Denis Shapovalov says girlfriend Mirjam Björklund opened his eyes to inequality in tennis
Denis Shapovalov has come out swinging for female professionals in tennis.
He believes that the pay gap between men and women and the way WTA Tour professionals are treated is an unacceptable state of play.
He believes that the goal should not be to narrow the gap but to eliminate it altogether.
“I used to be naive about tennis,” Shapovalov wrote in a column for the Player’s Tribune.
“When I started out, I kind of assumed that male and female pros were treated the same way. It just made sense, you know? I mean, why would it be any different?
“Then I met my girlfriend, Mirjam Björklund, and she really opened my eyes. She’s a pro tennis player as well, top 150 in the world. Last year she qualified for a WTA 250, the fifth-highest tournament level on the tour below the Slams, the WTA Finals, the WTA 1000s and the WTA 500s.
“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 hopes that entrenched beliefs regarding women in sports can be broken down and equal support can be given to women.
He acknowledges that tennis has done more than most to reduce the gender pay gap with top female players topping lists of the highest-earning women in sport.
However, he cannot shake the feeling that the situation is unjust, and he has called for more support to be given to sportswomen.
“I know that tennis is by far the best major sport in the world for women in terms of the way these prizes are shared. It has grown so much over the last 30 years thanks to Billie Jean King and the formation of the WTA Players’ Council. The Slams are doing well. It’s also great that the WTA has made free hospitality mandatory and increased prize money at the Challenger tournaments. Things are definitely going in the right direction. But overall the gap is still huge.
“Maybe I’m being cynical, but I think some people might think of gender equality as mere political correctness. Deep down they don’t feel that women deserve as much, you know? And that’s terrible.”
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