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Italian Open must offer women equal pay before 2025, says Ons Jabeur

Meanwhile, Andy Murray’s chances of being seeded for the French Open were dented on Wednesday when the he lost to Fabio Fognini in the first round of the Italian Open.

Just days after winning the second-tier Aix-en-Provence Challenger Tour crown, his first title since 2019 and first on clay since 2016, Murray delivered another inconsistent performance in a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 defeat. REUTERS, AFP

ROME – World No. 7 Ons Jabeur said women players should not have to wait to receive the same prize money as their male counterparts at the Italian Open after tournament organisers announced plans to achieve pay parity by 2025.

Tennis has sought to be a leader in the battle for equality in the last couple of decades with equal prize money offered to men and women at the four Grand Slams.

WTA Tour events, however, still often offer less prize money than those on the ATP men’s circuit. In the Rome tournament, the total “financial commitment” for the men is US$9.5 million (S$12.6 million) while for the women it is US$3.5 million.

Italian tennis federation chief Angelo Binaghi said in April the event had started a process that would lead to equal prize money over three years, but Tunisian Jabeur called for immediate change.

“I don’t see why we have to wait,” she told the New York Times. “It’s really frustrating. It’s time for change. It’s time for the tournament to do better.”

Both men’s and women’s competitors at the tournament – which is one tier below the Slams – play best-of-three set matches and the draw for both events features 128 players.

Similar events at Indian Wells, Miami and Madrid offer equal pay for women, and Spain’s Paula Badosa said she did not understand why there was prize money disparity in Rome.

“I don’t know why it’s not equal right now,” she said. “They don’t inform us. They say this is what you get.”

In a separate gender disparity issue, Madrid Open organisers have apologised to the women’s doubles finalists for denying them the opportunity to make speeches at the trophy ceremony over the weekend.

Jessica Pegula, who partnered Coco Gauff in their 6-1, 6-4 defeat by Victoria Azarenka and Beatriz Haddad Maia, said on Sunday she was left disappointed after organisers did not allow the finalists to address fans.

But the men’s doubles finalists were allowed to do so following their match a day earlier.

“Not giving our women’s doubles finalists the chance to address their fans was unacceptable and we have apologised directly to Victoria, Beatriz, Coco and Jessica,” tournament CEO Gerard Tsobanian said.

“We made a mistake and this will not ever happen again.”