Novak Djokovic won the ATP Finals and narrowly pipped Iga Swiatek as the top earner in tennis when he pocketed a cool $4.7 million for his efforts in Turin, Italy, on Sunday, now the richest payday in the history of the sport.
Nope, I’m done. You can never say never but no. No, no, no. I’m done. I miss competing and challenging myself against the best of the world but I don’t miss a lot that comes with it. Ash Barty
Both lead their respective tours in prize money won, Djokovic tallying $9,934,582 for the year, while Swiatek made $9,875,525 million, $59,057 less than the Serb, whose career earnings are now $165 million, which is $32 million ahead of Rafael Nadal.
Swiatek was quick to congratulate Djokovic on winning his 6th ATP Finals title when he defeated Casper Ruud, 7-5 6-4, to tie Roger Federer’s record.
“What a fighter. Incredible achievement @DjokerNole. Congratulations!” Swiatek tweeted while on holiday in the Caribbean, from where she watched the final in Turin.
At the age of 35, Djokovic is still dominating the game, and many feel he is the rightful World No 1 despite being ranked at No 5 because of the lack of points at Wimbledon, which he won and, undoubtedly, would have placed him tied in the top spot with Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz.
“For me it’s still the hunger that someone asked me about,” Djokovic said. “It’s love for the game, no doubt. Passion. I love the game.
“I said it already. Of course, making history of the tennis sport, which of course is my favourite sport, the sport that has given me so much privileges in life and benefits.
“Why not try it? Why not dream about it? I have no problem to verbalise that I have biggest goals, that I want to be the best, that I want to win every tournament.
“I don’t think that’s not humble, I just feel it’s important to respect everyone in the game but still be confident with yourself. I don’t see anything bad in that.”
After missing 2 Grand Slam and 4 Masters tournaments, Djokovic made a strong finish to the second half of the season, and has his eyes firmly fixed on Australia, from where he was deported in January when his medical exemption visa was cancelled.
“A relief, obviously, knowing what I, and people closest to me in my life, have been through this year with what happened in Australia, and post-Australia, obviously,” Djokovic said during a press conference. “I could not receive better news.”
He was also barred from the United States, missing the major spring events and the summer hardcourt season, including the US Open, because foreign citizens who did not have a COVID-19 vaccine were not allowed to enter the country.
Remarkably, after starting the season 8-4, Djokovic won 34 of his last 36 matches and, overall, 5 of the 11 events he played, including his 21st Grand Slam title at Wimbledon.
Although the four major tournaments have paid men and women equally since 2007, the gap in prize money at other events remains quite large, with $59 million available for the men across the 8 ATP Masters 1000 tournaments, while just $35.9 million is on offer for the same number of WTA 1000 events.
Swiatek nearly earned the most prize money in 2022 of any tennis player, male or female, only because she dominated the field on the WTA Tour, winning both the French and US Opens alongside 6 other tournaments during the course of the season over which she amassed an incredible 67-9 win-loss record of matches played.
The 21-year old Pole’s career earnings of $14,735,077 already place her at No 34 on the all-time list which, unsurprisingly, is headed by 41-year old Serena Williams, with $94,816,730, while her older sister, Venus, sits at No 2 with $42,403,103, aged 42.
In fact, Swiatek was the only player to earn more than $5 million for the year, with No 2 Ons Jabeur from Tunisia collecting $4,997,069, while France’s Caroline Garcia, ranked 3rd, came in with combined earnings from singles and doubles amounting to $3,729,317.
That prize money has ebbed on the women’s tour is a direct result of the WTA’s stance on China, after having suspended all its events there because of the Peng Shuai situation, following the former World Doubles No 1’s accusations of sexual abuse by a top Chinese politician, while the Covid pandemic continues to keep the country off limits.
This year, the top 100 WTA Prize Money Leaders won just under $118 million dollars in the first 11 months, which is a big increase from the amounts awarded to players in 2021, but significantly down on 2019.
When Ash Barty won the WTA Finals in Shenzen in 2019, she made a record $4.7 million out of the total available purse of $14 million, and things were looking pretty rosy for the women, with a lucrative 10-year deal in hand in China but, with the on-going issues, this source of income has dried up, at least for now.
Interestingly, Barty finished the 2022 season in the Top 10 of prize money earners despite retiring in March after playing only 11 matches, but it was enough for the 26-year old Australian to notch up some $2,271,220 and place 9th on the list.
Despite many fans wanting her to come back, the Aussie was clear in a recent interview, when she said: “Nope, I’m done. You can never say never but no. No, no, no. I’m done.
“I miss competing and challenging myself against the best of the world but I don’t miss a lot that comes with it,” she added. “I’m still competitive with myself when I train at home.
“I still try and push myself but there’s no white-line fever any more. And I never really felt like there was this void that needed to be filled in because there was a genuine sense of fulfilment at the end of my career.”
Meanwhile, the ATP has announced that in 2023 there will be a significant increase in prize money equal to $37.5 million, which brings the total compensation of events on the men’s tour to $217.9 million, another milestone record.
Players will receive an increase of $18.6 million in on-site prize money paid throughout the ATP Tour by expanding 3 ATP Masters 1000 tournaments from 8 to 12 days.
An exponential growth will mainly concern the Challenger circuit, which will see the prize pool on the spot grow by 75%, from $12.1 to $21.1 million, an increase reinforced by the ATP’s new profit sharing formula, introduced through OneVision in 2022, whereby players will share financial profits from ATP Masters 1000 events.
The Financial Times reported that the ATP Tour provided 75 percent more prize money in 2022, excluding the Grand Slams, than the WTA Tour, which has some catching up to do.
The 2023 season starts on 29 December with the United Cup, the new ATP-WTA team competition that will take place in three cities across Australia.