BELGIANS DISAGREE ON PAY
By Bill Pierce, PA Sport
Belgian tennis queens Justin Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters do not share the same opinion over Wimbledon prize money.
They are among the favourites to lift the women's title at the All-England Championships in two weeks.
But the pair do not see eye to eye with the fact men win more cash than women at the world's biggest tournament - £655,000 compared to £625,000.
Henin-Hardenne, who won her fifth Grand Slam title and her third French Open crown in Paris earlier this month, admits it is a touchy subject that Wimbledon remains the only major tennis championship which does not offer equal pay to winners of the men's and women's competitions.
But she said: "I admire the men who have to play five sets for maybe five and a half hours to win a match.
"I don't think that women should be asked to do the same. We just have to accept that women and men are different.
"I can see it both ways. So I don't want to kick up a fuss over that."
But compatriot Clijsters insisted: "We work just as hard as the men. There is a big strain on the body and it is not just the matches but all the travelling we have to do practically all the year round."
Clijsters plans to retire at the end of next year - at the age of 24 - after a string of injuries to her hips, back and wrist.
And she will have the sympathy of Britain's culture secretary Tessa Jowell, who has joined the call for equal prize money for men and women players at Wimbledon.
Jowell has written to the All-England club expressing her "deep concern" over the gender disparity regarding prize money and points out the growing popularity of the women's game.
Meanwhile, Henin-Hardenne and Clijsters are trying to unseat champion and world number one Amelie Mauresmo at Eastbourne's Hastings Direct International Championship this week.
None of the three have ever won Wimbledon - Henin-Hardenne reached the final against America's Venus Williams in 2001 and has lost two semi-finals, while the furthest Mauresmo and Clijsters have got at SW19 are the semi-finals.
They are in Eastbourne - where Clijsters won the £60,000 first prize last year - trying to adapt to grass-courts, which most top players claim lowers the quality of their play.
But Mauresmo, who won the Australian Open - her first Grand Slam title at the age of 26 - in January when Henin-Hardenne retired ill in the final, says: "I believe it suits the way I play.
"I feel no pressure playing on that surface and perhaps that is why I am more confident when I come here.
"In France there is so much expectancy of me and I guess I know how Tim Henman has felt trying to win a title in his own country all these years.
"Maybe it is better for him this year that there is not so much attention on him."