The finest tennis gamers in the world descend this week on Rome, the place women and men will play in the identical best-of-three-sets format, on the identical courts and in the identical match, which sells one same-price ticket for each. males’s matches and ladies’s matches.
There is one huge distinction between the 2 competitions, nevertheless: Men will compete for $8.5 million whereas the ladies will compete for $3.9 million.
The big pay discrepancy comes after two months of tennis that included three equally important tournaments in California, Florida and Madrid that featured women and men competing for the identical quantity of prize cash. Men and ladies additionally receives a commission the identical on the 4 Grand Slam tournaments, the place males play best-of-five units and the ladies play better of three.
But not in Rome on the Italian Open. And not but in the Cincinnati suburbs on the Western & Southern Open. Or in Canada, on the National Bank Open, the place the women and men alternate between Toronto and Montreal annually.
Angelo Binaghi, the chief government of Italy’s tennis federation, introduced just lately that the Italian Open was dedicated to reaching pay fairness by 2025 “to align itself with different main occasions on the circuit,” despite the fact that an expanded format will deliver in extra cash this yr. . For the subsequent two editions of the match, girls may have to do the identical work for a lot much less pay, which makes them really feel, nicely, not nice.
“I do not know why it is not equal proper now,” mentioned Paula Badosa, a 25-year-old from Spain who’s among the many leaders of a nascent participant group, the Professional Tennis Players Association. “They do not inform us. They say that is what you get and you’ve got to play.”
A spokesperson for the Italian federation didn’t make Binaghi obtainable for an interview.
“It’s actually irritating,” Ons Jabeur, who made two Grand Slam finals final yr and is seeded fourth in Rome, mentioned throughout an interview Tuesday. “It’s time for change. It’s time for the match to do higher.”
Steve Simon, the chairman and chief government of the WTA Tour, which organizes the ladies’s circuit on behalf of the match house owners and gamers, mentioned the disparate prize cash was a reflection of a market that values males’s sports activities extra extremely than girls’s, particularly for sponsorships. and media rights. He mentioned the group was working in the direction of a resolution that may try to obtain pay fairness in any respect of tennis’ largest occasions in the approaching years.
“There remains to be a good distance to go but we’re seeing progress,” Simon mentioned in an interview Monday.
The explanations — and blame — for girls in tennis persevering with to be so shortchanged embody ingrained chauvinism, dangerous agreements with match house owners and the eat-what-you-kill nature of the sports activities enterprise, the place house owners, officers and organizers typically blame the athletes ( somewhat than their incompetence) for not producing sufficient income. Then they use it as an excuse not to make investments in the game and preserve athlete pay and prize cash low.
In tennis, girls typically obtain second billing in combined tournaments — less-desirable schedules on smaller courts, generally even lesser lodges. In Madrid final week, the members in the ladies’s doubles ultimate didn’t get a probability to converse in the course of the awards ceremony. The males did.
Organizers typically inform the ladies they lack the star energy of the boys. At the French Open final yr, Amélie Mauresmo, the match director and a former world no. 1 in singles, scheduled only one girls’s match in the featured nighttime slot, in contrast to 9 males’s matches, then defined that the boys’s recreation had “extra attraction” and attraction than the ladies’s recreation. She later apologized, but when second-billing could make it more durable for girls to obtain stardom, this self-fulfilling prophecy can lead to decrease pay.
In March, Denis Shapovalov of Canada, at present ranked twenty seventh, printed an essay in The Players’ Tribune criticizing the game’s leaders for not being extra unified.
“I feel some individuals would possibly consider gender equality as mere political correctness,” wrote Shapovalov, whose mom has coached him and whose girlfriend, Mirjam Bjorklund of Sweden, performs on the ladies’s tour. “Deep down they do not really feel that ladies deserve as a lot.”
