The fourth and final tennis Grand Slam of the year is also the most lucrative: At the 2019 U.S. Open, $57.2 million will be awarded in total, with the largest prizes going to the singles champions.
The winner of the women's final on Saturday — Serena Williams, 37, and Bianca Andreescu, 19, face off in Arthur Ashe Stadium at 4 p.m. ET — will collect a $3.85 million check. The runner-up will earn about half that amount: $1.9 million.
It's Andreescu's first time competing at the U.S. Open and in a Grand Slam final. If the Canadian teen wins, she'll become the first player in the Open era, which began in 1968, to take the title in her U.S. Open debut. She has a tough task ahead of her, though: Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam champion, will be playing in her 10th U.S. Open final.
Their career earnings are just as lopsided as their Grand Slam victories: Williams has earned more than $90 million in prize money in the 24 years she's been on the WTA Tour, while Andreescu has collected $2.4 million in the few years she's been a professional.
The total payout for the 2019 Open is much higher than in 1968, the start of tennis' professional era. The first U.S. Open awarded a total of $100,000 in prize money. Only 6% of that, $6,000, went to the women's champion, Virginia Wade.
Since then, the prize money has skyrocketed, and women achieved pay parity in 1973, when both champions received checks for $25,000. The men's and women's champions earned six figures for the first time in 1983 ($120,000) and seven figures for the first time in 2003 ($1,000,000).
Even with the big increases in prize money, though, "it can be difficult for players to make much of a profit off competing," No. 14 ranked John Isner writes on Forbes.
"The expenses can really add up, particularly at tournaments like Wimbledon and the French Open," adds Isner, who not only pays for his own flights, meals and lodging, but also covers his coaches' and trainers' travel costs. "In those cases, if I don't win a match, I'm actually in danger of losing money for competing."
Isner, like other top-ranked players, is in the fortunate situation where he doesn't have to rely on just prize money to cover his expenses: He has a handful of sponsorship deals, which are "the closest thing to a guaranteed annual salary that a player has," he says.
Finding sponsors ins't always easy, though, especially if you're not a top-ranked player. "You do well as a pro tennis player when you're ranked in the top 20. But that can be short-lived," Isner explains. "Brands are paying you to get their logos on televised show courts, so if your matches aren't being featured on broadcasts because your play has fallen off ... or because you're injured and not playing at all — they're going to stop calling."
Players without sponsors have to win to pay the bills. "And winning is hard," Isner notes, "which means it's really hard to bring in prize money consistently."
The bigger the tournament, the bigger the check: At smaller scale pro circuit events, where the total pot ranges from $15,000 to $100,000, first-round losers may take home just a few hundred dollars.
At the U.S. Open, on the other hand, players who make the main singles draw are guaranteed $58,000 — and if they win one round, they make six figures.
Here's the full breakdown of how much the men's and women's singles competitors earned at this year's Open. The amounts listed are what players who lost in the corresponding round earned.
Round of 16: $280,000
Round of 32: $163,000
Round of 64: $100,000
Round of 128: $58,000
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