Venus, Serena Williams join Billie Jean King equal pay push

Getty Images
0 Comments

A day before playing in the 2005 final at the All England Club, Venus Williams addressed a meeting of the Grand Slam Board, urging Wimbledon and the French Open to offer equal pay to male and female players.

“I said: `All of our hearts beat the same. When your eyes are closed, you really can’t tell, next to you, who’s a man and who’s a woman.’ And (I asked them) to think about their daughters and their wives and sisters. How would they like them to be treated?” Williams recalled. “Sometimes, we lose track of, and don’t even realize, our own bias and our own prejudice. And we have to confront ourselves.”

The following afternoon, she won one of her seven major singles championships. About 1+ years later, Wimbledon announced it would, indeed, offer the same prize money to men and women in all rounds of the tournament, and the French Open soon followed suit, eliminating the pay gap at the four majors.

Now, Williams and her sister, Serena, are adding their names and voices to the push for equal pay across all types of jobs that the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative (BJKLI) is championing.

The two current tennis stars are joining the advisory board of the group founded by the former player, and Tuesday’s announcement was timed to coincide with Equal Pay Day, which approximates how far into a new year a woman must work to earn what a man made by the previous Dec. 31.

“Venus, in particular, helped us get equal prize money in the majors. She was amazing. She really got Wimbledon to make the big step,” King said in a telephone interview. “Venus has always had the courage to step up. And Serena’s the same way. They step up. I mean, Serena is not afraid to say whatever is on her mind.”

Added King: “They’ve been through a lot themselves, so they totally understand what’s going on. The two of them have transcended sports. The BJKLI is not about sports. It’s about every industry. To try to get equal pay for equal work, and that means across the board, from CEOs down to entry level.”

Her group was formed in 2014, and other advisory board members include 2003 U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick, former NBA player Jason Collins, singer Elton John and CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

It was a pretty easy sell for King to add the Williams siblings, owners of a combined 30 Grand Slam singles titles, along with another 14 they’ve won together in doubles.

“We always put our hands up for Billie. We love her. She has a tremendous history, not just in women’s tennis, but in leading rights for people, in general, no matter who they were,” Venus Williams said. “Billie could be at the point in her life now where she could say, `Hey, I’m going to sit back and enjoy my life.’ But she’s still working hard for others. And that’s a prime example for every single person. Your work on this earth never ends, as long as there is inequality.”

King, for her part, looks at the Williams sisters as among those who can carry on the work she started decades ago.

“I am in my 70s, so I am looking to younger people to take up the mill as I phase out over time,” King said. “I’ve got energy right now, so we’re teeing everything up so we’re in great shape for the legacy of the BJKLI, because I want it to have a life after I’m out of here.”

 

Fernando Verdasco accepts 2-month doping ban

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

LONDON – Former top-10 player Fernando Verdasco accepted a voluntary provisional doping suspension of two months after testing positive for a medication for ADHD, the International Tennis Integrity Agency announced.

Verdasco, who turned 39 this month, said he was taking methylphenidate as medication prescribed by his doctor to treat ADHD but forgot to renew his therapeutic use exemption for the drug. The integrity agency said Verdasco has now been granted an exemption by the World Anti-Doping Agency moving forward.

He tested positive at an ATP Challenger tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in February.

The integrity agency said in a news release that it “accepts that the player did not intend to cheat, that his violation was inadvertent and unintentional, and that he bears no significant fault or negligence for it,” and so what could have been a two-year suspension was reduced to two months.

Verdasco will be eligible to compete on Jan. 8.

The Spaniard is a four-time Grand Slam quarterfinalist, reaching that stage most recently in 2013 at Wimbledon, where he blew a two-set lead in a five-set loss to eventual champion Andy Murray.

Verdasco reached a career-best ranking of No. 7 in April 2009 and currently is No. 125.

Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov give Canada 1st Davis Cup title

Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

MALAGA, Spain — Felix Auger-Aliassime fell to his back behind the baseline, then waited for teammates to race off Canada’s bench and pile on top of him.

A few minutes later, the Canadians finally could lift the Davis Cup.

“I think of us all here, we’ve dreamt of this moment,” Auger-Aliassime said.

Canada won the title for the first time, beating Australia behind victories from Denis Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime.

Auger-Aliassime secured the winning point when he downed Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-4 after Shapovalov opened the day by rolling past Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-2, 6-4.

Seven years after leading Canada to the top of junior tennis, Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov and their teammates finally got to lift the biggest team trophy in their sport.

“We wanted to grow up and be part of the team and try to help the country win the first title,” Shapovalov said, “so everything is just so surreal right now.”

Shapovalov had dropped both his singles matches this week and needed treatment on his back during a three-set loss in the semifinals to Lorenzo Sonego of Italy that lasted 3 hours, 15 minutes. But the left-hander moved quickly around the court, setting up angles to put away winners while racing to a 4-0 lead in the first set.

Auger-Aliassime then finished off his superb second half of the season by completing a perfect week in Spain. He twice had kept the Canadians alive after Shapovalov dropped the opening singles match, and he replaced his weary teammate to join Vasek Pospisil for the decisive doubles point.

This time, Auger-Aliassime made sure the doubles match wouldn’t even be necessary. After his teammates poured onto the court to celebrate with him, they got up and danced around in a circle.

Canada had reached the final only once, falling to host Spain in Madrid in 2019, when Rafael Nadal beat Shapovalov for the clinching point after Auger-Aliassime had lost in the opening match.

But with Auger-Aliassime having since surged up the rankings to his current spot at No. 6, the Canadians are a much more formidable team now. They won the ATP Cup in January and finally added the Davis Cup crown to the junior Davis Cup title Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov led them to in 2015.

Australia was trying for its 29th title and first since current captain Lleyton Hewitt was part of the title-winning team in 2003.

But it was finally time for the Canadians, who were given a wild card into the field when Russia was suspended because of its invasion of Ukraine.

“Look, I think we were very close today,” de Minaur said. “Just wait until the next time we get the same matchup. Hopefully we can get the win and prove that we can do it.”

But Canada will be tough to beat as long as Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov play.

Shapovalov is just 23 and Auger-Aliassime 22, but both already have been Grand Slam semifinalists and Auger-Aliassime ended 2022 as one of the hottest players on the ATP Tour. He won all of his four titles this year, including three straight weeks in October.

He also beat Carlos Alcaraz in the previous Davis Cup stage in September, just after the Spaniard had won the U.S. Open to rise to No. 1 in the rankings. That victory helped send the Canadians into the quarterfinals, which they started this week by edging Germany.

“They’re not kids anymore, that’s for sure. Not after today – well not after the last couple of years,” said Pospisil, the team veteran at 32. “They’ve been crushing it.”