After Rafael Nadal won his 11th French Open, he made some headlines thanks to his comments on the disparity between men’s and women’s tennis earnings. Women have longed for equal pay with men at Grand Slam and joint events, but Nadal feels that viewership should be the determining factor.
Speaking to an Italian magazine, Nadal compared tennis to modeling, saying that female models make more than male models and no one bats an eye at it.
“It’s a comparison we shouldn’t even make. Female models earn more than male models and nobody says anything. Why? Because they have a larger following. In tennis too, who gathers a larger audience earns more.”
Based on the ratings, this year’s Australian Open men’s final outdrew the women’s final by 25%. Both aired on ESPN back in January, but in the past, the women powered by Serena Williams have outrated the men, especially in the U.S. Open.
Overall, the men’s ATP Tour has done better in viewership than the wonen’s WTA Tour. The BBC notes that in 2015, viewership for the men’s tour drew 973 million viewers worldwide, while the women totaled 395 million. However, it should be noted that back then, the WTA would only air the later rounds of many of its tournaments, while the ATP would air its tour stops in their entirety.
The controversy of equal pay has dated back to the 1970s. The U.S. Open was the first to offer equal prize money in 1973, and in 2007, Wimbledon joined. However, those are the most prominent exceptions – not all tournaments offer equal pay.
Should viewership be the determining factor? Rafa definitely thinks so, and Novak Djokovic also feels the same way. However, the Williams sisters are on the opposite side of the argument, and this is a debate that won’t be going away anytime soon.