French Open extends equal pay to women

Updated: March 16, 2007, 3:08 PM ET
Associated Press

PARIS -- The French Open will award equal prize money to male and female players throughout the tournament, falling in line with the three other Grand Slam tournaments.

The announcement Friday by the French Tennis Federation extends last year's decision. The French Open paid the men's and women's singles champions the same for the first time, although the overall prize fund remained larger for men.

"In 2007, the parity will be total," federation president Christian Bimes said.

Bimes said he had been "particularly sensitive" to recent remarks by Venus Williams about the quality of play in women's tennis.

Equalizing the pay will increase the total purse to $20.34 million -- a 7.2 percent increase from last year and a record at the French Open, which runs May 27-June 10.

Men's and women's singles winners will each receive $1.33 million, the highest prize money to date at a Grand Slam tournament. Wimbledon will announce its prize money later this month.

"I congratulate the leadership of the French Tennis Federation for making a decision that will both strengthen the relations between women players and this amazing event, and send a message of opportunity and equality," Williams said.

Last month, Wimbledon organizers announced they would award equal pay. The U.S. Open and Australian Open have paid equal prize money for years.

"The decision by Roland Garros today closes one chapter in the history of tennis and opens an exciting new one that will positively impact opportunities for women and girls in sport and society," said Larry Scott, WTA Tour chief executive.

Billie Jean King, a leading advocate for pay equity, said equal prize money at the four Grand Slams "has now become a non-issue, and I couldn't be happier."

"As we knew it would, it has taken several years to accomplish this goal, but it has been well worth the wait, and we salute the French Tennis Federation for taking this decisive and final step to equality," she said.

Belgium's Justine Henin, winner of the French Open champion three of the past four years, welcomed the move.

"There is no tournament that I feel closer to than Roland Garros, which makes today's decision to treat the woman as equals very special to me personally," she said.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press