Shenzhen WTA Final prize money to set new yardstick for women sports
Suvam Pal
Dayana YASTREMSKA (UKR) during of the final International tennis de Strasbourg at France in Strasbourg France, May 25, 2019. /VCG Photo

Dayana YASTREMSKA (UKR) during of the final International tennis de Strasbourg at France in Strasbourg France, May 25, 2019. /VCG Photo

The recent announcement of this year's Shiseido WTA Finals in Shenzhen awarding its undefeated winner a cool 4.75 million U.S. dollars as prize money has set a new precedent in the age-old gender pay equality debate in world sports. In fact, the astronomical amount of prize money for a women's tennis event – the biggest prize money check in the history of men's or women's professional tennis – is surely going to set a new benchmark with world of tennis has often been grappling with a call for pay parity for more than half a century.

Incidentally, the blockbuster bonanza to be offered in the Chinese city will eclipse the 4 million U.S. dollars prize money that was won by the entire U.S. women's national team after they emphatically retained their FIFA Women's World Cup title last month. When England won the men's cricket World Cup last month, they too bagged 4 million dollars, which falls significantly shorter than the prize money that will be in the offing at this year's WTA Finals.

More interestingly, the winner's paycheck in Shenzhen is going to be double of the eye-watering 2.07 million U.S. dollars Tiger Woods pocketed for his epic triumph at the 2019 Masters. Last year, when Magnus Carlsen successfully defended his world title by defeating his challenger Fabiano Caruana at the 2018 World Chess Championship, the three-time world champion took home a prize pot exceeding just about 1 million U.S. dollars. In fact, the winner of this year's men's tour equivalent, the ATP Finals, too will get almost half the amount less than the WTA Finals winner. The undefeated champion's purse at last year's ATP Finals was only 2.71 million U.S. dollars, much less than this year's women's showpiece end of the year event.

However, the 2019 WTA Finals prize money is cumulatively nowhere closer to the mind-boggling 38 million U.S. dollars grabbed by the French men's team in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. However, that overall cash prize was for a 20-odd member team, and if one breaks down the prize money per player, then the winner's check for one footballer is substantially less than what the winner of the Billie Jean King Trophy will get in Shenzhen later this year.

If we look back at the history of gender pay equality debate, it was way back in 1973, when the U.S. Open became the first of the tennis majors to dole out equal prize money to men and women. Legendary Billie Jean King and the then-nascent WTA, as well as a sizable cash supplement from the Ban Deodorant company, helped the tournament organizers come up with a 25,000 U.S. dollars purse for each draw. However, the glass shield of the Grand Slam events was finally broken when the ever-conservative All England Club, who had cited the fact that the men drew bigger T.V. audiences in the U.K., and played best three-of-five sets instead of two-of-three, gave up its rear-guard action to introduce equal prize money at Wimbledon in 2007.

Nonetheless, with the women's champion in Shenzhen, earning more than her male counterpart will surely act as a new beacon of hope for gender pay equality crusaders in women's sports across the globe.