Jessica Pegula and Ons Jabeur salute Denis Shapovalov for addressing gender pay gap in tennis

Shahida Jacobs
Jessica Pegula talks to the media

Jessica Pegula and Ons Jabeur have doffed their hats to Denis Shapovalov after the Canadian addressed the gender inequality when it comes to prize money in tennis.

Shapovalov used his piece in The Players’ Tribune to talk about the pay gap as he admitted he was initially naive when it came to the earnings of men and women and tennis as he assumed they earned roughly the same.

However, his eyes opened up after a conversation with his girlfriend Mirjam Bjorklund, also a professional tennis player, as she revealed she earned “like a thousand dollars” for qualifying for a WTA 250 event whereas men would get “at least $7,000 just to be in the main draw”.

And while the four Grand Slams – the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open – and a few other big tournaments like the Indian Wells Open and Miami Open hand out equal prize money, the gap is still huge at most other tournaments.

Shapovalov wrote: “Things are definitely going in the right direction. But overall the gap is still huge.

“Maybe I’m being cynical, but I think some people might think of gender equality as mere political correctness. Deep down they don’t feel that women deserve as much, you know? And that’s terrible.”

READ MORE: Denis Shapovalov says girlfriend Mirjam Björklund opened his eyes to inequality in tennis

Women’s world No 3 Pegula praised Shapovalov for addressing the issue without being asked to do so.

“I thought it was really amazing how [Shapovalov] took his chance to talk and that’s the subject he chose,” the American said. “It’s something that the men, I think for the most part, have supported. But it’s always if they get asked, they support it.

“For him to go so out of his way to make that the main story he was talking to the press about was really cool. And really nice. I know all the women appreciated that a lot.”

A case in point was last week’s ATP Chile Open and WTA ATX Open as both tournaments were 250 events and best-of-three matches with the winner of each competition playing five matches. Marta Kostyuk won in Texas and collected $34,228 while Nicolas Jarry walked away with $97,760 for winning the Chile Open.

Jabeur, who joined the Professional Tennis Players Association last year and also sits on the organisation’s player executive committee, says “women need to have more and more rights”.

“We’re trying to get the right for all players equally but, yes, women need to have more and more rights,” she said. “In so many tournaments. I’m not going to name them, but we need to have our rights because we have great players, great top 10 players, top 20, any other players. You can see a lot of exciting matches.

“I just wish everyone would give the opportunity to see why we deserve where we want to be paid. People need to watch us.”

Pegula, meanwhile, added that it is not just up to women to champion for improvement as men also need to come to the party.

“We’re better when we’re together, for sure,” she said. “The joint events, they’re bigger, they’re better. Everyone gets treated better, gets treated equally and that’s ideally what we want to happen all the time in the future.

“I think it’s getting there. Obviously, it’s we still have a long ways to go. But it was nice to see him take the time to highlight that.”