Novak Djokovic wrapped the 2022 men’s tennis season with a straight-set victory over Casper Ruud at the ATP Finals in Turin, Italy. The Serbian tennis ace rolled through the limited-field event, resulting in a payday of $4.74 million, the richest in the history of the sport.
It pushed his prize money for the year to $9.93 million, $2.3 million ahead of second-ranked Carlos Alcarez. It also meant that he took home the most 2022 prize money among both men and women, finishing a tick ahead of the women’s top-ranked player, Iga Switek, who earned just $59,000 less than Djokovic with $9.88 million. His career prize money of $165 million leads Rafael Nadal by $32 million.
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The title caps a tumultuous season for Djokovic. He was deported from Australia in January ahead of the Australian Open when his medical exemption visa was canceled. He was barred from the United States, missing the major spring events and the summer hardcourt season, including the U.S. Open, because foreign citizens who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine are not allowed to enter the country.
The missed events meant Djokovic entered the ATP Finals as the seventh seed, despite being the top player in the game by most accounts. After starting the season 8-4, Djokovic won 34 of his last 36 matches and, overall, five of the 11 events he played, including his 21st Grand Slam title at Wimbledon.
“Every tournament that he plays, he’s the favorite,” Andrey Rublev said after losing to Djokovic on Wednesday.
Although the four major tournaments have paid men and women equally since 2007, the pay gap for the rest of the calendar is still quite large. For instance, the prize money across the eight ATP Masters 1000 tournaments in 2022 totaled $59 million, versus just $35.9 million for the same number of WTA 1000 events. That Swiatek nearly earned the most prize money in 2022 of any tennis player, male or female, is a testament to how she lapped the field on the women’s tour.
For both genders, though, tennis is dominated by the elites when it comes to earnings. Djokovic earned nearly three times that of the 11th winningest man, Nick Kyrgios, while Swiatek earned more than four times that of the 11th winningest woman, Barbora Krejčíková. This trend was even more notable on the men’s side during the heyday of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the late aughts.
The ATP Finals includes only the top eight players in the rankings and has a purse exceeding $14 million, which contributes to the top-heavy prize money distribution. It is essentially a “rich get richer” event to end the season.
Although the tournament draws much less public attention, the winner of the ATP Finals brings home significantly more cash than the winner of any of the Grand Slam events. In fact, the $4.74 million a player earns for going undefeated in the round-robin stage and winning the title is more than the winner’s prize of Wimbledon ($2.38 million) and the French Open ($2.29 million) combined.
In addition to the ATP Finals title, Djokovic got more good news this week when Australian officials confirmed that his visa cancellation has been revoked. He can now apply for a new visa, which is expected to be approved, and will allow Djokovic to pursue a 22nd Grand Slam win, which would tie Nadal for the all-time record.
“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.”