Women open up the field, the door and the horizon

At one end, Simona Halep had her hands on her knees. At the other end, so did Anqelique Kerber. It seemed impossible that either would take another step. It might be the single defining image of the 2018 Australian Open.

But it needs this context, that it wasn't the end of the match, and that when at length the ball was reintroduced to play, each immediately hared off after it again, finding new reserves. Their efforts were called courageous. Once, they might have been called manly. But that was a long time ago.

It's been a good fortnight for women at the Australian Open. New York Times tennis writer Chris Clarey reckons he might have seen the best three women's matches of the year already, and it's still January. Perhaps the women's tournament even has outshone the men's. It doesn't matter. We've gone way past the time when the worth of women in any sporting endeavour was measured against the men's standard. On those terms, we men could hardly lose, could we?

Now, for the first time, women's sports acoss the board get to stand as and for what they are.

The women's Open will end on Saturday night with a new champion. Some will demur about the good in this, saying that without Serena Williams, the tournament lacked star quality. Tennis is more susceptible to this bind than other sports. When it is even, it is said to be devoid of stars. When stars emerge and dominate, it is said to be uncompetitive. Surely the moral of this tournament is that a range generally is better.

Serena did make her presence felt, by slapping down Tennys Sandgren, a peculiar man in more than just name, for homophobia. Serena said if she had let his epithet pass, she could not have looked her new-born daughter in the eye. Serena was not always so obviously politically aware, for instance, when unapologetically playing in Dubai in a tournament from which an Israeli player was banned for being Israeli. If her horizons have broadened since, that is laudable. Sandgren apologised.

Look around. Evonne Goolagong-Cawley got a big Australia Day gong. Billie Jean King got to reprise her role in emancipation for gays in sport, and women sportspeople generally. As for Margaret Court, the latterly controversial contemporary of Goolagong and King, she acts at least as a reminder that women make up more than half the population, and so come in as many types, minds and guises as men, and that it is plain weird looking back to see that in golf, for instance, once there were "men" and "associates", but not women. Oh, no, never women.

Lift your eyes further still. A woman soccer player, Samantha Kerr, is the Young Australian of the Year. The descriptor "brother of AFL star Daniel" has long been redundant.

Another woman, a scientist, is Australian of the Year. Gone are the Howardian days when you only had to become Test captain also to be made Australian of the Year; three in a row were. This year, Belinda Clark, a true cricket pioneer, at least got an OA.

Half a world away, Anya Shrubsole, star of England's cricket World Cup win, this week became the first woman to feature on the cover of Wisden in its 150-year history. "Hopefully the first of many to come," she said.

In another part of the world, the reptilian Larry Nassar, once doctor to the US gymnastics team, was locked up for life for abuse of his charges. "I wouldn't send my my dogs to you," said the judge, a woman. It is not a sporting feat, but it is a development that was made possible by the empowerment of women in sport.

The revolution rolls on. The WBBL season is winding up, season two of AFLW about to begin.

As drawcards, the men's games will continue to outrank them for now, but that is not the point. It is that they are established in the sporting landscape, and so soon after their causes seemed forever lost. These ladies are not for turning.

Look even further afield. Royal Adelaide, host of last year's Australian women's golf Open, was so chuffed that it went right out there on the cutting edge and a month later allowed women members to play there on Saturdays.

This story Women open up the field, the door and the horizon first appeared on The Age.