At the 2020 Australian Open earlier this year, men’s singles champion Novak Djokovic and women’s winner Sofia Kenin took home equal prize money for their respective victories: $4.12 million each.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t always been this way.
In 1973 the US Open became the first of the four major tournaments to award men and women equal prize money.
However, it wasn’t until 2007 – 34 years and a Venus Williams outburst later – that Wimbledon became the final grand slam to eventually follow suit.
Despite pay parity now existent across all four grand slams, there are challenges that still remain rife for female tennis players.
Britain’s Katy Dunne, who plays predominantly on the ITF Women’s circuit, is someone who understands this sentiment more than most.
“I definitely think that we’re always second citizens to the guys. Even when we play at ITF level – it filters down,” Dunne said.
“In a week the women might have two 25k’s on but the men will have five or something like that. There’s more opportunities for the guys to then get more prize money.”
Equal pay? Yes. Equal opportunities to earn money? No.
What remains painfully apparent is that equal pay at grand slams (and other standalone tournaments) is not enough to satisfy some of the fundamental inconsistencies between men’s and women’s tennis.
This is a problem that Dunne makes particular reference to.
“There was obviously the argument about how women shouldn’t be getting the same prize money at grand slams because we don’t play five sets. But if you actually look over the year, the men have more tournaments; so technically that’s more prize money,” Dunne states.
Take this week for example; there are 8 ITF tournaments running for women, compared to the 10 available to men.
This discrepancy, which is a recurring theme week-by-week, just doesn’t seem fair.
Dunne also alludes to the knock-on effect that the lack of tournaments have on young, aspiring female players trying to progress up the rankings in the sport.
“It’s obvious when you look at the tournaments and you can see the level of the women compared to the level of the men at the same money size of tournaments,” Dunne stated.
“The women’s tournaments are always stronger, the seeds are always higher ranked, and the cut-off to get into the main draw is always tougher. It’s just because we don’t have as many tournaments.”
While equal pay in tennis has received widespread coverage in recent years, it remains evident that – if the sport is to be viewed a true celebration of parity – there are still fundamental challenges to overcome.