Women athletes are closing the gender gap

Women athletes are closing the gender gap

About a month ago at the Bank of the West Classic, Germany’s Sabine Lisicki served a ball 211km/h — the fastest ever recorded in women’s tennis. In fact not just for women, Lisicki’s record-setting serve — which broke Venus Williams’ mark of 207km/h — is faster than any serve Roger Federer has hit in 2014.

Lisicki, actually lost in the third round of the US Open to Maria Sharapova, but was around long enough to blast the speediest serve of any woman at this year’s US Open 199km/h. Just a mite slower than the best effort in the Open of top men’s seed Novak Djokovic 201km/h and equal to or better than the fastest serves of at least 29 men, including seeded players like Kei Nishikori, Richard Gasquet, David Ferrer, Guillermo García-López, and Mikhail Youzhny.

Serena Williams’ top serve at this year’s Open 196km/h which outpaced Ferrer’s serve of191 km/h, García-López 190km/h, and Youzhny 188km/h.

And women are competing with the men on average first-serve speed as well.

Serena Williams’ average speed of 174km/h in her quarter-final against Flavia Pennetta was better than that of No. 12 men’s seed Gasquet’s 167km/h in his third-round loss to Gaël Monfils.

And No. 10 seed Nishikori, a US Open semi-finalist, has an average first-serve speed of 174 km/h — the same as Serena’s highest — in three of his five matches so far.

In a recent article on hard-throwing Little Leaguer Mo’ne Davis, the Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins argued that cross-gender comparisons risk making the world’s best female athletes look like failures.

What’s fascinating about the tennis serve is that the gender gap is so narrow by comparison with other athletic endeavors.


 

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