Maria Sharapova blasts US tennis fans and pay inequality

(Photo by Cristiano Barni ATPImages/Getty Images)
(Photo by Cristiano Barni ATPImages/Getty Images) /

Let me be clear: The winners of tennis tournaments, especially those that hold men’s and women’s play simultaneously, need to be paid equally. All the players, except in the Grand Slam events and all four majors already have pay equity, play best of three sets so there is no silly excuse that the men should get paid more because they play more sets in each match. Maria Sharapova also believes there should be pay equality, but she also thinks part of the reason there isn’t might be because of the WTA and US tennis fans.

Recently speaking at the Bloomberg Screentime Summit, Sharapova said not having the men’s and women’s side at the same tournament is “insane.”

The former No. 1 WTA player pointed out that there were two tournaments in Shanghai being held at the same time in October but that the winner of the ATP side earned $1.2 million while the winner on the WTA side earned just $100,000 (to be fair, the ATP tournament was a 1000 level while the WTA one was 500, but that’s still a huge difference). But the issue isn’t China, specifically, but is much more global.

Maria Sharapova has strong views about the state of tennis

One of the problems is that the WTA certainly doesn’t promote smaller tournaments as it did the Grand Slams. This means the players are not supported as well as they should be. But any rumor that the ATP and WTA might eventually emerge, Maria Sharapova dismissed – at least, for now.

The issue, per Maria Sharapova, is that the entire tennis calendar would have to be reworked to have tournaments involving both men and women. As Sharapova said, “How do you align the calendar when you have so many events throughout the year? How do you make it accessible, interesting and engaging. It will take time. It’s not going to happen tomorrow, but I sure hope it does.”

Sharapova also would like it if tennis fans in the United States would pay more attention, especially when it comes to the WTA, to tournaments that aren’t either American-held or Grand Slams. She said, Coco Gauff “won the U.S. Open. How many people knew that three weeks later she was playing in Beijing? She made it to the semifinals and lost, but I’m sure 99 percent of the US Open audience had no idea where she would play next.”

And she is correct, of course. Plus, tennis needs the United States to pay closer attention to the sport. Large countries loving the game is good because that’s more eyes on TV or computer screens watching matches and watching commercials of the sponsors of tournaments. If sponsors are happy, that is more money for tournaments and players. Heck, maybe one day the women’s side will see the benefit of that as much as the men’s side.

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