Parity by 2019: Hong Kong tennis chiefs boost women’s prize fund by 40 per cent
Prize is now HK$28,000 for women’s champion, still lagging behind men (HK$42,000) for Prudential Hong Kong National Championships
In a bid to achieve parity, the Hong Kong Tennis Association has boosted prize money by 40 per cent for women in this year’s national championships with a view to equal pay by 2019.
The women’s winner of the 2017 Prudential Hong Kong National Tennis Championships will now receive HK$28,000, compared with the men’s cheque of HK$42,000.
A total purse of HK$360,325 is on offer at the February 25-April 5 event, with the finals being held at Victoria Park.
“We are increasing prize money in the women’s events by 40 per cent this year [compared with 5 per cent for the men] with the intention of achieving equal prize money by 2019,” said Chris Lai, chief executive of the Hong Kong Tennis Association.
“We hope this will also encourage girls who want a career in sport to choose tennis as their best option. This is a natural step in the right direction, complementing the overall women’s sports development in Hong Kong.”
Wimbledon was the last of the four grand slam events to adopt equal prize money policy, in 2007. The US Open was the first in 1973.
Sixteen-year-old Claudia Ng Hei-ching is the defending women’s champion, but the field this year is almost certain to be a lot tougher with the participation of Fed Cup players, such as Zhang Ling and Venise Chan.
Hong Kong’s only full-time touring professional on the women’s circuit, Zhang has reached a career-best No 184 in the world.
“Considering everything, I think women’s tennis in today’s game is just as physically and mentally demanding as the men’s, if not more,” said Zhang, who is touring in Europe.
“In many ways, it’s even more challenging just from the physiological aspect for us to compete and perform at a high level all the time.
“An increase in prize money is a practical incentive.”
Former Hong Kong number one Venise Chan Wing-yau, an eight-time winner on the ITF Pro Circuit, said: “It raises social awareness, for sure. Women train just as hard, and sacrifice just as much, to achieve things in tennis. So, why not?
“Hopefully, this will generate more interest and motivate more women to excel in the sport and push it forward,” said Chan, who won the title in 2004 as a budding 15-year-old.
The youngest champion on record is Paulette Moreno, who won this tournament for the first time at the age of 13 in 1982.
“I think it’s great that we are increasing prize money. Back in the day when I played, it really wasn’t much at all. It was more like pocket money for us,” she said.