Prime minister in favor of equal pay

When players aren't being asked questions about Andre Agassi, they are being asked to give their thoughts on the disparity in prize money between the men's and women's champions.

Updated: June 29, 2006, 5:46 AM ET

PRIZE MONEY DEBATE HEATS UP

WIMBLEDON, England -- Amelie Mauresmo didn't lose a game and needed just 39 minutes to beat Ivana Abramovic. Venus Williams was done with Bethanie Mattek in less than an hour, dropping one game. After Maria Sharapova beat Anna Smashnova 6-2, 6-0, the Russian was asked whether winning in such easy fashion made it more difficult to argue for equal pay between men and women at Wimbledon -- one of two Grand Slam tournaments not to offer equal pay.

"This is only the first round," Sharapova said. "I mean, this is grass. If you have a player that loves to run around the baseline and hit high balls over the net, if you can step in, you're not going to see a very long match."

The men's singles champion will earn $1.189 million compared with the $1.135 million for the women's singles winner. Overall prize money in the men's singles draw is $6.5 million, nearly $1 million more than the women will receive ($5.56 million).

On Sunday, men's top seed and three-time defending champion Roger Federer somewhat dismissed the disparity by saying, "Well, I don't think the players, we pay too much attention, if it's now 20,000 pounds different you win the title. If you make 400,000 pounds, if you make 420 or 400, I don't think it really makes a lot of difference. It's a lot of money."

Yes, it is a lot of money, and yes, it does make a difference. Three-time Wimbledon champion John McEnroe believes there should be equal prize money, an opinion Venus Williams appreciates.

"I understand he has four daughters, also," Williams said of McEnroe after her win Wednesday. "I think if he were ever to see his four daughters do anything, in tennis or secularly in the workplace, anywhere in the world, he'd want them to be treated just as well as his sons. So I think he understands that.

"It's very nice to have a world champion like him, someone who has a respected opinion, to speak up on the women's behalf. I have a lot of respect for him. I'd actually like to say a big thank you to him if I get to see him. If not, please write it in the paper. Thank you, John.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair was asked in Parliament whether he was aware that 30 years after his Labor Party introduced the equal pay act, the women's winner at Wimbledon was getting less than the winner of the men's singles. Pressed by fellow Laborite Janet Anderson, Blair said he backed the equal pay campaign. "I endorse it fully," he told deputies.

Reuters contributed to this report.

DAY 4 PREVIEW


No. 10 Fernando Gonzalez vs. Marat Safin
There will be no shortage of power in this second-round clash. Both Gonzalez and Safin had impressive straight-sets wins in the first round. Safin knocked off big-serving Brit Greg Rusedski, and Gonzalez defeated Luis Horna. Gonzalez was a quarterfinalist at the All England Club last year -- the first Chilean in 20 years to make it that far -- before falling to eventual champion Roger Federer. Safin, on the other hand, was upset in the third round by Feliciano Lopez. The Russian had a remarkable 43 winners while committing just nine unforced errors in the opening round. Safin and Gonzalez played one month ago in the first round at the French Open. Gonzalez won that match in four sets but trails 2-1 in their career head-to-head matches.

No. 25 Andre Agassi vs. Andreas Seppi
After a difficult start, Agassi found his stroke in his first-round win over Boris Pashanski. His opponent in the second round will be Seppi, who is coming off his second career Grand Slam match win, in the opening round. Seppi enters Wimbledon coming off his second career tour-level semifinal appearance, at Nottingham last week. If Agassi prevails, he will tie Ivan Lendl with 222 career Grand Slam match wins, second most in the Open era to Jimmy Connors (233).

No. 2 Rafael Nadal vs. Robert Kendrick
Nadal, the French Open champion, looked grass-court savvy in his first-round win over Alex Bogdanovic. Nadal won in straight sets, winning 19 of 25 points at the net. To put that in perspective, he came to net just 13 times in his 4-hour, 53-minute third-round win at the French Open vs. Paul-Henri Mathieu. With a win, Nadal will match his career-best result at Wimbledon by reaching the third round. Nadal's next opponent will be American qualifier Kendrick, who is coming off his first career Grand Slam match win.

No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo vs. Samantha Stosur
Mauresmo plays her second-round match one day after not dropping a game in the first round. Unfortunately for the Australian, Stosur played Mauresmo earlier this year at the Nasdaq-100 and lost both sets at love. As a matter of fact, they have played three times and Stosur has won seven games. Last season, Mauresmo -- who won her first career Grand Slam title earlier this season in Australia -- reached the semifinals at Wimbledon for the third time.

Williams, who's in the same quarter of the bracket as Mauresmo, also plays her second match in consecutive days. As with the Frenchwoman, it shouldn't hinder Williams, who dropped only one game in the opening round vs. Bethanie Mattek. Williams looked at home in her first match, hitting nearly three times as many winners as unforced errors. Raymond is a savvy veteran, having first played at Wimbledon in 1993. Her best result came in 2000, when she reached the quarterfinals before falling to Serena Williams. Raymond has played Venus Williams five times, winning once in Australia two years ago.

No. 15 Daniela Hantuchova vs. Jamea Jackson

This will be one of the more intriguing matchups of the day. Hantuchova -- once the No. 5 player in the world -- takes on up and coming American Jamea Jackson. The Slovakian, Hantuchova, reached the fourth rounds at the Australian Open and the French Open this year having previously failed to advance that far in any Grand Slam in the last three years.

She struggled in her first match, needing three sets to get by Maria Elena Camerin. Hantuchova committed 31 unforced errors in that match but prevailed 6-1 in the third.

Jamea Jackson might be the future of American women's tennis. The 19-year old won her first-round match in three sets. She is coming off the most impressive tournament of her career last week at Birmingham where she lost to Vera Zvonareva in the final.




PHOTO OF THE DAY
Bethanie Mattek
Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images
There was more talk about American Bethanie Mattek's outfit than her tennis Wednesday, as the American won just one game against Venus Williams. | Fashion disaster

STAT OF THE DAY
2 -- The number of players who have won Wimbledon back-to-back years without being seeded No. 1. Billie Jean King did it in 1972-73, both years as the No. 2 seed; and Venus Williams won in 2000 as the No. 5 seed and 2001 seeded No. 2. (Williams -- who won Wimbledon last year seeded 14th -- is the No. 6 seed this year.)
LUKE'S LOCKS
Each day, ESPN roving reporter Luke Jensen will give his picks for the notable matches of the day. After three days, Jensen is 112-39 overall. On Thursday, Jensen is going out on a limb saying American Robert Kendrick is going to upset the No. 2 seed, Rafael Nadal.

MEN'S NOTABLE MATCHES
Kendrick upsets Nadal
Ljubicic beats Gimelstob
Safin upsets Gonzalez
Agassi beats Seppi
Fish beats Van Gemerden

WOMEN'S NOTABLE MATCHES:
Jackson upsets Hantuchova
Washington upsets Safina
Williams beats Raymond
Sharapova beats Harkleroad
Perry beats South

QUOTE OF THE DAY
When asked for her thoughts about the prize money issue at Wimbledon, Maria Sharapova said, "… it would be kind of stupid of me to say I don't want equal prize money."

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