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Deuce? Why women continue to experience sexism in tennis

By Alexander Morgan - posted Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Tennis is generally considered by many people to be a sport where men and women are considered equal. The fact they earn the same amount of prize money at grand slams' is generally the argument that is put forth.

Yes, tennis is leaps and bounds ahead of most other sports in terms of equality, but that does not mean that there are no gender issues entrenched in the sport. Even if it is subtle, sexism in tennis still exists.

It's not just about prize money. It's about endorsements. It's about media exposure. It's about body image.


Most notably, why has Maria Sharapova out earned rival Serena Williams in endorsements every year for the past eleven years according to Forbes?

Williams has won twenty one grand slam singles titles to Sharapova's four grand slams and boasts an 18 to 2 head to head record against Sharapova.

It's a pretty easy answer: Williams isn't six foot two, size two, and have long blonde hair. Yes sexism still exists in tennis today.

If you thought the fact that Sharapova earns more than Williams was bad, wait till you hear how much more Roger Federer makes.

According to Forbes, Federer is worth an estimated $67 million a year from prize money and endorsements. Williams, on the other hand, is worth just $24.6 million and Sharapova for the record is worth $29.7 million.

Both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal continue to earn more than Williams, despite the fact that they have 10 and 14 grand slam titles respectively. To put this into context, Djokovic and Williams both won three grand slam titles this year; Djokovic earned an estimated $31 million from sponsorships and endorsements, Williams earned an estimated $13 million.


If we return to career prize money we find Federer has earned $95 million, Djokovic has earned $89 million, Nadal $74.6 million, followed narrowly by Williams on $74.1 million.

Yet if I were given a choice between having Williams' career or Federer's career, based on merit I would undoubtedly choose the former. Williams not only has 21 times grand slams singles titles, she has also won 13 grand slam titles in doubles, four Olympic gold medals, and has twice held all four grand slam titles simultaneously. Federer, on the other hand, has won 17 grand slam singles titles, zero grand slam doubles titles, one Olympic gold medal and has never held all four grand slam titles simultaneously.

Moving beyond the monetary differences there is still evidence of sexism in tennis. Take for instance the issue of female coaches.

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About the Author

Alexander Morgan is a politics graduate from the University of New South Wales.

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