Djokovic’s U.S. Open Pushes Him to Top of 2023 Tennis Earnings List

In 2022, Iga Swiatek came within a couple hundred grand of being the highest-paid tennis player on the court, man or woman. In the 16 years since all four Grand Slams committed to equal pay for both genders, no woman has done that—a streak that will likely continue this year.

At the very top of the earnings charts, tennis is still a man’s world.

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Following the U.S. Open, the top three players in 2023 prize money are all men. Champion Novak Djokovic, runner-up Daniil Medvedev and semifinalist Carlos Alcaraz put some distance between them and the rest of the male players in the world with their success in Flushing. Those three players made $3 million, $1.5 million and $775,000, respectively, with later-round prize money slightly elevated this year relative to the earlier rounds. The fourth highest-paid man on the tour this year, Jannik Sinner, earned only $284,000 by reaching the fourth round, while fifth-ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas added just $123,000 to his total after a surprising second round exit.

Djokovic has now eclipsed $10 million on the year. Alcaraz sits slightly behind the GOAT at $9.31 million and ahead of Medvedev, who’s made $7.41 million.

Aryna Sabalenka tops the women’s list with $7.37 million after losing the U.S. Open final to 19-year-old Coco Gauff, who vaulted up to the second-highest female earner. Sabalenka had a dominant year at the majors, winning the Australian Open and reaching at least the semifinals of all four Slams, but she only won one, whereas Djokovic won three. Additionally, she’s only won one WTA 1000-level event, and Alcaraz and Medvedev have each won two Masters 1000 titles.

Even if Sabalenka had matched her male counterparts in tournament wins, she’d still be fighting an uphill battle. Many marquee events in which men and women both play simultaneously still pay men far more. For instance, the Cincinnati Open paid out roughly $6.6 million to male players in 2023 and just $2.8 million to female players, and prize money disparities at lower-level tournaments are even worse.

Despite this fact, six of the top 10 players in 2023 prize money through Sept. 12 are women—a reflection of the broad talent pool atop the women’s game.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2023, however, there is much more money available for the men. Both tours will play two 1000-level events, but the $2.8 million purse of the WTA’s Guadalajara Open pales compared to the roughly $7.2 million offered by the Paris Masters and the $8.8 million at stake in the Shanghai Masters. Still, if Sabalenka dominates for the next two months, she could crack $10 million this year.

At the end of each season, the ATP/WTA Finals will be played among the top eight players in the rankings. These are essentially “rich get richer” events. In 2022, the men’s event in Turin, Italy, had a purse exceeding $14 million, and the 2023 WTA Finals in Mexico is expected to dish out $9 million to its players.

Although these tournaments draw much less public attention than the Grand Slams, Djokovic brought home more cash from winning the 2022 ATP Finals than he did at any major. In fact, the $4.74 million he earned was the richest payday in the history of the sport by a significant margin, surpassing the $3.85 million won by Rafael Nadal and Bianca Andreescu at the 2019 U.S. Open.

“Players who are lower-ranked are struggling the most,” Djokovic said at a Professional Tennis Players Association press conference in August. “I’m fine for this life and many other lives.”

Another source of income for the tennis elites is the bonus pool split at the end of the season between the highest-ranked players on each tour who meet certain criteria for number of events played. In 2022, Alcaraz earned nearly $3 million from the bonus pool after having already put away his rackets for the year. This year, the ATP bonus pool has ballooned to $21.3 million, though the distribution formula has yet to be announced, while the women’s side pays out a much smaller $4.5 million.

The mark for the second-most money ever won in a season, currently held by Andy Murray with $16.4 million in 2016, is likely to be surpassed if either Djokovic or Alcaraz wins the ATP Finals. It’s going to be nearly impossible, though, for anyone to match the record $21.1 million that Djokovic earned in 2015.

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