The thing I don't like about this is women don't play as hard as men. They only have to win 2 out 3 sets, while the men have to win 3 out of 5.
Updated: Feb. 22, 2007, 5:08 PM ETWomen players to earn equal pay at Wimbledon
WIMBLEDON, England -- After years of holding out against equal prize money, Wimbledon yielded to public pressure Thursday and agreed to pay female players as much as male players at the world's most prestigious tennis tournament.
The All England Club fell in line with other Grand Slam events and offered equal pay through all rounds at this year's tournament.
"Tennis is one of the few sports in which women and men compete in the same event at the same time," club chairman Tim Phillips said at a news conference. "We believe our decision to offer equal prize money provides a boost for the game as a whole and recognizes the enormous contribution that women players make to the game and to Wimbledon.
"In short, good for tennis, good for women players and good for Wimbledon."
Last year, men's champion Roger Federer received $1.170 million and women's winner Amelie Mauresmo got $1.117 million.
"It is a victory for women's tennis, and a victory for women in general," Mauresmo said Thursday after reaching the semifinals of the Dubai Open. "It was really a matter of principle. It is a question of equality."
The U.S. Open and Australian Open have paid equal prize money for years. The French Open paid the men's and women's champions the same for the first time last year, although the overall prize fund remained bigger for the men.
The WTA Tour lobbied for years to get Wimbledon to drop its "Victorian-era view" and pay the women the same as the men.
"This is an historic and defining moment for women in the sport of tennis, and a significant step forward for the equality of women in our society," WTA Tour chief executive Larry Scott said. "We commend the leadership of Wimbledon for its decisive action in recognizing the progress that women's tennis has made."
The general director of the French Tennis Federation, Jean-Francois Vilotte, said the French Open could follow Wimbledon's example in offering equal money for all rounds. No decision is expected before the federation's next meeting March 16.
The federation "doesn't plan to sit on the decisions of 2006," Vilotte told The Associated Press.
Equal pay "is an important recognition of the quality and exemplarity of women's tennis," Vilotte said.
Phillips said the Wimbledon committee met Wednesday and agreed unanimously "that the time is right to bring this subject to a logical conclusion and eliminate the difference."
The All England Club had gradually reduced the pay gap over the years, but previously held out against equal prizes as a matter of principle.
Phillips had cited that men play best-of-five set matches, while the women play best of three. Also, some women can potentially make more money overall because they also play doubles, while the top men usually play only singles.
Phillips said "broader social factors" played a part in the decision to offer equal pay.
"This is a private tennis club," he said. "We don't have public funds given to us each year. We have to justify the decisions we make. This year we've made our judgment and judged it on what we believe to be the best for Wimbledon."
This year's prize fund will be released in April, but Wimbledon said the money will be equal "across the board" for the June 25-July 8 grass-court championships, not just in the later rounds or final.
It will cost Wimbledon about $1.1 million to ensure equal pay throughout the draw. The increase will be funded through tournament operating costs rather than a reduction in the overall purse.
"The greatest tennis tournament in the world has reached an even greater height today," three-time champion Venus Williams said. "I applaud today's decision by Wimbledon, which recognizes the value of women's tennis. The 2007 Championships will have even greater meaning and significance to me and my fellow players."
Among others welcoming the move was former six-time singles champion Billie Jean King, a pioneer for women's sports.
"This news has been a long time coming," she said. "Wimbledon is one of the most respected events in all of sports and now with women and men paid on an equal scale, it demonstrates to the rest of the world that this is the right thing to do for the sport, the tournament and the world."
International Tennis Federation president Francesco Ricci Bitti, whose organization runs the four Grand Slams, said the decision "recognizes the growing depth in women's tennis and the changing market forces in our sport."
The unequal pay policy had gone back 123 years. When the women started playing at Wimbledon in 1884, the female champion received a silver flower basket worth 20 guineas, while the men's winner got a gold prize worth 30 guineas.
When you've got men and women playing at the same tournament, it is ludicrous to have a difference in pay," three-time men's champion John McEnroe told The Daily Telegraph. "It would be setting an example to the rest of society in general to have equal prize money." http://sports.espn.go.com/sports/tennis/news/story?id=2774876