The WTA has dedicated some unforced errors. At crucial combined tournaments, attendance is necessary for ladies and men. The WTA solely requires participation at tournaments in Indian Wells, Calif.; Miami Gardens, Fla.; Madrid and Beijing, but not in Rome, Canada or Ohio, despite the fact that these occasions rank simply behind the Grand Slams in significance. Also, the WTA awards barely fewer rating factors than the boys’s tour does in Rome, Canada and Ohio, the place the ladies’s champion receives 900 factors in contrast with 1,000 for the boys.
These minor variations have given match officers an excuse for paying girls a lot much less, despite the fact that practically all the high girls play the large elective occasions, until they’re injured. Organizers, nevertheless, say that with out necessary participation they can’t market the match as successfully, so native sponsors and media corporations won’t pay as a lot.
Marc-Antoine Farly, a spokesperson for Tennis Canada, cited that distinction when requested just lately why the National Bank Open supplied males $5.9 million final yr, in contrast with $2.53 million for the ladies. Despite that distinction, Farley mentioned, “Gender fairness is essential for our group.” He pointed to Tennis Canada’s just lately launched plan to search gender fairness in any respect ranges in the course of the subsequent 5 years and to supply equal prize cash on the National Bank Open by 2027. “Over the subsequent few years, Tennis Canada totally intends to be a main voice with the WTA on a growth plan to shut the WTA/ATP prize cash hole.”
Like most facets of the tennis enterprise, the method for prize cash requires a considerably sophisticated rationalization. Tournament house owners assure a portion of revenues from tickets, home media rights and sponsorship gross sales for prize cash. The excursions contribute a portion utilizing cash from their very own media rights and sponsorship offers in addition to the charges the match house owners pay the excursions to purchase the licenses for the occasions. Simon mentioned the WTA brings in considerably much less cash than the boys’s circuit, the ATP Tour, which suggests it has considerably much less cash to contribute to prize cash.
That mentioned, if equal prize cash is essential to match house owners, they’ll select to pay it. That is what the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, owned by the pc expertise billionaire Larry Ellison, has agreed to do for greater than a decade beneath his contract with the WTA.
“The match views the occasion as a single product,” mentioned Matt Van Tuinen, a spokesperson for the match. “Paying them equally is the suitable factor to do.”
Same goes for IMG, the sports activities and leisure conglomerate that owns each the Miami Open and the Madrid Open. Both pay equally.
In addition to Italy’s and Canada’s tennis federations, the United States Tennis Association, which has lengthy bragged about its management in pay fairness, didn’t award equal prize cash on the Western & Southern Open, the primary tuneup for the US Open. Last yr, males competed in Mason, Ohio, for $6.28 million. Women competed for $2.53 million. The US Open turned the primary of the Grand Slam tournaments to supply equal prize cash, in 1973, and can rejoice the fiftieth anniversary of the occasion in grand trend this summer season. The USTA ran the Cincinnati-area match for greater than a decade.
Chris Widmaier, a spokesperson for the group, mentioned the prize cash was “dictated by the commensurate degree of the competitors as decided by every Tour.”
In different phrases, because the Western & Southern was not a necessary WTA occasion and the ladies competed for 10 p.c much less rating factors, paying them roughly 40 cents for every greenback the boys acquired was justified.
The USTA final summer season introduced it was promoting the match to Ben Navarro, the South Carolina financier and tennis fanatic. Through a spokesperson, he declined to be interviewed for this text.
Help could also be on the way in which.
Earlier this yr, CVC Capital Partners, the personal fairness agency, purchased 20 p.c of a WTA business subsidiary for $150 million. The funding, which shall be used to improve gross sales and advertising efforts, mixed with a strategic plan being finalized that may eradicate the discrepancies between the boys’s and ladies’s competitions on the combined occasions, is meant to assist the WTA develop its revenues. That will enable the tour to contribute extra to prize cash and hopefully get match organizers to commit to pay fairness in the approaching years.
The plan requires some endurance, which is working skinny among the many gamers.
“I do not see why we have now to wait,” Jabeur mentioned.