In an interview with Bloomberg’s Jason Kelly, Maria Sharapova pointed out the great disparity in prize money between men’s and women’s tennis, saying that equal pay at Grand Slams is amazing but at most tournaments there still is a dramatic difference in checks received by the WTA and ATP players.
Highlighting the problem of unequal prize money, Sharapova said:
Just this week there’s a men’s tournament in Shanghai, with the winner’s prize check $1.2 million. In the same week there’s a women’s tournament in China with the winner’s check at $120,000. I don’t know if anyone’s familiar with those numbers.
You go to a Grand Slam and we are celebrating equal prize money at the Grand Slams. Great. Those are the biggest events, with the biggest attention, media, the buzz. But then the rest of the Tour, which is the eight or nine other months, the disparity is insane and that needs to be addressed.
Although it is a fact that women’s tennis still has a long way to go when it comes to equal pay, it has to be said that Sharapova’s example is skewed, as she compared an ATP Tour Masters 1000 event (Rolex Shanghai Masters) and a lower tier WTA 500 event (Bank of Communications Zhengzhou Open). For example, at this month’s WTA 1000 China Open in Beijing, champion Iga Swiatek won $1,324,000, which is $61,780 more than Hubert Hurkacz received for winning the Shanghai Masters.
However, at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome, a mandatory 1000-level event for both the WTA and the ATP, the 2023 men’s singles champion got a €1,105,265 check, while the 2023 women’s singles champion earned €521,754. The Italian tournament is working on offering equal prize money by 2025.
The former world No.1 Sharapova, who retired in February 2020, also emphasized the need for tennis to capture the interest of fans beyond just the Grand Slam tournaments:
The importance of engagement. You had Coco Gauff just winning her first major at the US Open in New York City. The crowd, bridging culture, sport, fashion, all in that moment. Two weeks later, three weeks later, how many people know that she’s playing a tournament in Beijing? She got to the semifinals, lost to the No.1 player in the world. I’m sure 99 percent of the audience at the US Open had no idea where she was playing next. That’s right away off the bat that’s the problem.
Asked about a potential ATP-WTA merger, Sharapova was clear:
That’s not gonna happen. Not soon.