2013 French Open: Why American Women Outperform American Men in Tennis

Merlisa Lawrence CorbettFeatured ColumnistJune 5, 2013

Sloane Stephens at 2013 French Open.
Sloane Stephens at 2013 French Open.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Four American women reached the fourth round of the 2013 French Open. No American men. 

Although the tournament ended in the fourth round for three of them—Sloane Stephens, Jamie Hampton and Bethanie Mattek-Sands—it was a breakout year for U.S. women at the French Open. 

Serena Williams moved past the quarterfinals for the first time since 2003.  

This has been the best showing at the French Open for U.S. women since 2004. 

The surprising success of U.S. women and the expected failure of the men just highlights a trend that has emerged in the last five to 10 years.  American women continue to soar while the men remain mired in mediocrity. 

Women's tennis in the U.S. is attracting better athletes than men's. But why?

Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in comments made by Richard Williams, father of Serena and Venus Williams. In a 1992 interview with Trans World Sports, Williams explained that he decided to teach his daughters tennis after he saw a female tennis player handed a check for $40,000 for winning one tournament.

"I figured since I work for $52,000 all year and this girl made $40,000 in four days; I was in the wrong business. "

Professional tennis is the only major sport where women can make as much or more money than men.

Even a player who never wins a Grand Slam, like Caroline Wozniacki, can cash in on huge endorsement deals. Melanie Oudin earned $175,000 for her 2009 run at the U.S. Open. She also inked an annual six-figure endorsement deal with performance bonuses.  

According to Forbes, the top four highest-paid female athletes last year were all tennis players. Danica Patrick, who competes directly with men, came in at No. 5. 

Comparatively, John Isner, one of the top U.S. men's tennis players, has earned less than $5 million in prize money his entire career. The Los Angeles Lakers' Pau Gasol, not even the best player on his team, makes more than $19 million per year

So if you're a tall teen boy, Gasol's career is probably more appealing.  

The average WNBA player makes about $72,000. Endorsement money is sparse. Many, who make less than $40,000, supplement their income by playing overseas during the offseason.

Oudin, ranked No. 70 on women's tour, has already earned more than $67,000 this year in prize money.

Female tennis players also garner more fame than women in other sports. When we think of icons in women's sports, outside of Danica Patrick, the most notable one-name wonders are Martina, Serena, Venus and Chrissy.  

Olympic figure skaters and gymnasts can cash in on big endorsement money, but usually they must strike gold.  Figure skaters and gymnasts are certainly not raking in $1 million-plus checks for single events like those given to Grand Slam winners.  

Serena Williams has earned more than $44 million in prize money. That's more than any woman in the history of sports. She has also earned more prize money than any U.S. tennis player, male or female.

With riches like that awaiting elite players, no wonder women's tennis is attracting better athletes.