Equality vs popularity: Row over equal pay for both the sexes in Tennis

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Victoria Azarenka
Germany's Angelique Kerber (L) shakes hands with Belarus' Victoria Azarenka after Kerber won their quarter-final match at the Australian Open tennis tournament at Melbourne Park, Australia, January 27, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

While the concept of equal pay for both men and women players have been around for a while, the idea got shot up after Novak Djokovic’s recent statement claiming that men should be paid more simply on the grounds that they are more popular and hence attract a much larger audience. While he was later apologetic for his statement, it caught many eyes which led to the rise of the debate.

The single most strongest argument given by the supporters of the idea of more pay for men apart from the one which Nole gave, is that men play more and hence put in more efforts. They use the simple logic that more efforts implies more money. While this is agreeable to some extent, but, if the prize money were to be decided on the basis of efforts put in, then Djokovic’s marathon victory against Rafael Nadal in the 2012 Australian Open final should have earned him much more than what he earned in 2015 edition of the tournament beating Andy Murray in nearly half the time. While men’s tennis involve the spectator witnessing more of tennis, it is the quality which matters. And quality isn’t decided by the sex. It is based on the players involved.

Andy Murray in response to Djokovic’s statements very brilliantly pointed out how its always been on the player playing on the court rather than the sex of the player on court. Even the initial matches of someone say Maria Sharapova or Serena Williams would attract more audience than a lesser known male player on a parallel court.

More than anything it is the last decade or so which has seen the intense rivalry of the Big Four: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray which has attracted more and more people towards men’s tennis.

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Intense five setter thrillers, long marathon matches and fierce rivalry over the last few years has led to much more audience in the men’s arena. The lack of such rivalry in the women’s tennis has contributed to the worsening of the situation. Women’s tennis has in many instances, produced odd results with the underdogs proceeding to the later stages and finals. The lack of a consistent result has spiced up the women’s tennis but led to a rather loss of revenues in the recent past.

By all means the idea of equal pay for both men and women are one of tennis’s charms. If we were to look at other sports like Football or Cricket, there is a stark contrast in the prize money between the two sexes leading to controversies and criticism. It is the flexibility of the sport and its rewarding nature that attracts more and more female athletes.

Wimbledone in 2007 was the last Grand Slam to declare equal prize money for both the sexes. Yet there remains a major difference in the earnings of someone say Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams who despite winning similar laurels in 2015 had a difference of nearly 7 million pounds in their annual earnings.

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The reason?
Viewers for men’s 2015 ATP tours stood at a mammoth 973 million, whereas for women’s 2015 WTP tennis tours stood at 395 million (Courtesy: bbc.com). The stark difference prevents the equality in prize money in both the tours and something needs to be before women can lobby for further reduction in the difference of the prize money between the two. Clearly these stats support Novak Djokovic’s claims of more popularity and thus more revenue and hence is something that needs to be closely monitored as to the possible reasons for such a wide difference.

Till then, we as tennis enthusiasts can be happy at what the sport has achieved in terms of equality for men and women especially seeing the stark differences between the two in other sporting events like Cricket where in the ongoing T20 World Cup, the men’s team have a cash prize of $5.6million as whereas the women’s team have a cash prize of $400,000 for them.

 

 

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