Petkovic: “I owe everything to Billie Jean King”

Petkovic: “I owe everything to Billie Jean King”

sportschau.de: Billie Jean Kingwho became known in the late 60s and early 70s for their great dedication to women’s tennis and fairer pay for female players, is the namesake of the tournament. Thanks to her boycott threat, the American federation paid the winner of the 1973 US Open for the first time what the winner received. She was also jointly responsible for founding the WTA-Tour.

Petkovic: For me she is an ancestor who I play for. When things don’t go that way and I’m doing several things at the same time, I often think about her and all the things she had to shoulder. She is someone I owe everything to. Without them there would be no professional women’s sport as it exists today. And all because of their assertiveness and the willingness to take risks.

sportschau.de: You mention the strike at the time and the rejection associated with the allegations that Billie Jean King was greedy and only played because of the money.

Petkovic: Something like that would probably no longer be possible nowadays. There would always be someone who didn’t go along with it. There are far too many interests in professional tennis.

sportschau.de: There was also that back then. Martina Navratilova, for example, was banned from participating in Billie Jean King’s new tour by her government.

Petkovic: The fact that she dared to do it with her colleagues cannot be credited enough. Even with the “Battle oft the sexes“(a media-effective duel between her and the former Wimbledon winner Bobby Riggs, Note d. Red) she was in a bad position before. Had she canceled, she would have been labeled a coward, she would have lost, she would have gone down in history as the player who would have lost to an older man. After she won, the tenor was: “Yes, well, he’s 55 years old too.“She could only lose, and she still stood up for her values. It is incredibly important to inform the young players about our sporting ancestors and how we got into the position of earning such good prize money in the first place.

sportschau.de: You are addressing the merit. Nine of the ten highest paid female athletes last year are tennis players.

Petkovic: Was Billie Jean King did very well at the time, was the balancing act between marketing the athletes and focusing on the sport. And then a pyramid scheme emerged. The players who earned more and could invest in the sport. Then the sport got better and more popular, with more sponsors. We benefit from that today.

Petkovic denounces sexism: “Always get irritating news”

sportschau.de: As a woman in tennis, do you feel that you have equal rights today? Were there moments in your athletic career in which you felt disadvantaged or harassed?

Petkovic: After playing games, we women always receive irritating messages and comments on social media. I doubt it is the same on the men’s tour. Our outfits are always discussed there, how we wear our hair. In the past, women mostly had to play on the smaller courts. That still happens today. When it rained for two days at the French Open two years ago, the women’s semifinals were played on the smaller courts, while the men played on the larger courts. That latent sexism still comes out of that. We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.

Petkovic: “We stay in our team bubble”

sportschau.de: Another topic that is omnipresent at the moment is the corona restrictions on tournaments and the topic of vaccinations in tennis. Around 30 percent of the men’s players and around 40 percent of the women’s players have not yet been vaccinated. Even at this indoor tournament in Prague there are strict bubbles at the tournament location, but not outside of it. How do you as a team deal with this discrepancy?

Petkovic: With us, all five players and the entire support team of the DTB team in Prague are vaccinated. We moved almost freely within the team, but we have the route that we have almost no contact with other people – both here on site with other teams and outside. We stay in our team bubble and adhere to the guidelines. With the freedom regained from summer, the step backwards is more difficult, but it is necessary.

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Petkovic: “I owe everything to Billie Jean King”

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