CHARLES GRAHAM - Ultimate sporting contest

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic

RARELY can there have been so titanic a sporting struggle as the one played out over almost six hours at Melbourne Park at the weekend.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic would yield no quarter as they flayed tennis balls to near disintegration in a pulsating Australian Open showdown.

The longest ever grand slam final, it was the ultimate showcase for what the perfectly-honed human body is capable of and rather puts to shame protagonists in many other disciplines who need a week to recover after taking part in 90 minutes of team sport!

It wasn’t the prettiest match with defter shots in short supply. But as an exhibition of strength, stamina and nerve I have seen few equals.

Ironic perhaps, after talk elsewhere on this page about over-paid bankers, that there should be a consensus that both men were worth every cent of their prize money. Runner-up Nadal trousered £1,15m while Djokovic is to today £2,3m the richer.

Rightly or wrongly, folk have come to accept that the top echelons of sport are so divorced from reality that we tend not to resent its stars’ wealth (apart from under-performing salaried Premier League players maybe).

In tennising terms it sticks far more in my craw about the inequalities between the men’s and the women’s games.

The day before the Nadal-Djokovic epic (55 games), Viktoria Azarenka became champion by beating Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-0. It was a tame affair that you were glad was over so quickly (one hour 22 minutes) because it meant these two notorious shriekers would shut up.

But grunting and entertainment value aside, just look at the comparative times and games. The men, playing over five sets competed for four and a half hours LONGER and 42 games MORE than their female counterparts.

Yet Azarenka and Sharapova took home exactly the same amount of cash as Djokovic and Nadal.

A number of years have elapsed since the equalisation of pay was first introduced into the tennis majors and I am still no happier about it.

There is no argument on quality grounds because you can have deadly dull men’s matches too. But if tournament organisers will persist in having the women play over three sets and the men over five then the extra time and effort should be reflected in the prize money.

If you worked full time in an office and found out a part-timer was getting the same pay as you, you’d be pretty hacked off.