Even in flash tennis, equal pay is a struggle

Gabi Dabrovsky is the sixth best doubles player in women’s professional tennis. She was the mixed doubles champion of the Australian and French Open and reached the final in the women’s doubles at Wimbledon in 2019. He has won 11 WTA titles in his career and competed for the Canadian national team at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

But Dabrowski has no other contracts other than the free equipment he receives from rocket maker Yonex. He said he could not be a full-time coach, trainer or physio. She buys tennis clothes from online sustainable companies and is grateful for the Women Tennis Association’s mental well-being program, which allows her to use tour-sponsored psychologists.

“Dual specialists, even at regular intervals, even before a pandemic, generate about 10 percent of lone players,” said Dabrowski, who relies on on-site coaching at home and in regular tournaments. “Fortunately, I am quite frugal. “My father taught me to spend on a budget at a very young age and I do not live an extravagant lifestyle.”

Dabrovsky, 30, has made nearly $ 3.5 million during his 11-year career. At the last tournament in Madrid, which he won with his partner Juliana Olmo, Dabrovski earned $ 198,133. The following week he and Olmos reached the final of the Italian Open and won $ 33,815 each. But given the cost of travel, hotels, food, clothing and coaching, Dabrovsky says he can barely move forward.

“The pandemic has made things worse,” said Dabrowski, who serves on the WTA Board of Players and participated in a prize pool in which players receive a small share of the tournament winnings while players. Those who lose in the first round, those who fight or try to break through are given more percentage.

“If we have learned anything, it is that we have to be careful of those low-ranking players who never say they have to leave, because they can not earn a living by playing tennis,” Dabrovsky said. “We have to defend and keep the game for them.”

Tennis has historically been the most lucrative among women’s professional sports. In 1970, Gladys Heldman, publisher of World Tennis The magazine persuaded Philip Morris brand Virginia Slims to allocate $ 7,500 to fund the first women’s professional professional tournament in Houston.

Heldman then persuaded Billy Jean King, Rosie Cassall and seven other young women to sign a $ 1 contract to play professional tennis. The so-called Original Nine players did not get as much in their collective careers as Ashley Barty won in the 2019 Shiseido WTA final in Singapore, China, to win the singles title. The $ 4.42 million Barty took home that day is more than double the $ 1,966,487 that King earned during his 31-year career, which included 39 major championships in singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

That’s certainly not the $ 94,518,971 that Serena Williams, the sport’s highest-grossing player, has accumulated. He doubled that figure in applause. Naomi Osaka, who played in just nine WTA tournaments last year, tops Forbes’ list of the highest paid female athletes in 2022, earning about $ 58 million from more than 20 corporate sponsors. He lags behind LeBron James, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods, but is ahead of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Tom Brady. Every year since 1990, when Forbes launched a list of the highest paid female athletes, the leader is the tennis player.

“Tennis has always been a leader because we are a global sport,” said King, who in 1971 became the first female athlete to earn a $ 100,000 prize money. “In 1970, we literally had to commit suicide in order to win a prize money and attention to women’s tennis,” King said. “We still have to work to be number one, and we do it with the realization that we are entertaining and ready for our audience.”

For the past 52 years, the women’s tour has had nine sponsors, including Colgate, Avon and Toyota. After 12 years without a title sponsor, the WTA recently partnered with Women Diagnostics and Medical Imaging Company Hologic to pledge a multi-million dollar multi-year deal.

The prize pool in women’s tennis increased to $ 179 million in 2019, shortly before the four-month suspension of the tour due to a pandemic. The WTA total prize money is now $ 157 million for 2022.

“The past two years have been very difficult for WTA, for our members, and for many businesses around the world,” wrote Steve Simon, the organization’s CEO, in an email. “We are proud that our tournaments and players have done what it takes to work during this period.”

One of the biggest challenges for Simon was the loss of revenue from Southeast Asia. In 2019, the tournament signed a $ 14 million deal with Japanese skin care company Shiseido to sponsor the WTA Finals in China. When Barty won the tournament, he received the highest prize in the sport, for both men and women.

A year later, when a pandemic raged in China, the deal fell through. Then, when Chinese player Peng Shui suddenly disappeared from sight after he was said to have been sexually assaulted by a high-ranking member of the Chinese government, Simon announced that he had canceled all WTA events in China this year. At the end of last season, the final was moved to Guadalajara, Mexico, but the amount offered was about a third of what was in Shenzhen.

Another problem with tennis is the growing profile of women’s team sports, especially football and the National Women’s Basketball Association. About two weeks ago, the U.S. Women’s National Football Team signed a collective bargaining agreement with the United States Football Federation under which men and women teams will receive equal pay for equal work.

“Equality in team sports is essential, especially in terms of equal prize money,” said King’s business partner Ilana Kloss. “But women still have a long way to go. 40 percent of athletes are women and they receive only 4 percent of media coverage. Many of these big tennis tournaments are owned by conglomerates and investment groups. And those companies now have women who realize that women’s sports are good for business. It is no longer just an old boys club. We learn that turning now affects all boats. ”

In tennis, women still lag significantly behind men in financial compensation in most tournaments other than major tournaments. At Wimbledon and the Australian, French and United States Open, the prize money has been equal since 2007. The winner of this year’s French Open will receive € 2.2 million, almost $ 2.4 million, in both the men’s and women’s units. Joint tour events in Indian Wells, California and Miami also offer equal prize money. But this is not the case everywhere.

On May 15, world number one Iga Sviatek won the Italian Open and was awarded 322,280 euros. A few hours later Novak Djokovic defeated Stefano Tsitsikas for the men’s championship and won 836,355 euros. The second-placed Tsitsia earned more than 100,000 euros from Sviatek.

“Does it seem fair?” Asked Pam Shriver, who, along with Martina Navratilova, won 79 titles in the women’s doubles. Shriver suggests that the only way female players can get equal pay in Italy is if female entrepreneurs such as King, Serena and Venus Williams, Navratilova and Chris Evert enter the tournament and buy it.

“We have learned that not all joint ventures are created the same way,” Shriver said. “In some tournaments, it is cultural not to pay that much for women. But in tennis the cake is getting bigger and bigger. “Now we just have to take a stand and make sure it is equal.”

And then there is Tsitsikas, who earlier this spring got involved in the topic of tennis with an old question: should women get the same prize money as men when they play two sets in three majors and men play in three. Five? The women argue that it is about entertainment value and ticket sales and not just time spent on the court.

“I do not want to be controversial or anything,” Tsitsikas said. “There is a theme that women get equal pay for the top three games. There are many scientists and statisticians. I have been told that women have better stamina than men. “Maybe they will play the best in the top five.”

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