Thu, Apr 14, 2016 - Page 18 News List

Battle of the sexes: Exploring the pay gap in tennis

NY Times News Service, DANIEL ISLAND, South Carolina

The tournament, in which the US Tennis Association owns a majority stake, pays the women only US$0.63 on the dollar as compared with the men. Last year, Roger Federer received US$731,000 for defending his title at the tournament, while Serena Williams received US$495,000 for defending hers hours later.

Organizers cite a technicality in the WTA’s structure to justify the pay differential. The tournament is one of nine Masters 1000 events, the top tier on the ATP Tour. However, the top tier of the WTA Tour is four Premier Mandatory events, which include tournaments in Miami, Madrid and Indian Wells, California, where women can expect equal compensation to men. The Ohio event sits in the next tier, the Premier 5.

Women are also paid less than men at similar Premier 5 events in Canada and Rome, which are held in conjunction with men’s tournaments.

The pay gap extends all the way down the ladder on ATP and WTA tours. According to a 2014 study by the International Tennis Federation that analyzed the average costs for playing professional tennis and the prize money from the previous year, 336 male players could earn enough to cover average expenses, while only 253 women could.

Prize money is generated from each tournament’s sponsors, television rights deals, ticket sales and other on-site concessions. The total revenues of the ATP and WTA tours has fluctuated, with a gap of US$2.6 million in 2008 giving way to a men’s advantage of US$37.4 million in 2014.

To capitalize on the popularity of superstars like Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, the ATP Tour in recent years has gained significant increases in prize money, and those increases have benefited women in equal-pay events. That does not please everyone in the sport.

Sergiy Stakhovsky, a member of the ATP Player Council, said he wanted to see a moratorium on adding combined events to allow the men’s game — “a different product, which is better” — to stand on its own. Stakhovsky, ranked 111th, bristles at the blowback combined tournaments receive when they do not offer equal pay.

“That is the only reason why we do not want them is because it is always going to come one way or another that we are the bad guys,” Stakhovsky said. “This way, we have our own venue, they have their own venue. I think that women deserve to be paid more. I am not saying they deserve to be paid less. But this has nothing to do with paying us.”

“We have been through a lot of talks with the Grand Slams in the past three years, and the increases have been significant and we are very grateful,” Stakhovsky added. “But every time we came to the table, and every time there was a number we asked for, we got half of it. And we know why.”

The top-ranked Djokovic was criticized at Indian Wells for saying men “should get awarded more” because “the stats are showing that we have much more spectators.”

Some ATP players, most notably Andy Murray, have been outspoken advocates for equal pay for women. However, US player Madison Keys said that many of the male players she knows “freak out and make it seem like every single week we get the same — which is not true.”

“I feel like it is one of those conversations: When you are friends with someone, you do not talk about politics; when you are friends with someone, you do not talk about equal prize money in tennis,” she said.

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