Multi millionaires abound in the world of women’s tennis now equal prize money is a fact of life. Serena Williams has become the first woman through the $30 million mark. Countering that, at a conservative estimate Maria Sharapova’s on court income of $13 million could be multiplied several times over thanks to lucrative endorsements.
However, although Britain hosts the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament and the Lawn Tennis Association is one of the wealthiest national tennis body’s in the world, the Sunday Times Sporting Rich list has revealed not a single woman figures in the top 100 of British sporting earners.
More surprising is the fact Virginia Wade, 33 years after winning the Wimbledon ladies title, remains the highest earning British tennis female.
“Ridiculous,” said Wade whose prize haul of $1,542,278 beats that of second place Jo Durie who earned $1,224,016 and present day Wimbledon television icon and one time French Open champion Sue Barker ($878,701). Behind the long since retired trio, Anne Keothavong comes out on top of Britain’s current players with $720,475.
Wade is not happy about the fact. She continued: “Shocking, rather sad, appalling, frankly astonishing.” And then finally, as if everything has finally sunk in: “Totally bizarre and most certainly not the way it should be.”
While only Andy Murray is a solitary figure in the top flight amongst British men, the spin doctors at the LTA insist the female game is showing enormous signs of improvement. Elena Baltacha is hopeful of soon making the world’s top 50, Keothavong is on the way back up the rankings after returning from a second career threatening cruciate ligament injury and while clay remains an anathema to most British players, Naomi Cavaday last weekend actually won a $25,000 ITF Circuit clay court event in Brescia, Italy.
Add in the optimism generated by Grand Slam junior champions Laura Robson, already a top 300 player, and Heather Watson, and Wade is hopeful she may ultimately be usurped. “It just seems as if the complete package is impossible to find,” she said. “Either we've had very good players who are not mentally tough enough, or they've been mentally right without the technique.
“Right now there is reason to be more optimistic. We have a couple of players such as Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong who would almost certainly figure in the world’s top 50 if they hadn’t experienced brutally bad luck with illness and injury. Then of course there are youngsters like Laura Robson and Heather Watson who have each won a junior major title and show promise.
“I’ve seen more of Laura than Heather but feel good about both of them. They have talent and determination but there is a very long way to go for both of them and it would be so wrong to put enormous pressure on their young shoulders to succeed.”
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