Tennis girls

The primordial ball of energetic, elemental excitement that is Tim Henman popped up on the radio again this morning. And that can only mean one thing. Tennis approaches. Now, I’d hate you to think that I’d got anything against tennis per se. I can enjoy watching the rain fall at Wimbledon with the best of them, although there is always the risk that Cliff Richard might ruin its trance like purity. I can thrill to the news that not a single British player has advanced beyond the hemi-semi-finals or whatever, save the obligatory one upon whom the wildly unrealistic expectations of that unfortunate’s compatriots will immediately descend. I will squirm with everyone else as all the predictable consequences inevitably transpire, just like the ones that would flow from the descent of any other similarly crushing object.

No, it’s not the masochistic festival ushered in by July that worries me. After all, wondering why we can’t produce a sporting hero like those that just about every other country seems to be able to do is a sporting event in itself, and one at which we can excel. It’s not that. It’s the insistence that women tennis players must always be referred to as “girls”. Apart from some scarily precocious Americans and East Europeans, none of the tennis players thus described are girls at all. They are grown women. Why this infantilising nonsense?

It’s not only women tennis players, it’s women athletes generally. I hate it. I know that footballers are usually referred to as “lads”, but that doesn’t seem to have quite the same patronising, sexist ring to it. I know I’m a grumpy old git. But I think there’s something more going on here than just my personal ageing crisis.

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