Aug 10, 2023 - News

Inaugural Golden Gate Open aims to set standard for gender equity in tennis

Photo of CiCi Bellis swinging her racket at a tennis ball during a match

American tennis player CiCi Bellis, a Bay Area native, hits a return during the Brisbane International tournament in January 2018. Photo: Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images

The Golden Gate Open debuts Saturday at Stanford's Taube Tennis Center with a little something out of the ordinary — equal prize money for men and women.

Why it matters: Spanning Aug. 12-19, the first-ever combined men's and women's professional tennis tournament in Northern California aims to set a new standard for gender equity in the sport by offering equal pay across the board.

Details: The Golden Gate Open's focus on gender equity is in part inspired by Billie Jean King, who pioneered the first all-women's tennis tournament in San Francisco 52 years ago.

  • CiCi Bellis, the Golden Gate Open's co-director and a retired pro tennis player, told Axios they hope to make it an annual event.
  • Having it "in my backyard is definitely near and dear to my heart," said Bellis, who grew up playing in the Bay Area before competing internationally.
  • Tickets are on sale now.

State of play: Women and men have competed for equal prize money at the Grand Slams since 2007, but disparities in pay are still the norm in tours run by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and Women's Tennis Association (WTA).

  • Excluding the Slams, prize money at men's ATP events in 2022 was 75% higher than at women's WTA events — the greatest gap in two decades, a Financial Times report found.
  • At the Italian Open in May, men competed for $8.5 million while women competed for less than half that figure at $3.9 million.
  • "It's such a huge part of our world ... and something that definitely needs to be moved forward," Bellis said, noting the many top players who have spoken out on the issue.

What to watch: The tournament will feature accomplished players, such as Kei Nishikori, who has recorded a career-high singles ranking of fourth in the world.

  • All WTA and ATP players who were directly accepted into the 32-player main draw are currently ranked in the top 200.
  • There will also be family-friendly activities, food and interactive events, including a town hall conversation about equality in competition.

Of note: The women's tennis governing body approved in June a plan to secure pay equity at its biggest tournaments, though it won't fully happen until 2033.

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