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Women’s tour plans for players to earn the same as men at more events

It took more than three decades after the founding of the Women’s Tennis Association for all four Grand Slam tournaments to agree to give the same prize money to female and male players. Now the women’s tour is pledging to make sure its athletes also get identical paychecks at some other top-tier events in the coming years.

The St. Petersburg, Florida-based WTA announced Tuesday that it is revising its season calendar and rules about which players must enter certain tournaments, while also setting up what it called a “pathway to equal prize money.”

The plan is to have matching payouts for women and men across all rounds of singles at the joint WTA-ATP 1000 and 500 events — the two levels right below the four Slams — by 2027, and to make sure that single-week WTA-only 1000 and 500 events that are being played at the same time, but at different sites, as their ATP-only 1000 and 500 equivalents are offering the same money as those counterparts by 2033.

“Players that say, ‘Why do we have to wait?’ are right, 100%. But it can’t happen tomorrow. We can’t change this overnight. But I’m very excited that we have a plan now — not to just sit and talk about this and hope that somebody will help us do the right thing that’s appropriate and deserving for these players,” WTA Chairman & CEO Steve Simon told The Associated Press. “We’re going to make it happen. Maybe we can even get there faster, if the revenues grow.”

Simon said the additional money will come from incremental boosts by the tournaments themselves and from revenue projected to arrive from broadcast, data and sponsorship rights via WTA Ventures, the tour’s commercial enterprise that launched in March. CVC Capital Partners, an investment manager, contributed $150 million for a 20% stake.

“Women’s professional sports don’t receive the same level of compensation for those rights as men’s professional sports do, which is why you see lower prize money paid or contracts (given) across all women’s sports versus those of men. That’s just an economic reality,” Simon said, explaining that the aim is to boost funds available for players “by increasing the value of the asset and by creating new revenue streams.”

All changes will need to be approved by the WTA Board of Directors in August, something the tour expects to happen. The proposals include increasing the number of 1000 tournaments to 10, with events in Beijing (2024), Cincinnati (2025) and Canada (2025) expanding to two weeks with larger fields; new rules to boost participation by leading players in the biggest events; and making singles rankings based on best 18 results — not just best 16 — plus the WTA Finals.

One example of the sort of pay discrepancy going on currently: When Iga Swiatek won the 2022 Italian Open, she received a check for a little more than 330,000 euros (about $365,000), which was less than half of the roughly 835,000 euros (more than $900,000) that Novak Djokovic earned for winning the men’s title in Rome that year.

This April, Italian tennis federation president Angelo Binaghi said that the country’s main tournament aims to give the same prize money to women and men as of 2025. The WTA signaled its intention to arrive at Tuesday’s news by responding to Binaghi’s statement with this comment back then: “It is our hope to see this commitment achieved at more WTA events.”

Billie Jean King, who was the leading voice when the modern WTA was founded in 1973, says she was motivated to help create a women’s professional tour after earning $600 for her 1970 championship in Italy, almost $3,000 less than Ilie Nastase was paid for his run to the trophy there.

The U.S. Open was the first major tournament to pay women and men the same, starting in 1973. The Australian Open permanently established equal prize money in 2001; the French Open gave its two singles champions the same amount in 2006 and spread that to every round in 2007; Wimbledon committed to equal pay across the board in 2007.

“Fifty years after the players found strength in unity, I’m proud the WTA continues to be a global leader focused on providing opportunities,” King said, “and hope that women in other sports and walks of life are inspired by its example.”

Tennis legend Billie Jean King, left, and her wife, tennis player Ilana Kloss, arrive for last Thursday's State Dinner with President Joe Biden and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House.

Tennis legend Billie Jean King, left, and her wife, tennis player Ilana Kloss, arrive for last Thursday’s State Dinner with President Joe Biden and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House.

Steve Simon

Steve Simon

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