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Rain and Rows... It's Wimbledon
- Venus Williams and Tessa Jowell serve volleys at lack of pay parity

Rain and Rows... ItTHE FIRST Day of rain for a month and a row about prize money inequality can only mean one thing: the start of the Wimbledon tennis championship.

While the weather is expected to improve over the next week, the bad feeling over the fact men receive more in prize money than women is forecast to become a gathering storm.

The winner of the Menís Singles event will receive UKP655,000 compared to UKP625,000 for the Womenís Singles champion

"For us it's not about getting paid because all the players love what we do," said current Wimbledon title-holder Venus Williams. "For us it's about equality, and it's about women all over the world. It's a bigger picture than tennis. It's about a premier women's sport setting an example all around the world."

Wimbledon officials say that the gap in prize money reflects market realities Ėmenís tennis brings in more cash Ė and the sporting reality that men play up to five sets per match over best of three for women. Playing fewer sets means more women can fit the Doubles events into their schedules, allowing them to earn more than men in total.

Whether or not that argument makes sense, it fails to address the symbolic points raised by Venus Williams and is likely to continue to feed into a feeling that Wimbledonís stance is "tarnishing the image of the championship", as Minister for Culture, Media and Sport Tessa Jowell puts it. All other Grand Slam tournaments now pay men and women winners the same.

Perhaps it would take a successful British woman to force change, though that seems about as likely as strawberries and cream filing for divorce, or the rain waving goodbye to SW19.

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