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Madrid Open owner hints at ending equal pay for men, women

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Ion Tiriac has indicated that the Madrid Open will no longer pay women players, including Serena Williams, the same amount that it pays men. PHOTO: AFP.

Ion Tiriac has indicated that the Madrid Open will no longer pay women players, including Serena Williams, the same amount that it pays men. PHOTO: AFP.

Madrid Open owner, Ion Tiriac, has indicated his tournament may move away from equal pay for men and women. The debate was reignited in March by controversial comments from Indian Wells tournament director, Raymond Moore, about women players “riding on the coat-tails” of the men.

Moore subsequently resigned but the issue has continued to bubble under the surface.

Madrid and Indian Wells are two of three major tournaments outside the grand slams along with Miami that pay equal prize money.

Tiriac, a flamboyant Romanian and former top 10 player, threatened Moore-like controversy by referencing the length of female players’ legs but insisted it was about economics.

He told The New York Times: “I like, very much more, women than men. All my life, I’ve done that. The longer the legs theirs are, the more beautiful I think they are. Even in tennis, they’re gracious and so on.

“But I think we have to go and calculate how much money are the men putting on the table, and how much the women, with TV rights. Because otherwise we have to compensate, and compensate, and compensate, and you cannot compensate forever. For that reason, it’s a beautiful sport, but I don’t think the women can complain that they don’t earn enough money.”

Tiriac said he was in negotiations with both tours but would struggle to pay equal prize money if he bowed to the ATP’s demands.

He said: “If I increase the women’s, too, I am broke and I don’t know how to do a tennis event. And I have done a tennis event since the 60s.

“Saying that they’re equal — they’re not equal. I mean, once again, I prefer a woman on the court, they are beautiful on the court. Even Federer, who is very elegant, I prefer an elegant woman, not Mr. Federer. But they are not bringing to the table the same thing.”

WTA chief executive, Steve Simon, said he expected Madrid to continue its commitment to equal pay.

He said: “Tennis has done an amazing job, I think, in addressing equal prize money, through the grand slams and through these major combined events — and Madrid was one of the leaders in that process, in stepping up.

“We have a sanction, an agreement, which reflects equal prize money, and we fully expect that to be honoured, and for Madrid to keep showing the leadership they always have.”



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