Nine-time women's champion Martina Navratilova says the All-England Lawn Tennis Club, which runs Wimbledon, just hates the idea of upsetting tradition.
"It's like they drew that line in the sand — they don't want to go anywhere," she says. "I think it would be like losing face."
The image Wimbledon tries hard to cultivate is a kind of timeless elegance; a tournament you could almost imagine played on the lawn of an English estate. If the women were paid the same as the men, an executive said not long ago, "we wouldn't have so much ... to spend on the petunias."
The fact is that the All-England Club earned a $46 million profit last year, but will pay the women's champion $55,000 less than the winner of the men's title. That's not on account of the petunias — but because women's matches are shorter than men's matches.
It's an argument Navratilova's not buying.
"It's not quantity, it's quality," says Navratilova. "Sports is an entertainment … Tina Turner doesn't get paid less than (her) equivalent in the men because he's a guy and can hold a note longer."
The U.S. and Australian Opens have paid equal prizes to women and men for years. The French Open began doing it this year. But Wimbledon says it won't be pushed into political correctness … and columnist Ross Clark says that's worth praise.
"It's a principled position," he says. "It's a logical position and, you know — three cheers to Wimbledon for keeping it up."
Hip, hip hooray? Not likely. Never mind the argument over equal rights: Anything more than polite applause at the 138-year-old club just isn't done.