Toronto native Steven Diez picked up the largest paycheque of his life when he lost in the first round of the French Open. 

The 29-year-old, who had to win three qualifying matches to earn a spot in the man draw, was  one of the beneficiaries of the French Tennis Federation’s plan to spread the wealth. 

 With an extremely limited number of fans allowed on the grounds at Roland Garros, it was no surprise that the federation cut the total prize money for this year’s French Open.  

But while the singles winners will be getting one-third less than the 2019 champions, the French have sweetened the pot for the have-nots on the pro tennis tour.  

The total prize money for this year’s Grand Slam event was cut by nearly 11 per cent but tournament organizers decided  to increase the prize money for players who are at the bottom on the sport’s economic ladder. Diez and his fellow first-round losers, each received $71,000 U.S. an increase of more than 30 per cent. To put that into perspective, Diez has averaged less than $60,000 a year in his 11 years on the pro tour.  

The French also offered more opportunities for players outside the top 100 in the rankings. While the U.S. Open elected not to hold a qualifying event this year because of the  COVID-19 pandemic, the French had a full 128-player qualifying draw for men and women with prize money that would cover a few nights at a five-star hotel and dinner at Michelin-starred restaurant 

Players who lost in the first round of qualifying walked away with nearly $12,000, an increase of 44 per cent. Second-round losers collected $19,000, a 30-per cent increase, and players who lost in the final round of qualifying, earned $30,000, which was a modest 6.7 per cent increase. For players who are struggling to meet their expenses, the increase is a welcome initiative which should serve as a model for other tournaments.  

And in case, you’re concerned about how the folks at the top are going to make do, even with the 33 per cent cut, the men's and women's single winners will each walk away with $1,894,332.