Tennis is big business for professional players, and even those in the lower ranks can earn a decent purse playing in a tournament. But now the Association of Tennis Professionals and the International Tennis Federation propose upping the stakes for players of all levels.
The ATP announced that it would increase prize money 14% each year over the next four years for nine of its Masters 1000 tournaments. These tournaments are some of the highest-level events besides Grand Slam tournaments.
Shortly after the announcement last Wednesday, the ITF proposed increases in prize money on the ITF Pro Circuit. This, however, is the lowest level of sanctioned professional tennis.
Both increases would give big name pros and up-and-coming tennis stars alike the chance to bring home more money.
The ITF surveyed more than 7,000 players and stakeholders in tennis and analyzed 14 years of data about the sport in order to determine by how much the prize money should increase.
The survey revealed a difference in prize money earned for the top 1% of male and female players. The top 50 males earned 60% of all prize money; the top 1% of females, which only number 26, earned 51% of prizes.
The survey also showed a lower success rate for players trying to achieve a professional ranking, while more ranked players were competing in junior tennis instead.
In response to the survey’s results, the ITF proposed an increase in prize money for pros of all levels. Currently, men’s tournaments through ITF have total purses of $10,000 to $15,000, while women’s tennis gives prizes between $10,000 and $100,000.
Larger prizes for male players are handled by the ATP Challenger Tour, whereas the Women’s Tennis Association delegates Challenger-level tournaments to the ITF.
Under the new proposal, which will be reviewed by the federation board in March, the prize amounts for all tournament levels would increase starting in 2016.
The $10,000 tournaments would pay out $15,000; $15,000 tournaments would pay $25,000; $50,000 tournaments would pay $60,000; $75,000 tournaments would pay $90,000; and the current top prize of $100,000 would increase to $125,000.
The proposal seeks to close prize amount gaps between genders, especially for players with lower rankings. ITF analyzed data from players to determine the minimum rank needed to make money on their careers, finding that men ranked No. 336 earned the same as a woman ranked No. 253.
While the benefits of tennis are equal for amateur players, helping them lose a half a pound a week for every three to four hours played, for instance, prizes among male and female pros are not always distributed equally. Female players also have fewer tournaments to choose from, which results in higher expenses and more travel in order to compete.
However, the news from ITF arrives at a time when female coaches are in demand. In March, Andy Murray parted ways with his longtime coach and hired Amélie Mauresmo, a former No. 1 tennis pro, this June.
Now more female coaches are being hired by pros, especially those in the WTA. For instance, Agnieszka Radwanska recently hired Martina Navratilova, holder of 18 Grand Slam titles; Madison Keys hired Lindsay Davenport, a three-time Grand Slam winner, as her coach.