Jessica Pegula laments gender pay gap and highlights how women’s tennis can improve
Tennis is often praised for being at the forefront when it comes to the best-paid female athletes, but Jessica Pegula warns there is still a significant gap to bridge when it comes to equal pay for men and women in the sport.
Stars from the WTA Tour often dominate the annual Forbes Highest-Paid Female Athletes List with Naomi Osaka topping the 2022 list with the now-retired Serena Williams second, Emma Raducanu fourth, Iga Swiatek fifth, Venus Williams sixth, Coco Gauff seventh and Pegula ninth.
Most of these players’ earnings came from sponsorship deals, but they still have a long way to go when it comes to matching their male counterparts as Osaka earned $51.1m last year compared to the overall No 1 Lionel Messi, who earned $130m, while Roger Federer was the top men’s tennis player with $90.7m in earnings.
It is a similar story when it comes to prize money in tennis as currently only a handful of tournaments – including the Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and US Open – offer equal pay to both men and women.
In an interview with Forbes.com, Pegula admitted the sport still has work ahead to reduce the gap further.
“Yeah it’s crazy time. Women’s tennis is a huge sport for the highest-paid female athletes. But at the same time, the pay gap is still very big,” the American said. “We always talk about how it is equal in the Slams but that’s four tournaments a year. It is not equal in a lot of the other tournaments.”
A common criticism often labelled against women’s tennis is that they don’t generate enough income from sponsors in order to receive equal pay at all tournaments.
Pegula believes it comes down to poor marketing, but the reigning world No 5 is hopeful things will change after the WTA signed a commercial partnership with CVC Capital Partners in March this year.
Under the deal, the private equity firm will invest $150 million in women’s tennis for a 20% stake in the sport with the working title known as WTA Ventures LLC.
Pegula added: “I think we need to do better while marketing for our game which hopefully I think the WTA started a new partnership with a private equity company that’s going to come in and kinda take the commercial side and hopefully revamp the marketing.
“I think getting more stories out there of all the incredible players we have.”
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