Denis Shapovalov: Tennis gender gap 'doesn't make sense at all'
"You should be given the same opportunities regardless of gender, colour, race … regardless of anything."
Canadian tennis star Denis Shapovalov is tired of the pay gap between men and women in professional tennis.
In an article published in The Players' Tribune, Shapovalov made an impassioned plea for gender pay equality between the ATP and WTA.
"I’m not sure everyone realizes how damaging this is for tennis. Tomorrow is International Women’s Day, and I want to talk about the gender gap," he wrote. "It’s so unfair. It doesn’t make sense at all.
"And it matters, because the expenses are crazy in tennis: You travel all year, you stay in hotels, you pay your coaching staff. The big stars don’t have to worry about it, but many on the tour are struggling just to break even. For these players, prize money is not about getting a nice lump of extra cash. It’s about survival."
The 23-year-old admits that his girlfriend — Swedish tennis player Mirjam Björklund — opened his eyes to the financial disparity after qualifying for a WTA 250 tournament.
I said to Mirjam, “Oh, great! You’ll get at least $7,000 just to be in the main draw.”
She just looked at me like I was completely new to tennis. I’ll never forget it.
She was like, “Denis … I think it’s like a thousand dollars.”
I was like, “What are you talking about? How is that possible??”
Shapovalov is worried that insufficient compensation for female tennis players could seriously damage the future of the sport, with fewer aspiring players willing to sacrifice time and effort to barely make a living.
"As for prize money, anything else but complete equality is not just unfair — it also blocks participation. If female players are not being treated fairly, some of those at the lower levels may find they can’t afford to continue. Potential stars will just quit," he wrote.
"And then women’s tennis really will become less “popular.” It will be shown less on TV. That would have a domino effect. And the saddest part is that it goes all the way to the kids. I was inspired by Roger, but if women’s tennis gets less exposure, the little girl in front of the TV may not think it could be a reality for her. She’ll never see her idol and go, Look at her. I want to do that."
Shapovalov compared the situation to the Canadian national women's soccer team's labour dispute with Canada Soccer as the organization has fallen short in its promises for equal compensation.
"Look at what’s been happening to the Canadian women’s national soccer team. They won a gold medal at the last Olympics and got their funding cut months before the World Cup," Shapovalov wrote. "They’re one of the best soccer teams in the world and yet they’ve had to fight for equal support? It’s insane."
While many applauded Shapovalov for coming out in strong support for equal pay, some pointed out that the star's current coach — former player Peter Polansky — has publicly opposed the notion in the past.
Excellent idea Denis! Maybe talk to your coach first. Unless he has changed his mind from previous comments. pic.twitter.com/6315DGTZL5
— Ryan (@EDlawl) March 7, 2023
Shapovalov is currently ranked 30th in the world, owning a 173-141 and earning over $10 million in prize money over his six-year career.