Barty vs Kyrgios: was Channel 7 sexist?

Barty in her Sydney International semi-final against Kiki Bertens. (Photo: Rob Keating/robiciatennis.com)

As Australia’s biggest Wimbledon hopes, Ash Barty and Nick Kyrgios, prepare for their second-round matches later today (4 July), veteran sports journalist Tracey Holmes said Channel Seven “perhaps” erred in choosing to broadcast his match rather than hers on Tuesday.

Seven’s decision was widely slammed, with furious fans taking to social media to vent their frustration after tuning in and expecting to watch the French Open champion and newly-crowned World No 1 play China’s Zheng Saisai.

Holmes, who presents the weekly program The Ticket on ABC NewsRadio, said Seven had probably banked on Krygios’s match, which began two hours earlier than Barty’s, being over in time for it to switch.

Plus, his match against fellow Australian Jordan Thompson was predicted to be “much more touch and go” than her probable one-sided match, and therefore “more engaging for a sports audience”.

"Whichever decision Seven made was going to be wrong for a certain portion of the audience,"

Holmes added: “Whatever decision Seven made was going to be wrong for a certain portion of the audience; however, given her [Barty’s] number one status, and the general population’s growing enthusiasm for sport played by women, perhaps Seven could have cut to Barty’s match and played in highlights from the men’s game rather than the alternative.”

The first Australian woman to make No 1 since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1976, Barty received a further snub today when Wimbledon organisers scheduled her second-round match – against Belgium’s Alison Van Uytvanck – for Court Two, rather than the showpiece Centre or No 1 Court.

Sunrise co-host Samantha Armytage apologised on behalf of Seven on Wednesday morning for the blunder the previous evening. However, in a statement later that day, Seven stood by its decision, citing “massive audience ratings … comparable to a Wimbledon final” for the Kyrgios-Thompson five-setter.

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After decades of neglect of women’s sport by the public and broadcasters, the tide has slowly been turning. According to a study published by Nielsen last October, 84 per cent of sports fans are interested in womens’ sports.

However, 1.5 million more viewers tuned in to the second game of the men’s State of Origin series than to the women’s game last month.

Holmes said: “Ash Barty’s rise to number one is a phenomenal achievement and during the two weeks of Wimbledon there should be numerous occasions where we get to see her in competitive encounters.”

The four tennis Grand Slams have awarded equal prize money to men and women only since 2007, with Wimbledon the last major tournament to fall into line.  @jamesayousif