Novak Djokovic caught in 'disgusting' prize money controversy

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Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep, pictured here after winning the Italian Open titles.
Novak Djokovic and Simona Halep won the Italian Open titles. Image: Getty

The debate around equal prize money has always been a contentious one in the tennis world.

While the four grand slams have moved to award equal prize money in recent years, the majority of tennis tournaments around the world still give more to male players than females.

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And that’s the case for the Italian Open, where men’s champion Novak Djokovic was awarded more prize money than female counterpart Simona Halep on Monday.

Naturally controversy has erupted, but not in the way you’d expect.

Fans are fuming not because the gap between Djokovic’s prize money compared to Halep’s is so big, but because it’s so ridiculously small.

It was revealed on Monday that Djokovic was awarded €205,200 for winning the Italian Open, while Halep got €205,190 - a measly €10 difference.

Fans were left gobsmacked that tournament officials got so close to pay parity, yet fell so embarrassingly short.

American tennis writer Ben Rothenberg described it as “utterly hilarious”.

“Rome, long an unequal prize money event, came SO CLOSE to giving equal prize money to both the finalists and champions today, but then decided to reduce the women’s prize money by *10 EUROS* to keep the men on top, however slightly,” he wrote.

“The Rome women’s champ made 99.995 cents on the dollar of the men’s champ.

“Yes, the overall pay gap is a bigger deal, but the pettiness of the inequality on the top line is far more symbolic. That’s not ‘market forces’ etc at all, that’s just fragile masculinity and misogyny.”

Tennis fan Bob Kim wrote: “There just *had* to be that extra 10 euros for the guy, huh?”

While others described the gap as “disgusting” and “embarrassing”.

In 2019 the men’s champion was Rafael Nadal, who took home $1.56 million.

However female champion Karolina Pliskova was awarded just $850,000.

The reduced prize money pools came about as a result of the financial strain from the coronavirus crisis, including the reduction of fans in attendance.

And while organisers got closer to pay parity for the champions in 2020, there was still a significant difference for the other players.

The men’s semi-finalists got €100,000 compared to €80,000 for the females, while male quarter-finalists got €75,000 and the females €37,910.

And the disparity got worse from there.

Djokovic and Help crowned Italian Open champions

Fifteen days after he was defaulted from the US Open, Djokovic has plenty to celebrate beating Diego Schwartzman 7-5 6-3 to win his fifth Italian Open title.

In doing so he passed childhood idol Pete Sampras for the second-most weeks at No.1 with 287 - trailing only Roger Federer's 310 weeks in the top spot - and re-asserted his dominance before the French Open starts in six days.

Djokovic improved to 31-1 this year - with his only loss against Pablo Carreno Busta in the fourth round of the US Open when he was defaulted for hitting a line judge with a ball.

With his 36th Masters 1000 title, Djokovic moved one ahead of Nadal atop the all-time list.

Diego Schwartzman and Novak Djokovic, pictured here after the Italian Open final.
Diego Schwartzman and Novak Djokovic pose with their trophies after the Italian Open final. (Photo by Riccardo Antimiani - Pool/Getty Images)

Earlier, Halep has given her French Open preparations a boost by claiming the title in Rome after second seed Karolina Pliskova retired from the final with injury when she was down 6-0 2-1.

Victory gave Halep her first title in Rome and her third consecutive title of the year after wins in Dubai - before the COVID-19 hiatus - and Prague last month.

Pliskova attempted to continue playing after receiving treatment on her lower back and leg between sets but eventually decided to retire, not willing to take any chances before the French Open which begins on September 27.

with AAP

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