The Southern & Western Open kicked-off this week with some of the world's biggest names taking part, but the gap in the prize money for the men and women has sparked outrage in Cincinnati.
World No.1 Ash Barty and World No.2 Naomi Osaka have both taken part in the Cincinnati Open, while the highest profile names in the men's game, including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, have all elected to skip the tournament due to injury.
However, a number of top men's players are taking part, including World No.2 Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.
But, following the global pandemic that wreaked havoc in the tennis schedule, players and viewers are calling out the Cincinnati Open for its huge disparity in prize money.
The total prize money for this year's tournament is around $AUD 6.7 million, which is an increase of 14.75 per cent from last year.
The champion will take home around $910,000, which is up 127 per cent from what reigning champion Djokovic took home last year.
However, the women's total prize money has taken a hit.
The total prize money is $2.9 million, down more than 6 per cent from 2020.
The winner will take home more than $350,000, which is a 10 per cent drop from last year.
Players and fans react to huge tennis pay gap
All four Grand Slams have the same prize money for men and women, but ATP and WTA Tour events vary.
Last week, player Daria Kasatkina pointed out the women's game did not benefit from a rise in prize money at the Cincinnati Open and put a spotlight on the issue.
Following Kasatkina, leading tennis reporter Ben Rothenberg called out the clear-cut pay divide at the Masters 1000 event.
The tennis community labelled the huge gap 'sexist', as users hit out on social media.
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) August 19, 2021
Just found out Cincinnati prize money for men is over 5 million and for the women it’s just around 2 million... this is so unfair 😔
— SST fanclub president (@wta_fanatics) August 17, 2021
Y'all can defend Cinci all you want but they are trash for their prize money distribution. Yes, WTA and it's leadership are to be blamed too but they get all the top wta players, same main draw size, and yet that tournament won't pay women same as men pic.twitter.com/2me3N0qEPu
— NoFirstname Hardcourtovic (@samstennis189) August 12, 2021
With the big 3 out at #CincyTennis, the reason why they are actually selling tix is because of the WTA and players like Naomi and Coco. It’s ridiculous there is such a big disparity in pay. Should be 100% equal pay!
— Darren (@tennisandjazz) August 19, 2021
It's only the majors apparently that have equal prize money? Wow.
— Jack Forge (@Jack_Forge13) August 19, 2021
Ah good old tennis sexism, restoring prize money for the men but not the women. https://t.co/i7buIDggUL
— Josh (garik16) (@garik16) August 13, 2021
The debate over prize money has been a huge talking point for decades.
Tennis icon and equal rights activist Billie Jean King made waves around the world in 1973 after the famous 'Battle of the Sexes' match, when she defeated former World No.1 player Bobby Riggs to highlights the issue.
King changed the public perception on how women's tennis was viewed.
But the issue has remained an issue on tour.
In 2015, at the same Southern & Western event, Serena Williams won a little less than $700,000 for winning the title.
But, Federer won more than $1,000,000 for winning the men's event.
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