The French Open is in the headlines this year for more than just being one of the most prestigious tournaments in all of tennis. Aside from the controversy surrounding Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the tournament to preserve her mental health, the prize pool has faced criticism. While the amount of money associated with success in the tournament is still a large number, it might not be what it was in the past.
Let’s look at the issue with the French Open’s prize pool as well as the history of pro tennis prize purses.
How major tennis tournaments closed the pay gap
The pay gap between men and women has been a challenge for the sports world for years. Tennis is no different in this regard. Male tennis players received significantly more money than females for years, particularly when it came to major tournaments. Luckily, that’s changed thanks to the diligence of influential people in the game.
According to ESPN, the major shift came in the early ’70s, right after the outset of the Open era. Legendary women’s tennis player Billie Jean King was the outspoken leader of the movement. For one tournament, the men’s winner received $3,500. For winning the same tourney, King received a paltry $600.
From her perspective — and the perspective of anyone with a sense of fairness — the women deserved much more. King explained, “Everyone thinks women should be thrilled when we get crumbs, and I want women to have the cake, the icing, and the cherry on top, too.”
The U.S. Open was the first to offer equal pay to both winners in 1973. The Australian Open initially offered equal pay only for the men to eclipse the women before finally leveling off in 2001. Wimbledon followed suit in 2007. As far as the French Open goes, that tournament offered equal pay starting in 2006.
The 2021 French Open prize pool is down 10.5% from last year
The last year was brutal financially for all professional sports. Tennis’s leadership has decided to help its players recover from the hit they took thanks to last year’s pandemic.
According to Perfect Tennis, the overall prize money total for the French Open in 2021 is around 34 million pounds. This equates to roughly $42 million in U.S. dollars. That’s down 10.5% compared to last year’s prize total, which is understandable due to the impacts of the coronavirus.
While the overall number is smaller, a catch will help the tennis players. Any singles player who loses in any qualifying round (or in the opening two rounds) will take home the same amount of prize money as they received in 2020. Considering the circumstances, players can consider that a positive.
The remaining Grand Slam tennis tournaments of 2021
The 2021 grand slam schedule is already well underway. But there are still plenty of opportunities for men’s and women’s players to cash in on big prizes for winning.
The Australian Open was held from February 8-21 while the French Open began on May 30 and ends June 12. From there, tennis fans look forward to Wimbledon starting on June 28 and ending on July 11. Per the usual schedule, the U.S. Open will be held in New York from August 30 to September 12, signaling the end of summer and the beginning of fall.
There are also plenty of other chances for players to win prize money at the ATP/WTA weekly tournaments. But this year’s French Open represents a smaller payout than it’s featured in years past.