Could Prize Money Per Set Be a Solution to Grand Slam Prize Money Disputes?

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As it is the second week at Wimbledon where there are so many great matches, I thought it would be a great opportunity to propose an idea for a new prize money scheme for Grand Slams, mainly on the men’s side but potentially on the women’s side too: prize money allocated per set won instead of per match won. This groundbreaking pay scheme could solve many issues in the sport but also has a few drawbacks and this will all been explained in the piece. The table below shows a provisional reward scheme I made in order to give you a easier way to understand this idea that may at first thought appear complex.

How will it work?

It is actually quite a simple idea to get your head around. A player would earn the relevant amount from the top part of the table based on the last round of the tournament that they won. The bonus amount would be dependent on the amount of sets won in the match that they lost. So ,for example, a player who lost in 5 set-thriller in a Grand Slam final (such as Nadal at this year’s Australian Open) would earn £1.2 million for winning their semi-final match as well as an £800,000 bonus for the two sets won in the final, totaling £2 million earned from the tournament.

What are the benefits?

More players taking up continuing the sport

At present, the amount of kids taking up tennis as a career if they want to play a sport professionally may be limited due to the fact that it is very difficult to make a decent living if your ranking is in the triple digits or worse. If kids (particularly boys because of the best-of-5 format) saw a player like this on TV, who finally reached the Main Draw of a Slam only to lose 10-8 in the final set, but still received the same prize money as someone who lost in straight sets, they could be discouraged from pursuing a tennis career. The player who lost the match will also be less encouraged to continue their career as they would have invested so much effort yet their capacity to cope with the expenses of being a tennis player would not get any easier. This is arguably the greatest benefit of this proposed scheme, as it will allow players to still have something to show for a heartbreaking defeat. Therefore, with a prize money per set format, more people might take up or continue a career in tennis.

More competitive matches

In many matches in Grand Slams, after a player loses a very tight opening set, they often lose hope and lose the next two sets without significant resistance as they don’t feel that they have anything to play for because of the importance of that set to have a chance of winning the match. This is often the case when a lower ranked player loses a very tight opening set against a much higher ranked opponent. However, if you were to receive prize money for winning a set, this may motivate players to try and win a set, and suddenly they are back in the match! As a result, this format of renumeration could create many more enjoyable matches for fans.

Settling disputes about equal pay

As with every Grand Slam, many comments from fans on social media continue to be about whether men and women receiving equal pay is fair due to the different amount of sets that they play. A time when many people thought the equal pay was unjust was when Novak Djokovic and Sara Errani both lost in the 2013 French Open semifinals in the Men’s and Women’s Singles, respectively. Djokovic lost 9-7 in the 5th set in an epic match against Rafael Nadal, whereas Errani lost 6-0 6-1 to Serena Williams in 45 minutes. However they both ended up earning the same from the tournament as neither gained anything from defeat. This proposed strategy may be the perfect compromise for fans and players of the sport because whilst the male players who lose long matches are rewarded for their efforts, they will still earn less than a female player who got a round further than them in their respective tournament. More importantly, the Men’s and Women’s Singles champions would still earn the same amount.

Are there any negatives to this scheme?

A loser from the scheme would be the tournament itself. They will only have an estimate of how much prize money they will pay out instead of a definite amount that they have currently. This hopefully wouldn’t be too much of problem and the money left at the end could be rolled over to next year in a similar way to the lottery. Others that may potentially be unhappy with this proposal are female players and fans of the women’s game. However, there is no reason why a similar scheme cannot work in the women’s singles too, should the ITF find it appropriate, to reward those who lose in three sets over those who lose in two, or perhaps for those who lose a match beyond 6-6 in the deciding set, for example.

Hopefully this suggestion regarding prize money is one that can eventually be implemented onto both tours, potentially even outside the Grand Slams, as I do believe it is clear that the benefits outweigh the negatives.

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