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Gender Pay Gap: Unequal Prize Money in Tennis for Women

Heorhii Rysak

This week in Rome, the world’s top tennis players, both men and women, will gather to compete in the same tournament, playing on the same courts and following a best-of-three-sets format.

While the ticket prices for men’s and women’s matches remain the same, there is a significant disparity when it comes to the prize money: the men will vie for a total of $8.5 million, whereas the women’s prize pool amounts to $3.9 million.

In the past two months, tennis has witnessed three major tournaments held in California, Florida, and Madrid, where both men and women competed for equal prize money. Similarly, at the four Grand Slam tournaments, men and women receive the same pay, despite men playing best-of-five sets and women playing best-of-three.

However, this pay equality is not reflected in the upcoming Italian Open in Rome, where a significant pay discrepancy persists. The tournament will be followed by the Western & Southern Open in the Cincinnati suburbs, as well as the National Bank Open in Canada, where men and women take turns playing in Toronto and Montreal each year. Unfortunately, pay parity has not yet been achieved in these events.

Man earn more in tennis than woman

Recently, Angelo Binaghi, the chief executive of Italy’s tennis federation, made an announcement stating that the Italian Open is committed to achieving pay equity by 2025, aligning itself with other prominent tournaments on the circuit. Despite the tournament expecting increased revenue due to an expanded format this year, women will, unfortunately, have to endure significantly lower pay for the next two editions. This disparity leaves them feeling disheartened.

Paula Badosa, a 25-year-old tennis player from Spain and one of the leading voices in the emerging Professional Tennis Players Association, expressed her confusion about the current lack of equality. She mentioned that players are not informed about the reasons behind the unequal pay, but are simply instructed to accept the predetermined compensation and participate in the tournament.

Despite requests for an interview, a spokesperson for the Italian Federation declined to make Angelo Binaghi available for comment.

Ons Jabeur, the fourth seed in Rome and a player who reached two Grand Slam finals last year, expressed her deep frustration during an interview on Tuesday. She emphasized the need for change, stating that it is high time for the tournament to improve its approach to pay equity.

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History of Unfair Pay for Women

In 1970, Billie Jean King emerged victorious at the Italian Open, securing a prize of $600. In stark contrast, Ilie Nastase, her male counterpart, received a substantially higher sum of $3,500, nearly six times greater. The pay gap persisted when both King and Nastase triumphed at the U.S. Open two years later, as Nastase was awarded $15,000 more than King.

King, having made the decision to fight for equal rights for girls and women at the age of 12, utilized the tennis court as her platform to advocate for this cause.

“Everyone thinks women should be thrilled when we get crumbs, and I want women to have the cake, the icing, and the cherry on top too,” said King at the Miami Open tennis tournament in March. The athlete has won 12 grand slams.

not equal payment for woman in tennis

Following Billie Jean King’s threat to boycott the U.S. Open in 1973 due to pay disparity, it marked a significant turning point as it became the first major tournament to grant equal prize money to both male and female champions. Wimbledon, the prestigious and longest-standing tennis tournament, was the final Grand Slam event to adopt this practice in 2007, with Venus Williams playing a prominent role in leading the charge for pay equality.

Today, owing to the unwavering advocacy of King and other female players, tennis stands as one of the few global sports that offer equal compensation to both men and women in its major tournaments.

Italian Open: Earnings a Few Years Ago

At the 2022 Italian Open in Rome, the champion of the men’s singles event will be awarded €836,355, while the winner of the women’s singles event will earn €332,260. This substantial pay gap means that the women’s champion will receive approximately 40% of what the men’s champion receives. It is important to note that both the men’s and women’s events are classified as 1000-level tournaments.

Although pay disparities have been present in tennis between men and women, the magnitude of this difference at the Italian Open is particularly significant. In 2020, the gap between the winnings of the men’s and women’s singles champions was only €10, highlighting the considerable increase in disparity over the past years.

The question arises: What led to this discrepancy? While it is widely acknowledged that men’s matches generally attract larger crowds and enjoy greater popularity among the tennis audience, it remains illogical to pay women less than half of what the tournament awards men.

Nonetheless, the persistent pay gap at the Italian Open reveals an ongoing challenge in the quest for gender equality in the sport.


Do Women Get the Same Prize Money In Tennis

The movement towards equal prize money gained momentum over the years, driven by advocacy for gender equality in sports. The four Grand Slam tournaments have all implemented equal prize money for men and women. However, it’s important to note that there may still be disparities in prize money between genders in certain smaller tournaments or non-Grand Slam events.

When Did Women Tennis Players Get Equal Prize Money?

The Australian Open was the first of the four majors to award equal prize money, implementing it in 2001. The US Open followed suit in 1973, becoming the first Grand Slam to offer equal prize money from the inception of the Open Era. Roland Garros (French Open) reached parity in 2006, while Wimbledon, historically the last to adopt equal pay, announced the change in 2007 and implemented it in 2008.

Do Women Get Equal Pay in Wimbledon?

Yes, women receive equal pay in Wimbledon. In 2007, Wimbledon became the final Grand Slam tournament to provide equal prize money for both men and women, ensuring that the champions in both the men’s and women’s singles competitions receive the same financial reward.

Why Do Women Tennis Players Get Paid Less?

The discrepancy in pay for women tennis players historically stems from gender inequality and the undervaluing of women’s sports. Factors such as lower viewership and sponsorship opportunities, as well as long-standing gender biases, have contributed to the disparity in pay.

Who Fought for Equal Pay in Women’s Tennis?

One of the key figures who fought for equal pay in women’s tennis is Billie Jean King. She was a prominent advocate for gender equality in sports and played a pivotal role in establishing the Virginia Slims Circuit, which eventually led to the formation of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). King’s efforts and activism helped bring about significant progress toward equal pay in women’s tennis.