WTA players embrace Denis Shapovalov’s call for equal pay

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World No.30 ATP player Denis Shapovalov earned praise from his WTA counterparts for his Players’ Tribune article calling on tennis tournaments to pay men’s and women’s players equal prize money at all levels. The Canadian explains that the depth of the pay disparity became clear to him through his relationship with WTA No.145 Mirjam Bjorklund of Sweden.

At the WTA media day for the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, top WTA stars were grateful to see a men’s player work towards equity.

Jessica Pegula BNP Paribas Open 2023
Jessica Pegula of the United States talks to the media at the 2023 BNP Paribas Open WTA 1000 tennis tournament

Jessica Pegula: “We’re better when we’re together.”

Talking to the press at the BNP Paribas Open, world No.3 Jessica Pegula praised Shapovalov’s stance: “For him to go out of his way to make that the main story of what he wants to talk in the press about, that was really cool and really nice. I know all the women appreciated that very much.” The American added, “We’re better when we’re together. It’s for sure. I love the joint events. I think most of us do. They’re bigger. They’re better.”

Maria Sakkari: “I’m sure a lot of guys have the same opinion.”

Maria Sakkari appreciates seeing a younger men’s player pick up the cause of supporting women’s tennis in the footsteps of Andy Murray. The Greek said, “We know that Andy was always a huge supporter of us and now it’s Denis. I’m sure a lot of other guys have the same opinion, but it’s very important to have players and personalities like them support us and speak the truth and say what they think.”

Aryna Sabalenka: “We are also working super hard.”

Aryna Sabalenka had not seen Shapovalov’s article yet, but responded to questions about the pay debate more broadly. The reigning Australian Open champion said, “I think it’s tough to compare men’s and women’s. And yes, we’re on a different level, but we are also working super hard and it’s not easy for us […] I think girls deserve to earn more money, that’s really important.”

Ons Jabeur: “I see a bright future.”

Ons Jabeur shared the sentiment of her colleagues that allies on the ATP are vital in improving opportunities for all players, men and women alike. At her press conference, the Tunisian went a step further than others in pointing to the unique sacrifice women athletes make. The fourth-ranked WTA player explained, “If I want to have a baby now I cannot. I would need to stop playing. So I wish everybody would get their rights.” She ended on a hopeful note, saying “I think we’re getting there. I see a bright future.”

On this International Women’s Day, the top WTA players shared in the enthusiasm to embrace an ally on the ATP Tour as he steps up and brings the topic back to public attention.

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