The contentious issue of equal prize money in tennis reared its ugly head at the Cincinnati Masters on Sunday when Ash Barty walked away with significantly less than Alexander Zverev despite both winning their respective titles.
The top-ranked Barty won her fifth title of the season, taking eight of the last nine games from wildcard Jil Teichmann for a 6-3, 6-1 victory in the Western & Southern Open final.
'EPITOME OF CLASS': Fans swoon over Ash Barty's special post-match act
Zverev also had a relatively easy time in the men's final, winning the first four games en route to a 6-2, 6-3 victory over seventh-ranked Andrey Rublev.
But the equal prize money debate was thrust firmly back into the spotlight when it was revealed Zverev had won AU$918,000 for the triumph, while Barty only received $357,000.
The ATP increased the men's prize pool by 14.75 per cent from last year's event to $6.8 million, while the WTA decreased their prize pool six per cent to $2.96 million.
The respective prize pools are determined by the ATP and WTA separately - not by Cincinnati Masters organisers - which goes some way to explaining the huge discrepancy.
American tennis writer Ben Rothenberg first pointed out the gender gap last week when revealing that Naomi Osaka was donating her prize money to relief efforts in Haiti.
Commentators and fans, as well as female player Daria Kasatkina, flocked to social media to slam the debacle, with some labelling it "embarrassing" and a "disgrace".
While the four grand slams have recently moved to offer equal prize money for men and women, the issue is still well and truly alive at smaller tournaments.
Ash Barty wins fifth title in stellar 2021 season
Barty, who won her first Wimbledon title in July before being upset in the first round at the Olympics, didn't drop a set in four matches in Cincinnati and played only one tiebreaker.
“It’s been an awesome week," Barty said.
"I felt like, each match, I got better and better in most parts of my game. I was just excited to get some matches under my belt in some tough conditions, and I think it put us in good stead going to New York.”
Teichmann had a surprising run to the final, upsetting second-ranked Osaka, Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic and fourth-ranked Karolina Pliskova.
“This is where you belong,” Barty said to Teichmann during the post-match ceremony.
“You played exceptional tennis this week.”
Barty broke Teichmann's serve to take a 5-3 lead in the first set, then won the next six games.
In the second set, the Swiss player received medical attention during a changeover for blisters on her heavily taped right foot.
“I was very happy with my week," Teichmann said.
"Obviously, today, I wanted to win, but Ash was just too good. I felt like I was there in the first set, but then she got a little break and it was gone. She played some good points.
Then, in the second set, she stepped up her level.”
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