Novak Djokovic and Coco Gauff’s US Open prize money sparks fresh equal pay debate

Coco Gauff US Open celebrations

What would happen if a top male player took on a female player in a competitive tennis match? 

It is a question that has been asked time and again in recent years and always stirs plenty of debate.

One player who appeared to be capable of taking on the best male players in the world was the great Serena Williams, yet her verdict on the debate suggests this is a mismatch that does not need to be played out.

Tennis legend John McEnroe came under fire when he suggested female players would be no match for their male counterparts and Serena backed up those sentiments when she was asked for her verdict on this debate.

“Andy Murray, he has been joking about myself and him playing a match and I’m like, Andy, seriously, like are you kidding me?” Williams said.

“For me, men’s tennis and women’s tennis are completely almost two separate sports.

“If I were to play Andy Murray, I would lose 6-0, 6-0 in like five to six minutes, maybe 10 minutes.

“It’s just completely, completely different sport. The men are a lot faster than me and they serve harder, they hit harder.

“I love to play women’s. I only want to play against girls because I don’t want to be embarrassed.”

The comments from the greatest female player of this era should have ended the debate over any battle of the sexes match, yet it will fuel the discussion over equal pay for men’s and women’s matches at Grand Slam events.

As is the case when some uninformed observers try to present an argument to suggest female footballers should be paid the same as their male counterparts despite enormous differences in the money generated by the two sports, tennis does not need to compare the male and female game.

Instead, the sport should celebrate the steps it has made to ensure female players reap the rewards for their efforts, with the equal prize money that is handed out in Grand Slam events another major talking point.

READ MORE: Novak Djokovic hits raw nerve with tennis chiefs after latest controversial comments

Tennis legend Billie Jean King fought hard to bring parity in payments for male and female players at the major championships.

Yet the statistics confirmed that Novak Djokovic was paid $2,730 per minute for his record-breaking 24th Grand Slam title at the US Open earlier this month.

By contrast, women’s champion Coco Gauff earned $3,456 per minute as she claimed her first Grand Slam title.

Playing best of three-set matches meant Gauff was on court for only 868 minutes as she lifted the title, with Djokovic on court for 1,099 minutes as he won the men’s championship at Flushing Meadows.

The equal pay stance at the Grand Slam events is contrasted by a huge disparity between the winners’ cheques for men’s and women’s tournaments on the ATP and WTA Tours.

That pay gap inspired Andy Murray to suggest changes are needed to bring the two tours closer together.

“I always felt like when we’re competing at the same event on the same courts, you know, that we should be playing for, you know, for the same prize money,” said Murray.

“I’m totally behind equal prize money, and I think that it is brilliant that a lot of the tournaments on the tour that we have that, and I think that’s really, really positive.”

Murray went on to explain that the barrier to equal prize money remains the fact that the tours are operated by individual governing bodies.

“I think it is difficult for it ever to become truly equal until the ATP and the WTA sort of actually combine and work together.

“I don’t know what the threshold for tournaments is, like to become a 500 on the ATP Tour, if the ATP will have their set of rules as to what levels they need to reach from a prize money perspective, and I’m sure the WTA have their own.

“I think for it ever to become truly equal, the WTA and the ATP are actually going to have to come together and work as one… both tours have different sponsors, different TV deals, and all of that stuff too.”

Tennis has led the way in equality on and off the court between men and women for decades, so trying to compare the men’s and women’s game is a debate that does not need to take place.