Jessica Pegula has praised Denis Shapovalov after the Canadian addressed the gender pay gap in professional tennis.
Shapovalov previously assumed women’s players earned roughly the same as men but realised that was not the case after a conversation with his girlfriend, Mirjan Bjorklund, who plays on the WTA tour.
“When I started out, I kind of assumed that male and female pros were treated the same way. It just made sense, you know? I mean, why would it be any different?
“Then I met my girlfriend, Mirjam Bjorklund, and she really opened my eyes.”
The world No. 30 continued: “Things are definitely going in the right direction. But overall, the gap is still huge.
“Maybe I’m being cynical, but I think some people might think of gender equality as mere political correctness. Deep down they don’t feel that women deserve as much, you know? And that’s terrible.”
World No. 3 Pegula has applauded Shapovalov for speaking about the issue.
“I thought it was really amazing how [Shapovalov] took his chance to talk and that’s the subject he chose,” the American said.
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“It’s something that the men, I think for the most part, have supported. But it’s always if they get asked, they support it.
“For him to go so out of his way to make that the main story he was talking to the press about was really cool, and really nice. I know all the women appreciated that a lot.”
Both winners at Indian Wells this month will receive the same prize money. Pegula believes joint events help advance the women’s game.
“We’re better when we’re together, for sure,” Pegula added. “The joint events, they’re bigger, they’re better. Everyone gets treated better, gets treated equally and that’s ideally what we want to happen all the time in the future.
“I think it’s getting there. Obviously, we still have a long ways to go. But it was nice to see him take the time to highlight that.”
World No. 4 Ons Jabeur, who joined the Professional Tennis Players Association [PTPA] last year, says “women need to have more and more rights”.
“We’re trying to get the right for all players equally, but yes, women need to have more and more rights,” she said.
“In so many tournaments. I’m not going to name them, but we need to have our rights because we have great players, great top 10 players, top 20, any other players. You can see a lot of exciting matches.
“I just wish everyone would give the opportunity to see why we deserve where we want to be paid. People need to watch us.”
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