| Paul McCartney with wife Heather watch Andy Roddick play Roger Federer in the men's semi-final on Centre Court at the All-England Club Friday. (AP)
Billie Jean King is many things, but quiet isn’t one of them. So it was no surprise to find her gushing with opinions when she finally arrived at Wimbledon on Thursday morning.
Operating on four hours’ sleep, King held a news conference touting an apparel company’s decision to make up the prize money difference between the men and women at Wimbledon. Along the way, she also held forth on Bobby Riggs, the women’s movement, Title IX and her rift with Lindsay Davenport over Davenport’s exclusion from the Federation Cup team that will play in Washington later this month.
At times she was conciliatory toward Davenport, saying they had talked over the phone on Wednesday and “ended up very good. We’re back in good form again.”
Other times, she was hurt and combative. For days, Davenport has criticised King, saying she was unsympathetic to a situation with Davenport’s mother, who is scheduled to undergo knee surgery. Davenport wanted to spend time with her mother and then join the team a day later than everyone else — still four days before competition started — but said King told her via e-mail, “don’t bother.”
King denied such an exchange on Thursday, saying Davenport never asked for the extra day. King maintained Davenport merely said her mother was having surgery and that she couldn’t participate.
“She truly hurt my feelings,” King said. “I thought it was very unfortunate and I thought it was very inappropriate she talked to (the media) before she talked to me.”
But King then added she never would permit Davenport to come to Washington at a different time than the rest of the team, noting: “I’ve already cut them a lot of slack. If you know you want to play Fed Cup, don’t you think her mother could have done that operation some other time'”
King was more positive about the prize money promotion being organised by Shock Absorber, the company best known for having Anna Kournikova endorse its sports bras. Wimbledon is one of two Grand Slams that give male competitors more prize money than female competitors; the French Open is the other. This week, Shock Absorber will make up the difference.
“This is music to my ears,” said King, noting that the men’s champion here makes about $960,000 and the women’s champion makes $893,000 — a relatively small difference. “It’s just enough to keep us discounted in the eyes of the world.”
- Open letter of protest: A group of former players and long-time journalists have sent an open letter of protest to the president of the International Tennis Federation demanding that restrictions be placed on racket head sizes. John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Boris Becker, Pat Cash, Stan Smith and Ilie Nastase were among those who told Francesco Ricci Bitti that “from the spectators’ point of view, the game has become one-dimensional so that even on fast courts 90 per cent of the matches are baseline contests.”
- Two-day meetings: After days of preparations on both sides, the Grand Slam committee started its two-day meetings with the men’s tennis tour. Officials reportedly started with the less contentious issues — such as qualifications for the Masters Cup — before getting to the hot topics of prize money and revenue sharing.