Despite some shocking upsets and rain that wreaked havoc on the schedule, one issue dominated the conversation during the first several days of the Italian Open: the pay disparity between the men and women.
While some tournaments on tour offer equal prize money, Rome currently does not. It’s not even close — the men’s champion will receive $1.2 million and the women’s champion will earn $567,215. The total purse for all male participants is $8.3 million, compared to $3.88 million for the women.
The tournament recently announced it would be offering equal prize money in 2025, but many of the players have questioned the delay.
“I don’t see why we have to wait,” Ons Jabeur, the world No. 7, told The New York Times. “It’s really frustrating. It’s time for change. It’s time for the tournament to do better.”
The Italian Open is a mandatory 1000-level event for both the ATP and the WTA, and both singles draws included 96 players at the start and feature best-of-three set matches.
“I don’t know why it’s not equal right now,” Paula Badosa, currently ranked No. 35, also told The New York Times. “They don’t inform us. They say this is what you get and you have to play.”
The four major tournaments do offer equal prize money, but many of the other 1000-level events, including the US Open summer hard-court series events in Cincinnati and Canada, do not. With those tournaments coming up, combined with the complaints of gender inequality that came out of the Madrid Open earlier this month, it seems likely this necessary conversation will continue.
In the meantime, here’s what else you might have missed from the ongoing Italian Open and around the tennis world:
The Italian Open is far from over, but the tournament has already seen some unexpected results. Just ask soon-to-be world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz. After reclaiming his top spot in next week’s rankings with a round of 64 victory, Alcaraz was handed his first loss since March by Fabian Marozsan — a qualifier ranked No. 135 — on Monday.
Playing in the first ATP main draw event of his career, Marozsan needed just one hour and 40 minutes for the 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory and became the lowest-ranked player in history to defeat an ATP top-two player at a Masters 1000-level event on clay. He later told the crowd he “couldn’t imagine this” result, but his calm and composed reaction immediately after the match looked as if he was more than ready for the moment. He will next play Borna Coric with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line.
First career ATP Tour main draw in Rome ✔️
The first Hungarian male to reach the last 16 in 42 years 🇭🇺
Defeats World No. 2 Carlos Alcaraz 🤯
This is your moment, Fabian Marozsan ⭐️@InteBNLdItalia | #IBI23 pic.twitter.com/8YkuOjSHRA
— ATP Tour (@atptour) May 15, 2023
While Marozsan’s win was one of the biggest surprises in recent memory, it wasn’t the only upset in Rome. Taylor Townsend, who came through qualifying, defeated world No. 3 Jessica Pegula, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, in the round of 64 for her biggest win since returning from maternity leave last year, and 134th-ranked Sofia Kenin, the 2020 Australian Open champion who has struggled recently, shocked reigning Australian Open champion and world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, 7-6 (4), 6-2, in the same round. It marked Kenin’s first top-10 win since 2020, and Kenin credited Townsend’s victory as inspiration.
“Like Taylor Townsend said, trust the process, trust everything that I’ve put in,” Kenin told WTA Insider. “I’m doing the work, I’ve got talent and I have great support behind me. It’s just clicking slowly.”
Townsend and Kenin lost in their next matches, but both certainly have a lot to feel good about from their time in Italy.
Rafael Nadal‘s status for the upcoming French Open has been in serious doubt over the past several weeks due to his lingering hip injury. After he announced he would be unable to play in Rome, one of the last tune-up events before Paris, there was speculation as to if he would attempt to play in a smaller tournament to get some match experience before the Grand Slam. But in yet another not-so-great sign, it was revealed on Sunday that he declined a wild card to play at next week’s Challenger event in Bordeaux.
“I offered [Nadal’s agent Carlos Costa] one of the wild cards,” tournament director Jean-Baptiste Perlant told L’Equipe. “He very kindly told me that Nadal was continuing his preparation at home in Manacor, that he was not ready and was in a race against time to be ready for the French Open.”
Nadal hasn’t played since sustaining the injury in the second round of the Australian Open in January. The 36-year-old has played at Roland Garros every year since 2005 and has won the title a record 14 times. He obviously will do whatever it takes to play if at all possible, but it’s also unclear what condition he will be in if he chooses to do so. The main draw gets underway May 28.
‘Thanks for the concern’
Naomi Osaka may be temporarily off the tour due to her pregnancy, but that didn’t stop her from clapping back at those doubting her future comeback. On Friday, the four-time major champion tweeted:
Btw to the people that are suddenly concerned about my career- There are plenty of male athletes with kids that are significantly less accomplished, you might wanna worry about them instead. Thanks for the concern, might wanna redirect it to someone that needs it though 😬.
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) May 12, 2023
Allyson Felix, who won two medals in Tokyo after giving birth to become the most decorated woman in Olympic track and field history, wrote simply, “a word” alongside a clapping emoji, in response.
A practice session at the Italian Open got hilariously heated between Jabeur and Maria Sakkari, but it probably wasn’t for any of the reasons you’re thinking. Seriously, if you listed your top 10 guesses for the animosity, you would almost certainly be wrong.
In fact, it was due to olive oil. Jabeur and Sakkari bantered over which of their home countries, Tunisia and Greece, respectively, produced the superior product. In perhaps the ultimate dagger, both claimed they had never even heard of the other country’s olive oil.
Heated debate on Court 11 😂@mariasakkari: 🤌@Ons_Jabeur: 🤌🤌🤌#IBI23 | @WTA pic.twitter.com/HIgKmnOz55
— Internazionali BNL d’Italia (@InteBNLdItalia) May 9, 2023
The tournament then went on to poll its fans on Twitter to help decide which country should win this argument. Greece, and by extension Sakkari, ultimately won with 57.4% of the vote.
Who makes the best olive oil? Practice can wait.
— Internazionali BNL d’Italia (@InteBNLdItalia) May 9, 2023