Tennis’ U.S. Open has seen almost 300% increases in prize money over the last 10 years

The U.S. Open just ended this past weekend, with Stan Wawrinka and Angelique Kerber winning a record $3.5 MILLION EACH, the highest total won as an individual in sports history (not including Boxing). I’ve been playing and enjoying tennis since I was 2 years old, but have not followed rankings and winnings since the early 2000’s, when it was still a competition. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic came in and won 9 of the next 12 U.S. Opens and pretty much every other Grand Slam, and I just focused on watching amazing tennis.

That being said, seeing a headline with “$3.5 Million” as top prize for the U.S. Open Singles Draw was shocking to me. Just 10 years ago, that represents 20% of the TOTAL PURSE for all U.S. Open events. The Total Purse includes events like Mens & Womens Singles, Mens & Womens Doubles and Mixed Doubles. It also includes other events like the wheelchair and champions tournaments, as well as per diem for all players (consistently $1M-$1.4M).

Not only is this crazy to think about, what’s even more amazing is that The U.S. Open has had equal prize packages for Mens and Womens tournaments since 1973. So, in 2005, when the total purse was $17.7M, the Mens and Womens Singles Draw really only had ~70% of that (35% each) – that’s $6.2M. So, this past weekends prize was over half of the total prize money given out in the Men’s Draw back in 2005. Back in 2005, when Roger Federer took home a record $1.1 million, we thought it was absurd. 11 years later, that number has grown over 300%! Three Takeaways here:

  1. The U.S. Open’s Mens and Womens tournaments have had the same prizes from qualifying to 1st place, since 1973
  2. 2016’s 1st Prize was $3.5 Million, most for an individual in sports history, and over 300% more than 2005
  3. 2005’s total purse ($17.7M) is almost 1/3 of this year’s total at $46.3M

Let’s now pause, and truly understand the gravity of this. In the early 2000’s, Golf’s U.S. Open was a premier event (it still is). The Men’s top prize in this tournament was actually bigger (!!) in 2005 then Tennis’: $1.17M to $1.1M. The Numbers now? $1.8M (Golf) to $3.5M (Tennis). The Men’s top prize grew a modest 54%.

For the final analysis – lets zone in on the Women’s U.S. Opens. Not much more to discuss on the Tennis side here, as the prizes have been the same, top to bottom, since 1973. But, this is not the case for golf. In 2005, Birdie Kim won $560K for taking home 1st Place at Golf’s U.S. Open. In 2016, this number jumped to $810K, a 45% bump. Three takeaways here:

  1. Womens Tennis ($3.5M) vs. Womens Golf ($810K) = +430% Tennis
  2. Womens Golf ($810K) vs. Mens Golf ($1.8M) = +120% Mens Golf
  3. Womens Golf (45% Increase) vs. Mens Golf (54% Increase)

To See More Analysis, Please click on the image below and interact with this visualization.


Tools Used:
– Source of Data: U.S. Open Websites
– Tableau to visualize


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