Roger Federer earns $100m but World No. 150 can't make a living from tennis: Bartoli

Roger Federer
Roger Federer

France's Marion Bartoli continues to make controversial remarks about the tennis world, this time highlighting the pay disparity in the sport by drawing attention to the earnings of Roger Federer.

The Swiss recently made headlines when he was declared by Forbes to be the highest-earning athlete in the world. With annual income of US$106 million, Roger Federer is head and shoulders above everyone else on the tennis tour.

Marion Bartoli mentioned that figure during an interaction on the RMC Sport Show Revival, saying that the difference between the upper and lower levels in tennis is too large. She also issued a clarification about her comments on doubles tennis, which had landed her in hot water among active players.

Doubles specialists flay Marion Bartoli for her ill-timed remarks

Marion Bartoli
Marion Bartoli

The 2013 Wimbledon champion ruffled quite a few feathers last week when she suggested a reduction in tour-level doubles events to channel more money into Challenger tournaments.  There was widespread criticism of Bartoli's radical views against doubles tennis, and her comments were panned across the board.

While interacting with fellow Indian Davis Cup team mate Purav Raja in his Chai with Raja Instagram show, Indian doubles ace Rohan Bopanna said: "She doesn’t know enough facts. She has played doubles and made a lot of money."

Taking offense to Bartoli's statement that doubles players travel with a team of six, veteran Nicolas Mahut retorted: “I'm jealous! I thought I had a large staff, can you introduce me to the doubles player who travels with six people please?”

Similar views were also echoed by Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski.

After facing all that flak from doubles specialists, Bartoli explained the rationale behind her explosive comments.

"I absolutely do not want to take away the doubles from tennis, but could we not make tournaments with fewer teams and keep prize money for the qualifications?" Bartoli asked. 
"Give a little less money to the winner of the doubles tournaments, or even reduce the total prize money of the doubles, to distribute it in the qualifications?" she added.

Bartoli uses Roger Federer's example to demand better distribution of prize money

Marion Bartoli, who began coaching 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko last October, made another bold statement when she brought to the fore the news of Roger Federer surpassing the $100 million mark in yearly earnings.

"Roger Federer is the highest paid sportsman at 100 million dollars and the 150th ranked in the world cannot make a living from this sport," Bartoli said. 

Tennis is notoriously top-heavy when it comes to prize money, with regular winners like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic earning a lot more than those lower in the pecking order. Nadal recorded over $14 million in prize money earnings last year, which is more than what the bottom-rung players can even dream of.

Around $100 million of Roger Federer's income comes through endorsement deals, but his prize money earnings of $6 million are still significantly higher than those of the lower-ranked players. That's the imbalance that Bartoli wishes to correct.

"I'm not saying that we have to take money from Federer but what if we could better distribute the prize money and save some for players who have so many costs elsewhere? I don't see the harm there," the Frenchwoman added.

The debate on pay parity is unlikely to be over any time soon

Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem
Novak Djokovic and Dominic Thiem

The world of tennis, just like all other sports, is going through a tough time time right now. And the financial challenge faced by the lower-ranked players on tour has rightfully taken center stage over the past couple of months.

ATP Player Council Chief Novak Djokovic had, in the month of April, called for setting up a relief fund to aid the lower-ranked players. Though welcomed by many of the top-players - including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal - 2020 Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem vehemently opposed it.

There are a lot of players outside the top 100 who are actually struggling to make a living, as Marion Bartoli pointed out. But it remains to be seen whether the authorities pay heed to her suggestion about redistribution of prize money.

Edited by Musab Abid
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