If Venus Williams retains her Wimbledon title this year, expect an edge to her victory speech next weekend.
The three-time champion has rattled out a volley of comments in the run-up to this year's championship, which started Monday, about the pay disparity between men and women in professional tennis.
Now that the French Open has moved to reward both men and women equally, Wimbledon is the only one of the four major tennis tournaments with a pay gap – £655,000 ($1,191,100) for the men's champion to £630,000 ($1,145,638) for the women's. The total for prizes in men's events comes to almost $9.45 million – 16 percent more than the $8.18 million for women.
To someone who regularly earns seven-figure prize money each year, the missing £25,000 will not leave a hole in the pension fund. But in a commentary written for the Times of London, and again in a pre-tournament interview with the Wimbledon organizers, Ms. Williams said it is about more than just the cash.
"For us, it's not about earning more money or becoming any more, you know, well-off," she said in the interview. "It's really about an equality issue, about being created as equals, as human beings.... We're the premier sport for women. We would like to empower women around the world by showing that we are willing to fight for equality."
Supporters of her cause – and there are many, from tennis bosses to a British cabinet minister – say the discrimination is an anachronism that devalues female athletes in general, perpetuating the illusion that sport is a "man's world."
In terms of earnings, sports clearly remains dominated by men. Forbes's 2006 list of top-earning athletes placed not one woman in the top 20.