US & Canada

Novak Djokovic questions equal prize money in tennis

Media captionA look at some of the numbers behind the equality row

World number one Novak Djokovic says male tennis players should earn more money than their female counterparts because more people watch them play.

Earlier, Indian Wells tournament CEO Raymond Moore said the women's WTA Tour "ride on the coat-tails of the men".

After claiming victory at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, 11-time major winner Djokovic said the men's tennis tour "should fight for more".

But the Serb described Moore's comments as "not politically correct".

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Djokovic, 28, said women "fought for what they deserve and they got it", but claimed prize money should be "fairly distributed" based on "who attracts more attention, spectators and who sells more tickets".

There has been equal prize money in all four majors - the Australian Open, US Open, French Open and Wimbledon - since 2007, and combined Masters events such as Indian Wells and Miami pay the same to men and women.

But female players are paid significantly less at women-only events when compared with similar sized men's events.

World number one Serena Williams said Moore's statement was "offensive", calling it "mistaken and very, very, very inaccurate".

"There's only one way to interpret that. Get on your knees, which is offensive enough, and thank a man," added 21-time major winner Williams, 34. "We shouldn't have to drop to our knees at any point."

Moore, a 69-year-old former player from South Africa, said: "If I was a lady player, I would go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport. They really have."

He later apologised for the "erroneous" remarks.

Media captionSerena Williams reacts to 'inaccurate' comments on women's tennis

Billie Jean King, who co-founded the WTA Tour and won 12 Grand Slam singles titles, tweeted: "Disappointed in Raymond Moore comments. He is wrong on so many levels. Every player, especially the top players, contribute to our success."

WTA CEO Steve Simon, said Moore's comments were "extremely disappointing and alarming".

What else did Djokovic say?

The Serb admitted it was a "very delicate situation" and was "completely for women power". He said:

  • Equal prize money has been the main subject of the tennis world in the past seven or eight years
  • Both men and women's games should "fight for what they think they deserve"
  • Women have to go through "hormones" and other challenges men do not
  • Women have to make "sacrifices for certain periods of time, the family time or decisions that they make on their own bodies in order to play tennis"

A widespread view, by BBC tennis correspondent Russell Fuller

Image copyright AFP

A debate about the relative strengths of the men's and women's game should not be off limits, but the language Ray Moore used was deeply offensive - and it is hard to see how he can command the confidence of the players who will return to Indian Wells next year.

Novak Djokovic's comments are shared by very many in the men's game.

He is suggesting prize money at combined events should be distributed on the basis of ticket sales and TV viewing figures.

That may lead in future to women being paid more, but could also fatally undermine the principle that men and women should be treated equally for competing on the same stage - irrespective of the number of sets they are asked to play.

Men v women - factfile

Men's v women's tennis

973 million

viewers for men's 2015 ATP tour

395 million

for women's 2015 WTA events and finals

  • $21.65m won by Novak Djokovic in 2015

  • $10.58m won by Serena Williams in 2015

  • 1973 US Open became first Grand Slam to offer equal prize money

  • 2007 Wimbledon joined other Grand Slams in offering equal prize money

  • Excluding Grand Slams, 395 million watched WTA Premier events and finals on TV and digital, compared with 973 million for ATP events
  • In 2015, the Wimbledon men's final attracted a peak audience of 9.2 million viewers, compared with 4.3 million for the women's final.
  • At the US Open, the men's final drew 3.3 million viewers, compared with 1.6 million for the women's final
  • However, in the previous two years, the US Open women's final was watched by more viewers than the men's.
  • Men's finals generally garner more ticket sales than women's finals. However, in 2015, tickets for the US Open women's final sold out before the men's
  • Djokovic earned $21m (£14.5m) in prize money last year, compared with Williams' $10.5m (£7.3m), but the two 10th highest earners, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Roberta Vinci, both earned $2.2m (£1.5m).
  • Men play five sets at the Grand Slams. At all other times both men and women play three sets.

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