Djokovic and Nadal stance on equal pay after billionaire star’s views

Jessica Pegula has shared her hopes for female tennis players to receive equal pay as one of the members of the WTA Player Council. The world No 3 is heir to a huge fortune as her dad Terry has an estimated worth of £5.5 billion ($6.7 billion) but has spent her time on the council pushing for equal prize money so WTA stars can be paid the same as the likes of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. The two men have landed themselves in hot water for their comments on equal pay in the past but have since shown their support for women in tennis.

Pegula recently shared her wish to see female tennis players paid the same as their male counterparts and claimed that better exposure for the women’s game was needed, saying: “I hope obviously we can keep pushing for equal prize money at all events. Being on TV more. I feel like as far as me being on player council, we already tried to do a lot of that.” While tennis has come a long way over the last few decades with all four Grand Slams now offering equal pay, the lower-level tour events still often see a huge pay gap – something the American wants to eradicate.

The 28-year-old looks more than set for her post-playing career as her dad Terry Pegula – the owner of the Buffalo Bills – is worth billions, but Pegula wants to ensure financial security for the future generation of tennis players. The equal pay conversation in tennis has existed for decades, with the WTA Tour itself originating from the Virginia Slims Circuit – a tour formed when the likes of Billie Jean King and her fellow ‘Original 9’ founding members took a stand for equality and signed onto the breakaway tour for $1.

And top male players have also weighed in on the debate in the past including Djokovic and Nadal, who have both previously caused controversy for their old comments arguing against equal pay. Djokovic claimed men should fight for “more” money during the 2016 Indian Wells Masters, when then-tournament CEO Raymond Moore claimed female players “ride on coat tails of the men” and should “get on their knees and thank God” that players like Nadal and Roger Federer “carried” the sport.

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Per PA, Djokovic then said: “I think that our men’s tennis world, ATP world, should fight for more because the stats are showing that we have much more spectators on the men’s tennis matches. I think that’s one of the reasons why maybe we should get awarded more.” But he backtracked just a week later, telling reporters: “I never had an issue with equality in gender or sport or other areas of life.

“I feel very sorry if, in any way, I hurt my female colleague tennis players. I have a very good relationship with all of them. I have a huge respect for all of them.” The world No 1 has since become a vocal supporter of equal pay as well as better pay distribution for lower-ranked players competing in lower-level tournaments, and even co-founded the Professional Tennis Players Association in 2020 to try and combat this.

“It is a joint organisation, both men and women, and we’ll do everything to fight for both sides,” his fellow co-found Vasek Pospisil said of the PTPA this year. Nadal has also argued against equal pay in the past, and in 2018 told Italian magazine Lo Donna: “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.”

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The world No 6 appeared to make similar comments at the 2019 Australian Open, saying: “As you know, I love the women’s tennis. I feel that they can win as much as they want. Is not about equal or not equal prize money. I don’t care if they win more than us. That’s the real thing. If they sell more tickets than what we sell tickets, they deserve more than us. That’s very easy to understand- it’s not about being male or women. Doesn’t matter. We are the same. If they sell more than us, they have to win more than us.”

Nadal echoed a similar sentiment later in the year at the Barcelona Open but has since shown his support for a union of the ATP and WTA Tours. When tennis was halted for the pandemic in 2020, Federer famously tweeted: “Just wondering… I the only one thinking that now is the time for men’s and women’s tennis to be united and come together as one? I am not talking about merging competition on the court, but merging the 2 governing bodies (ATP and WTA) that oversee the men’s and women’s professional tours….”

Nadal then responded: “Hey @rogerfederer as you know per our discussions I completely agree that it would be great to get out of this world crisis with the union of men’s and women’s tennis in one only organisation.” But the Spaniard’s past comments show that Pegula’s fight is one that is still needed in the sport, as better exposure for female players would help them sell more tickets and get more ratings to quash Nadal’s argument.

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