The women’s professional tennis tour took another step on Tuesday toward closing the gender pay gap, as players and tournament officials committed to bringing their prize money in line with the men for the most significant tournaments, though the shift won’t be complete for 10 years.

The move came after months of negotiations within the WTA Tour, which includes tournament organizers, as well as years of complaints from players and foot-dragging by tournament officials who for decades have paid female professionals a fraction of what they pay the men even in tournaments where they play the same best-of-three-sets format.

In Rome, in May, the men competed for $8.5 million while the women competed for $3.9 million. The Western & Southern Open, the main tuneup for the U.S. Open, paid men $6.28 million while women competed for $2.53 million. The National Bank Open in Canada offered the men $5.9 million last year, compared with $2.53 million for the women.

“More and more players have been getting restless with this,” said Jessica Pegula, the world’s fourth-ranked player and a member of the WTA Players’ Council. “Equal pay started with the Slams, and I think a lot of people thought that meant every tournament.”

Women and men have received equal prize money at all of the Grand Slam tournaments since 2007. As part of this deal, organizers of the next two tiers of tournaments — the 1000-level tournaments, which are the biggest competitions outside of the Grand Slams, and the 500-level tournaments — have committed to pay equity as well.

All events featuring both men and women at those two levels will pay prize money equal to that on the men’s tour, the ATP, beginning in 2027. By 2033, all events at those two levels will offer the same prize money.

Tour executives and tournament officials say the phased-in approach is essential for raising the additional revenue to fund the pay increases, but that has not sat well with all players.

“I don’t know why it’s not equal right now,” Paula Badosa of Spain, who has been ranked as high as No. 2 in the world, said last month.

Sloane Stephens, another Players’ Council member, said she understands the impatience of players who don’t want this benefit to kick in only after they have retired, but there are many existing contracts that prevent an immediate shift.

“It may not be the fastest pathway, but we will get there,” she said. “If I wasn’t on the council, it would be hard for me to understand. This process takes time.”

In an interview this spring, Steven Simon, the chief executive of the WTA Tour, said the time frame is necessary to allow the market to catch up with player sentiment, as the tour expands its marketing and renegotiates existing media contracts. Tournament organizers will also be able to take advantage of new rules that will make player attendance essentially mandatory at the biggest tournaments.

Tournament organizers have long used the lack of a mandatory attendance requirement and a slight difference in the number of rankings points that players received as excuses for not providing equal pay. All of the tournaments with men and women will also now offer the same rankings points for both, making the competitions equal in every way and less confusing for fans.

But while the pay equity deal offers an eventual solution to an old problem for tennis — and in all sports — it is hardly a panacea. With Wimbledon set to begin on Monday, women’s tennis continues to grapple with challenges.

Most immediately, the tour has yet to announce the location of its season-ending tour finals in November. That issue was supposed to have been settled after the tour announced earlier this year that it would end its 18-month suspension of operations in China over the country’s treatment of the former player Peng Shuai. In a social media post in 2021, Shuai accused a government official of sexually assaulting her, and tour officials were subsequently unable to contact her.

Simon said its boycott proved ineffective. But when the tour released its fall calendar earlier this month, it gave no location for the finals, though it included several tournaments in China. Tour officials have said they intend to hold the event there, but negotiations are continuing with the Chinese over the details of its existing 10-year deal that guaranteed nearly $150 million in prize money.

There is also the larger issue of whether the WTA Tour will be able to further unify with the men’s tour, a move that experts say is vital for maximizing the potential of pro tennis. And looming over all of this is what role, if any, Saudi Arabia may play in the sport.

Saudi Arabia, whose LIV Golf circuit recently agreed to a merger with golf’s PGA Tour, already hosts a lucrative men’s exhibition event, but so far it has shown an inclination to grow its investments in tennis without the acrimony and litigation that accompanied its aggressive push into golf.

Saudi Arabia is a leading candidate to become the host of the ATP’s Next Gen Finals, a season-ending 21-and-under tournament that has been held in Milan since its inception in 2017, according to people with knowledge of the bidding process. The proposal to stage the competition, beginning later this year, includes a plan to launch a similar women’s event.

The WTA has yet to commit to that or to staging any competitions in Saudi Arabia, where women only recently gained the right to drive and where an abysmal human rights record includes the murder of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Simon traveled to the kingdom earlier this year for talks with government officials, though it’s not clear whether the WTA’s idea of further unification with the ATP includes a new tournament in Saudi Arabia.

For now, erasing the pay gap is the first step, though some players do not understand the slow pace of change.

“I don’t see why we have to wait,” Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, who is ranked No. 6, said recently.

In response, Simon has pointed to the deal the tour struck earlier this year with CVC Capital Partners, a private equity firm, which bought 20 percent of a WTA commercial subsidiary for $150 million. Much of the investment will be used to enhance sales and marketing efforts at a time when many of its players remain unknown to casual sports fans.

Doing that may require some work on the part of the tournaments that goes beyond giving women more money.

“We have to build these personalities,” Simon said.

Women in tennis have also been increasingly vocal in recent months about the disparate treatment they have received. At the French Open, organizers put a men’s match in the featured prime-time slot on nine of 10 nights.

The mixed tournaments almost always conclude with the men’s final on the last Sunday — an implicit peak — with the women’s final played the day before. At the Italian Open in May, Elena Rybakina and Anhelina Kalinina took the court at 11 p.m. local time in a largely empty stadium after rain and the men’s semifinals delayed their match for hours.

After Tuesday’s announcement, at least the money will be equal — eventually.

“It’s time for change,” Simon said. “The pathway is now there.”

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