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Even in Flush Tennis, Equal Pay is a Struggle

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Gaby Dabrowski is the sixth-best doubles player in women’s skilled tennis. She has been an Australian and French Open mixed doubles champion, and she or he reached the ultimate in women’s doubles at Wimbledon in 2019. She has won 11 profession WTA titles and competed for Canada within the 2016 Rio Olympics.

But Dabrowski has no endorsement contracts aside from the free equipment she receives from the racket manufacturer Yonex. She said she couldn’t afford a full-time coach, trainer or physio. She buys her tennis clothes online from sustainable corporations and is grateful to the Women’s Tennis Association for a mental wellness program that enables her to tap into tour-sponsored psychologists.

“Doubles specialists, even during regular times before the pandemic, earn about 10 percent of what singles players make,” said Dabrowski, who relies on spot coaching at home and at occasional tournaments. “Fortunately, I’m quite frugal. My father taught me the way to budget at a really young age, and I don’t live an extravagant lifestyle.”

Over the course of her 11-year profession, Dabrowski, 30, has earned nearly $3.5 million. On the recent Madrid tournament, which she won together with her partner Giuliana Olmos, Dabrowski earned $198,133. The subsequent week she and Olmos got to the ultimate of the Italian Open and won $33,815 each. But with the fee of travel, hotels, food, clothing and training, Dabrowski says she comes out barely ahead.

“The pandemic made things so much harder,” said Dabrowski, who sits on the WTA Players’ Council and was instrumental within the reallocation of prize money by which players at the highest of the sport receive a smaller share for winning a tournament, and players who lose in the primary round, those that are struggling or try to interrupt through, are awarded a greater percentage.

“If we learned anything, it’s that we now have to be looking for those lower-ranked players so that they never say they should quit because they will’t make a living playing tennis,” Dabrowski said. “We want to guard and sustain the sport for them.”

Tennis has historically been probably the most lucrative of all women’s skilled sports. In 1970, Gladys Heldman, the publisher of World Tennis magazine, persuaded the Philip Morris brand Virginia Slims to place up $7,500 to sponsor the primary women’s pro tournament in Houston.

Heldman then persuaded Billie Jean King, Rosie Casals and 7 other young women to sign $1 contracts to play skilled tennis. The so-called Original Nine players didn’t earn as much collectively of their careers as Ashleigh Barty won for taking the singles title on the 2019 Shiseido WTA Finals in Shenzhen, China. The $4.42 million that Barty took home that day is greater than double the $1,966,487 that King revamped her 31-year profession, which included 39 major championships in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

That, in fact, doesn’t compare with the $94,518,971 that Serena Williams, the game’s overall top earner, has amassed. She has greater than doubled that figure in endorsements. Naomi Osaka, who has played in only nine WTA tournaments over the past 12 months, tops Forbes’ list of highest-paid female athletes for 2022, generating some $58 million from greater than 20 corporate sponsors. She ranked just behind LeBron James, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods, but ahead of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Tom Brady. Every 12 months since 1990, when Forbes began listing highest paid female athletes, the leader has been a tennis player.

“Tennis has at all times led the way in which because we’re a world sport,” said King, who in 1971 became the primary female athlete to earn $100,000 in prize money. “In 1970, we literally needed to kill ourselves to get prize money and a focus for girls’s tennis,” King said. “Even now, we now have to work to be No. 1. And the way in which we do this is by realizing that we’re entertainers and there for our audience.”

During the last 52 years, the ladies’s tour has had nine presenting sponsors, including Colgate, Avon and Toyota. After 12 years and not using a title sponsor, the WTA recently partnered with Hologic, a women’s diagnostic and medical imaging company, which has pledged thousands and thousands of dollars in a multiyear deal.

Prize money in women’s tennis grew to a high of $179 million in 2019, shortly before the tour was halted for 4 months due to the pandemic. The WTA overall prize money is now at $157 million for 2022.

“The past two years have been very difficult for the WTA, our members and for a lot of businesses all over the world,” Steve Simon, the organization’s chief executive wrote in an email. “We’re happy with the indisputable fact that our tournaments and players did what was required to operate over this era.”

For Simon, one in all the nice challenges has been the lack of revenue from Southeast Asia. In 2019, the tour entered right into a $14 million agreement with the Japanese skincare company Shiseido to sponsor the WTA Finals in China. When Barty won the tournament, she took home the most important prize ever in the game, for men or women.

A 12 months later, with the pandemic raging in China, that deal was dissolved. Then, when the Chinese player Peng Shuai suddenly disappeared from view after saying that she was sexually abused by a high-ranking member of the Chinese government, Simon announced that he was canceling all WTA events in China for this 12 months. Last season’s year-end finals were moved to Guadalajara, Mexico, but the cash offered was roughly a 3rd of what it had been in Shenzhen.

One other issue facing tennis is the rising profile of girls’s team sports, especially soccer and the Women’s National Basketball Association. About two weeks ago, the U.S. women’s national soccer team entered right into a collective bargaining agreement with the US Soccer Federation by which the lads’s and girls’s teams will receive equal pay for equal work.

“Equality in team sports is important, especially by way of equal prize money,” said King’s business partner, Ilana Kloss. “But women still have an extended solution to go. Forty percent of athletes are women, they usually receive only 4 percent of the media coverage. So lots of these big tennis tournaments are owned by conglomerates and investment groups. And people corporations now have women at the highest who’re realizing that girls’s sports are good for business. It isn’t just an old boys’ club anymore. We’re learning that the tide now affects all boats.”

In tennis, women still lag significantly behind men in financial compensation at most tournaments except the majors. At Wimbledon and the Australian, French and United States Opens, prize money has been equal since 2007. At this 12 months’s French Open, the winner of each the lads’s and girls’s singles will pocket 2.2 million euros, almost $2.4 million. Joint tour events in Indian Wells, Calif., and Miami also offer equal prize money. But that isn’t true in all places.

On May 15, the world No. 1 Iga Swiatek won the Italian Open and was awarded €322,280. Hours later, Novak Djokovic beat Stefanos Tsitsipas for the lads’s championship and won €836,355. Tsitsipas, the second-place finisher, earned greater than €100,000 greater than Swiatek.

“Does that appear fair?” asked Pam Shriver, who won 79 women’s doubles titles with Martina Navratilova. Shriver suggested that the one way female players can get equal pay in Italy is that if female entrepreneurs like King, Serena and Venus Williams, Navratilova and Chris Evert step in and buy the tournament.

“We’ve come to learn that not all joint events are created equally,” Shriver said. “At some tournaments, it’s cultural to not pay women as much. But in tennis the pie keeps getting greater. Now we just should take a stance and make sure that it’s equal.”

After which there’s Tsitsipas, who, earlier this spring, waded into the subject by asking an old query in tennis: Should women receive the identical prize money as men after they play two out of three sets on the majors and men play three out of 5? Women argue that it’s about entertainment value and ticket sales, not solely about time spent on the court.

“I don’t need to be controversial or anything,” Tsitsipas said. “There may be the subject of girls getting equal pay for enjoying better of three. There are quite a lot of scientists and statisticians on the market. I’ve been told that girls have higher endurance than men. Perhaps they will play better of five.”

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