bottles of ice-cold lager.”
While this may make the argument that women cannot beat men even stronger, there is more to consider.
While Serena didn’t have much luck against Braasch, she does have some good memories from competing against men.
Despite winning more grand slams than any active player today, she says one of her greatest victories was beating Andy Roddick as a junior.
If you followed tennis pre-2010, you would know who Andy Roddick is.
Roddick is no Karsten Braasch. He is a former world number 1, grand slam champion, and one of the greats of the modern game.
When she was 11-years-old Serena defeated Andy Roddick. Roddick is almost a year younger than her.
There is a small dispute over the score, but both agree that Serena won. Serena believes the score to be around 6-1 whilst Roddick says it was more like 6-4.
What Did “The Battle Of The Sexes” Thought Us?
Karsten Braasch versus the Williams sisters was not the first man vs. woman event. A far greater spectacle was the battle of the sexes trilogy.
The battle of the sexes refers to three-man vs. woman matches, two in 1973 and one in 1992.
The first exhibition match was between Bobby Riggs and Margaret Court.
In 1973, Riggs claimed that despite being 55 years old, he could still defeat any top player on the women’s tour.
When he played Margaret Court, she was 30-years-old and in the prime of her career. She was about to be crowned year-end number one for the seventh time.
Riggs won the match decisively, beating Court 6-2, 6-1.
Riggs didn’t humbly accept his win and returned to retirement. Instead, he proceeded to taunt other female tennis players.
Due to his renewed fame, ABC offered him and Billie Jean King the opportunity to compete against each other in a prime-time televised match.
The winner would receive $100,000 in prize money. This is worth over $600,000 in 2021.
In 1973, King would finish as world number 2, behind Court.
The match was won by King 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. Following King’s victory, critics began to change the topic by describing the match not as a test of gender but as a test of age.
Billie Jean King was 26 years younger than Riggs.
There are theories that Riggs threw the match to pay off his gambling debts. In addition, it is alleged that he placed several bets against himself.
The biggest lesson to take from the battle of the sexes is that many factors affect a tennis match beyond just gender.
A 55-year-old retired male tennis player can be beaten by a top-level woman but lose to another.
The first battle of the sexes match was much lower key than the second. Perhaps this affected Riggs’ performance.
This video provides a good analysis of the case of man vs. woman in tennis – Four times that men and women faced off in tennis.
What Advantage Do Men Have In Tennis?
There are several reasons adult men have an advantage over women. The two key factors, I believe, are height and strength.
Use this as a comparison. The fastest recognized serve hit by a man was 157.2 mph. This serve was hit by John Isner in a 2016 Davis Cup match.
Sabine Lisicki holds the fastest recognized serve on the women’s tour at 131 mph.
A man’s fastest recorded serve is 20% faster than a woman’s! If you look at the top 30 fastest serves recorded by men, they are all higher than Lisicki’s.
John Isner is 6 feet and 10 inches tall. Sabine Lisicki is 5 feet and 10 inches tall.
Obviously, the difference here is substantial, but as men are generally taller, it gives them a more extreme angle to contact the ball.
Both Lisicki and Isner will train similarly. Their gym programs will be designed to suit explosive strength and high-intensity interval training as this is tennis specific.
Despite this, a typical man will be able to train their strength to a higher level than a typical woman.
How is it possible that the great Serena Williams could lose to a cigarette smoking, casual drinking Karsten Braasch but defeat Andy Roddick?
The answer is simple. The playing field was more even. When Serena beat Roddick, they were prepubescent children.
The biological differences between males and females in sports are not as defined before they are teenagers.
I can confidently say that Andy Roddick, in his prime, would defeat Serena Williams at her best.
What do you think? Is it possible for the number 1 ranked woman to defeat the number 1 ranked man?