Are women tennis players overpaid?

Raymond Moore lost his job running a big tennis tournament for saying that female professional tennis players “ride on the coattails of the men.” (CBS News)

I attended the March 31, 2016 Miami Open and explored the issue a little.

Here are photographs of the stadium during the final set of a women’s singles match and a men’s singles match. The women’s match was a more important semifinal event while the men’s match was just a quarterfinal. On the other hand the men’s match was slightly later in the day so could be attended by people who were stuck at work later. (On the third hand, tickets were kind of expensive and it seemed that nearly everyone with a 1 pm “day ticket” showed up pretty close to 1 pm and was at least somewhere within the grounds (there are multiple courts as well as restaurants, shops, etc..))

Here are photographs of the stadium during the women’s and men’s matches. Readers with great eyesight can try to estimate which match was better attended.

Women's match at 2:30 pm.
Women’s match at 2:30 pm.
Men's match at 4:50 pm.
Men’s match at 4:50 pm.

I then queried the folks sitting around me (Section 423, which gets afternoon shade!). An extended family had come from Mexico and was staying at the J.W. Marriott downtown for the entire event. Both sexes within the family preferred to watch the men’s game, would have come to a male-only tournament and would not have invested the time and money to come to a female-only tournament. On my left was a family from Guatemala with a 10-year-old tennis-playing son. They were staying in a different Marriott on the beach. The wife was an expert tennis player and said that she preferred watching the men’s game. The Guatemalans said that they wouldn’t have come to see an all-female tournament but would come to watch only men. Behind me was a Japanese national who had come to see Kei Nishikori.

A financial executive friend says that women are on average paid more than men in practice because (a) women get maternity leave while men generally don’t (or don’t take it), and (b) women get the right to sue their employer for discrimination and that right has a cash value even if only a fraction of women actually do sue and/or get paid (see Ellen Pao).

Readers: What do you think about women tennis players getting paid the same in cash compensation as men? Plainly in this day-and-age they are not going to suffer a pay cut. Is this disgraced Moore guy right, though, that they should at least be a little grateful that the men show up to the same tournaments?

[Separately, as my co-spectators were from countries that are often characterized as “corrupt” by American media, I asked them what they thought about U.S. politics versus Mexican and Guatemalan politics. The consensus among the Latin Americans was that local politics in the U.S. is cleaner, but that national politics is at least as corrupt. “When the Clintons can get money from private companies and foreign governments after leaving office and before taking office again, that’s as corrupt as anything anywhere in the world.” (One of my Millennial Facebook friends, who might be expected to support Hillary due to holding a government job (schoolteacher), recently wrote “I’m just gonna say it: You have to be pretty ignorant to vote for Hillary. Who cares if she would be the first woman president, she’s a corrupt bitch, only in it for power and money.”)]

6 thoughts on “Are women tennis players overpaid?

  1. Relevantly, members of the USA women’s soccer team have sued for pay parity and they have a much better argument than the tennis ladies do because in that particular sport, not only has the women’s team been much more successful than the men’s team, it really does earn more money for the US soccer federation than the men’s team does.

  2. There is also the issue of “if you had to choose who would compete best against a gender-blind tennis playing robot, who would it be?”.

    The Williams sisters were trounced by a male tennis player. He was ranked 203rd in the world. He played a round of golf in the morning, ate some pizza and had a few beers. Then he beat both of them, playing them both on the same day.


    Women in tennis are objectively, not as good at men, at playing tennis. They often look quite attractive, however; ones like Anna Kournikova can rake in a lot of money from advertisers.

  3. A lot of tournaments (Cincinnati and DC) are moving towards dual ATP/WTA events because the facilities can be utilitized much more intensively. The alternative to a half-filled women’s event is an empty stadium. Women’s tennis also expands the tennis fan base beyond the hard core fans. Without women’s tennis, tennis might be a lot more like bicycling or horse racing that never expand beyond the hard core fan base. My aunt watches tennis and ice skating is the only other sport she watches.

  4. I don’t think the ladies are overpaid. Just scheduled at different hours than men and maybe less promoted. I have to admit I prefer watching a ladies game rather than a men’s game. There is too much brute force and speed with the boys. I still miss the spectacular points of Andre Agassi and Michael Chang, or Steffi Graf and Monica Seles.

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