Ashleigh Barty took a pro-event record $4.42 million haul for her efforts in winning the 2019 WTA Finals singles title. That's an outlier in the data in this still-young century, and in the preceding decades, as her foremothers in tennis can attest.
A recent New York Times story showed that players who competed in the 1970s and '80s are working together on financial solutions for those former pros whose work and aspirations set the stage for today's winning ways and oversize checks.
#Repost @behindtheracquet ・・・ #LegendaryBTR- "I feel a wonderful sense of pride for women tennis players and women athletes in general. I’m proud that I was a member of the ‘Original 9,’ and that we risked our careers for the future of women’s tennis, and we stood up against huge odds. People now are talking about equal pay for women athletes, but at the time we were just fighting for women to make a living at all because the men who were running tennis, were trying to shut us down. The Original 9 came up in 1970, but it was only two years before that, that open tennis started. Within those two years, the men who were running tennis made it almost impossible for a woman to continue playing, because there was a total of $5,000 in prize money, all year, for all women in the United States in 1970. In reaction to the terrible inequity, my mother and her magazine contributed an additional $5,000 to two separate tournaments. Besides these additions there were many weeks without anywhere to play. Jack Kramer, who was running the Los Angeles tournament, set the prize money ratio at eight to one, men to women. At the US Open, three top players, Billie Jean King, Nancy Richey and Rosie Casals, approached my mother and said, ‘Help, this is all falling apart,’ so my mother started the Houston tournament. First, she made sure Kramer wouldn’t oppose the Houston tournament, but then at the last minute he reneged and convinced the USLTA to stop the Houston event. One official called all the Houston players, saying that if you play, you'll be suspended and won't be able to play anywhere else. The official stated that the USLTA would approve the tournament only if the women competed as amateurs and wouldn’t receive any prize money. They were throwing everything at us, to stop us from succeeding. We were stuck. We could not turn to the USLTA, we couldn't turn to Kramer, we were on our own. Fortunately, my mother had the will, the energy, and the brilliance to put together not only the tournament, but with the help of Virginia Slims Cigarettes, part of a fortune 500 company, the Virginia Slims Circuit...” @julieheldman To continue reading full story go to behindtheracquet.com
Some former players credit WTA CEO Steve Simon for the monetary recognitions of their contributions, saying that the recently enacted payouts and ongoing conversations and proposals would not have happened without his, well, buy-in.
While the WTA Legacy Fund has been established, Simon notes that the situation is tardy in terms of creating a pension for affected players.
Getting this far with the project was kicked off in 2016, when Billie Jean King and Rosie Casals—part of the Original 9 who formed what soon became the WTA that's well known today—and others met with Simon in Indian Wells.
Some specifics of who has already gained (via October pays) or yet stands to benefit, from Miller's Times reporting:
"There are 243 players currently part of the fund; some are still appealing. While 105 are American, the list includes former professionals from Britain, Australia, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Italy and others."
"Thirty women in the group covered by the fund reached at least one Grand Slam singles final and 17 won, while 54 reached a major doubles final and 38 won. Even with some duplication, more than a quarter of the 243 women on the list reached at least one major singles or doubles final."
"The WTA agreed to pay $1.25 million over five years to create a Legacy Fund, and nearly 250 players will each receive a one-time payment of $5,000. The first group was paid in October."
The working group's next stop: A return to approaching the Grand Slam events, in pursuit of what might become a $25,000 payout per player. Former pro Trish Bostrom told Miller that the likes of King, Casals, Chris Evert, Evonne Goolagong, Tracy Austin, and Martina Navratilova and Monica Seles—the latter two less affected or unaffected by the lack of pension as pros who competed after 1991—had put their relationship capital and clout behind a letter sent to the major events.
For some people in this world, activism never ends. This can be a decidedly good thing, in the pursuit of fair play, for both the future and the retroactive good.