Men’s vs Women’s Tennis: What Are The Differences?

It’s common to see men and women playing tennis at the tennis club, and the sport is generally not dominated by one gender or the other like other sports can be. Men and women even play together on the same team when they’re playing mixed doubles. 

However, there are some differences in the games that fans may notice when they tune in or go watch matches live, and we’ll answer common questions that fans may have below. 

Do They Play On Different Sized Courts?

Men and women do not play on different-sized courts. Although there are two sets of width lines on a tennis court, they’re not designed for men or women, but rather for singles versus doubles.

The wider of the two rectangles are used to play a doubles match to give more room for two people per side to move around without bumping into each other or whacking one another with their rackets. You can read more about the tennis lines in this post.

Similar to soccer, basketball, and most other sports, female tennis players play in the same sized playing areas as their male counterparts. 

Do They Spent A Different Amount of Time Playing?

Apart from the Grand Slams, men and women spent the same amount of time playing.

In the four Grand Slams (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open), the men play a best-of-five format, whereas the women play a best-of-three format. However, in many other professional matches, men also play best-of-three. 

There are pros and cons to both types of matches. Playing in three sets takes less stamina overall, but there is also less time to recoup from a mistake or learn your opponent’s tells in order to gain an advantage. 

Playing up to five sets provides more entertainment for the fans and allows more time for great comebacks. The five-set format also puts an intense amount of strain on the players’ bodies, and even though elite tennis players take the best care possible of themselves, the best-of-five format causes what some feel is undue stress on the male players. 

The debate of whether or not to change this format generally isn’t focused on making the women also endure the gauntlet of a best-of-five format but instead suggests that the men play fewer sets as they do in those other tournaments.

However, opponents of this change state that the Grand Slams are the only tournament to use best-of-five and that they should thus have a higher standard to keep them unique and elite. 

This is an ongoing conversation but, at least for now, and at least in some tournaments, men do spend more time playing than women. 

Do They Use Different Equipment?

Men and women use the same type of equipment, however, men tend to go for heavier racquets. What a tennis player needs, at the most basic level, is a ball to hit, a racket to hit it with, and a net to hit in over. In men’s and women’s tennis, these three key ingredients are the same…mostly. 

In some tournaments, women’s tennis balls have a slightly different amount of felt on the outside in an attempt to make the women’s game’s play faster and compensate for the generally slower serve speed.

However, the balls have the same size, shape, and pressure, and many tournaments choose not to distinguish at all between women’s and men’s balls. 

The net remains the same height no matter who is playing, whether that be in a singles’ match, a doubles’ match, or a mixed doubles’ match. 

Rackets are quite literally the tennis player’s weapon with which they do battle, and as such, the choice of racket is incredibly personal, and when picking out a racket, there are many factors the player takes into consideration. 

But gender isn’t one of them. Despite the pink design, you may find in your local sporting goods store, there are no fundamental or regulatory differences in men’s and women’s rackets. 

Do They Have Different Dress Codes?

Men and Women have different dress codes for tennis. Tennis fashion has long been a big part of the game, and it’s been embroiled with lots of controversies. Traditionally, women have played in skirts or dresses while men play in shorts. 

But that is changing, at least in some venues. In 2018, Serena Williams caused an uproar when she dared wear a compression “catsuit” at the French Open that some saw as disrespectful to the game. 

The Women’s Tennis Association has since updated its dress code to explicitly include certain types of clothing for its players, but those rules only apply to WTA events. The Grand Slams are subject to their own rules. 

Wimbledon is notorious for its strict dress code for men and women, mostly in regards to the players having to wear all white, including white undergarments. However, while the rule book doesn’t explicitly state that women have to wear a skirt or dress, it does say that they have to wear “suitable tennis attire.”

The vagueness of that statement in a very specific dress code allows for interpretation, as some people may only think it is “suitable” for women to be dressed in skirts or dresses whilst serving at an average of 105 miles per hour or charging all-around a tennis court. 

The other Grand Slams have similarly vague statements, and Serena’s famous catsuit apparently violated the sensibilities of the higher-ups at Roland Garros. Many female tennis players choose to wear something they could feebly defend as a skirt if pressed, but due to the length, they’re not covering up the women’s legs like the ankle-length skirts of old. 

While men are sometimes cited for their style choices, women who play tennis are much more heavily regulated, although there is no telling what would happen if a male player wore a skirt to the French Open. 

You can read more about what tennis players wear in this post.

Do They Have The Same Governing Body?

Men’s tennis is governed by the ATP, or Association of Tennis Professionals, and it was established in 1972. The WTA, which is the Women’s Tennis Association, was founded a year later in 1973 by famed tennis player Billie Jean King in order to further the interests of female tennis players. 

Both men and women are subject to governance by the ITF, or International Tennis Federation, and the four Grand Slams, all of which have their own governance boards.

The ATP and WTA put on their own tournaments and matches and are completely separate entities. However, in 2020, discussions began about merging the two into a single organization.

The main driver between this merger seems to be the ability to combine marketing and broadcasting efforts to bring a larger number of tennis matches to more fans and secure marketing deals with sponsors. However, there are some small rule changes between the WTA and the ATP which would have to be ironed out if the merger were to move forward. 

More Power and Aces In Men’s Tennis

When it comes to tennis, there are two genders playing essentially the same game. Of course, there are generalizations across the genders that are then broken by the opposite gender. 

The most pertinent example would be that men have more powerful serves and rely on them to win aces more often than women, but there are, of course, men who rely much more on their returning shots or longer volleys to win, and very few can deny the power of Serena Williams‘ and Naomi Osaka’s serves. 

The differences in tennis are largely down to organizational management and time on the court, but when two tennis players line up against each other, male or female, there’s still a rush of excitement as the player tosses the ball into the air and swings their racket as hard as they can, hoping to win a point.

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  1. Why is there a money difference between men and women? Why isn’t everything equal for both. What does the clothing have to do with the way that tennis is played by both semesters? Men wear long shorts and golf shirts but women have to wear skirts, or sorts or a full outfit. Why can women wear clothing with no sleeves and men can’t? With he way the clothing line is between men and women, the women are exploited. Hardly fair. Men have all loose clothing and women have extremely short and tight clothing. Again, totally unfair. So much is different between men and women in sports and it’s very unfair. I am a sports fanatic but won’t watch a lot of them because so much is unfair. Why can’t all sports be even, regardless the sport? I am curious to see if anyone writes me back about any of this.

    1. The money difference seems to come down to what it does in a lot of sports; spectators and revenue. Women’s tennis simply does not have the number of viewers or the measured commitment of viewers (where fans identify as casual or serious) as men’s tennis does (on average; obviously we know that particularly recent games of Serena’s have drawn some of the highest viewing numbers). This is changing as younger generations pay more attention to women’s tennis, including men; but statistically even women still prefer watching men’s tennis and this is perhaps the most important group whom’s interests we need to change as they can relate more to the players on court.

      Beyond that we need to consider the evolutionary biology and behavioural science (those determinants that either helped form social norms or will continue to remain independent of them) as to whether we’ll ever see equal spectatorship and levels of interest between the two.

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