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Commentary: Have market forces really decided men’s tennis is more valuable than women’s tennis?


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Commentary: Have market forces really...

Away from the four Grand Slams, men’s prize money is frequently higher than women’s even at joint tournaments and men are also given more tournaments to play in.

As a case in point, last February’s tournaments in Dubai, while nominally of equal standing for the men’s and women’s tours, awarded US$523,740 to the men’s champion and just US$104,180 to the women’s. 

And in April, while the two biggest women’s tournaments offered just over US$250,000 in prize money, the men’s gave out almost US$1.4 million.

Combining all tournaments except the Slams, the total prize money awarded on the men’s tour so far this year is 75 per cent higher than on the women’s, the widest the gap has been since 2001.

DECISIONS ON MATCH SCHEDULES MATTER

There are often two justifications given for this disparity. The first is that women spend less time on the court and so do not deserve equal pay. This is straightforwardly wrong, since outside of the Slams, both sexes play best of three sets. 

It is also unclear why more time on the court should necessarily mean a better spectacle. Few of the highest-quality Grand Slam finals have gone to a deciding set and, if time was money, then Nicolas Mahut and John Isner would be the highest-paid tennis players of all time.

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Decisions, like scheduling women’s matches when spectator numbers are at their lowest, influence which players are given the best chance of breaking through to a mass audience, says the Financial Times’ John Burn-Murdoch.

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