(Montreal) The wait has been long, but female tennis players will receive the same scholarships as their male counterparts. In Canada, at least.
Tennis Canada announced Tuesday that the National Bank Open will provide fair scholarships to players starting in 2027.
Former professional player and first woman to be named tournament director, Valérie Tétreault wondered if the bottles of champagne were ready, because she felt like she was witnessing something historic.
“I’m proud to experience this as tournament director and it means a lot to me because of my past as a player,” Tétreault said. We’ve been talking about it for years and we can say “finally” today. I think tennis is the sport that has moved women’s sport the most.
“Grand Slam tournaments have been offering equal prize money for several years and after a lot of hard work we have found a way to be able to close the gap in tournaments in our category. »
The Canadian tournament, a WTA 1000 event on the Women’s Tour and a Masters 1000 event on the Men’s ATP Tour, takes place in Montreal and Toronto in early August.
Additional financial resources will come from WTA Ventures, a new entity that will centralize the WTA’s commercial rights and assets (broadcasting, betting, data, sponsorships, etc.), resulting in a gradual inflow of funds for the National Bank Open.
Tennis Canada said it plans to use these funds, in addition to the ongoing support of the Presenting Sponsor, to “significantly reduce the purse gap between women and men participating in the tournament.”
“From the beginning, providing equal scholarships to men and women was part of our vision and goals. We knew the path to fairness would take commitment, discipline and determination,” said Lucie Blanchet, Senior Executive Vice-President, Personal Banking and Client Experience at National Bank.
The WTA Tour announces a purse of US$2.788 million for the Montreal tournament, which will take place from August 7 to 13, 2023. The ATP event in Toronto will share a total purse of $7.623 million. Also, the total purse for the women’s tournament will be at least 10 million in 2027, which is a 350% increase in four years.
Tennis Canada projects that the purses awarded during the women’s tournament should increase from a proportion of approximately 32% of the purses offered to men in a two-week format to nearly 60% in 2025, 78% in 2026 and 100% in 2027.
“It’s a special day to be a Canadian tennis player,” said Rebecca Marino. I am so proud of the work that Tennis Canada and National Bank have put in to pave the way to fairness in scholarships. The announcement of this parity for 2027 is a huge step forward for women in Canada. I hope this can lay the groundwork for more progress and an even brighter future for the girls entering our sport. »
The tournament will also receive a status upgrade, seeing the main draw competition spanning 12 days, rather than seven, from 2025, excluding Olympic years. These changes will be accompanied by an increase in the number of players in the main draws, from 56 to 96 for both women and men.
This increase will come with its share of logistical challenges, but Tétreault let it be known that the facilities still appeal to both circuits. Improvements are still planned for this year.
“Compared to other tournaments in the WTA 1000 or Masters 1000, we are probably one of the smaller venues in terms of size. The government assistance offered during the pandemic allowed us, among other things, to launch the construction of a mezzanine in the interior building, a few days after the end of the 2023 tournament. This will allow us to welcome more players, “said she explained.
The ATP Tour announced last year that several tournaments, including the National Bank Open, would have main draw play spread over 12 days to adopt a tournament-like structure. of the Grand Slam.
In addition to the Canadian tournament, the WTA Tour plans to offer a larger format for the Rome and Cincinnati events.
In Olympic years, the National Bank Open, like the Cincinnati tournament in mid-August, will revert to a seven- or eight-day competition due to a more condensed schedule. The city of Paris will host the 2024 Summer Olympics.
Tennis Canada and the two circuits have decided to implement their new structure from 2025 in order to benefit from three consecutive years under the new format before the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.