PARIS (Reuters) - The French Open ushered in a new era on Friday, announcing the award of equal prize money to men and women across the board in the claycourt grand slam at Roland Garros.
“It has been our objective since 2005,” said French Tennis Federation chairman Christian Bimes in a statement.
“Last year the first step was to award equal rewards to the winners of the men’s and women’s singles. In 2007, the parity will be total.”
The French Open, last of the four grand slams to make the move for equality, will have total prize money this year of 15.26 million euros ($20 million), an increase of 7.23 percent.
The winners of the men’s and women’s singles will receive one million euros each.
“It’s very good news for women’s tennis and for women in general terms,” said world number one Amelie Mauresmo. “As a Frenchwoman I’m happy and proud the French Open organizers took such a decision.”
Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) chief executive Larry Scott said: “The decision by Roland Garros closes one chapter in the history of tennis and opens an exciting new one that will positively impact opportunities for women and girls in sport and society.
“The additional step of awarding one million euros to each of the women’s and men’s champions, the largest winner’s check in the sport, is a sign of the continued popularity of tennis.”
Steffi Graf, who won 22 grand slam singles titles including six French Opens, said: “Over the years Roland Garros has moved toward equality and this final step, along with the fact all four grand slams now treat the women as equals, sends a great message to the young girls out there who may be future champions of this great event.”
Another former champion, Billie Jean King, who lobbied for many years for equality for women in tennis, said: “Equal prize money at the four grand slams has now become a non-issue and I couldn’t be happier.”
additional reporting by Rex Gowar in London