Sharapova calls for equal prize money

Updated: May 11, 2006, 4:01 PM ET
Reuters

MADRID, Spain -- Maria Sharapova, ranked third in the world, has demanded women players receive equal prize money to the men.

"I believe women are strong, bold and powerful and deserve to be treated the same as men," the 19-year-old Russian told a news conference on Thursday.

"There has been a long debate about equal prize money but these things take time. If we keep pushing we'll eventually get there."

Of the four Grand Slam tournaments, Roland Garros and Wimbledon still have a differential in prize money between the men and the women, although the French Open will pay the men's and women's singles champions the same this year.

Sharapova was speaking at a news conference highlighting the WTA Tour's end-of-season championships' move to Madrid.

WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott hoped the championships would help promote prize money parity.

"This will be the elite event in women's tennis with only the top eight players competing at the end of the season for a total prize money of $3 million. The winner will earn $1 million," Scott said.

The WTA says this will equal the largest winner's purse in the history of women's sport.

The event takes place in the Spanish capital's Madrid Arena from Nov. 7 to 12, in the month following the men's Madrid Masters tournament.

"Madrid is known as a football city, but we hope in the future it will also become known as the capital of tennis," Madrid mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardon said.

To help promote the end-of-season event organizers have modified one of the more controversial aspects of the Madrid Masters, which uses female models as ball girls.

Later on Thursday Sharapova attends a selection process, along with a celebrity panel, to choose the male models who will act as ball boys in November.