The Tour is not configured as a gift, says Vijay Amritraj

BENGALURU: The big bags in tennis are claimed by the sports elite, the structure is such. Vijay Amritraj He argued, there aren't many nonprofits like ATP and WTA Tours that can do even in these desperately dark times when gamers have lost their livelihood and lower-ranking professionals are struggling to make ends meet.

Nearly a thousand tournaments have been canceled or postponed on all platforms, age group events for senior professionals. The situation is not exclusive to tennis or its stakeholders. The world, devastated by a virus, is on its knees. But tennis, unlike team sports and other individual disciplines, demands more from its professionals.

Indian superstar Amritraj, who has worn various hats, including that of the Players Council president, stressed that a more equitable distribution of the cash prize was an issue for the councils to address, but did not see much hope on the agenda, given that the power impulses of the stars the sport.

The most expensive cash prize deal has long been criticized, most recently by Serena Williams 'Coach Patrick Mouratoglou who, in an open letter on Twitter, raised the question of the financial stability of the 100th player in the world. I find it disgusting that the hundredth best player in one of the world's most popular sports can barely make a living, the Frenchman wrote, adding that professional tennis operated under a dysfunctional system.

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Speaking to TOI from his Los Angeles home, Amritraj said they are the court's rock stars: Roger Federer , Rafael Nadal , Novak Djokovic , Serena Williams - who power the sport. Outside of the top players, there may be half-a-dozen others who really sell the sport. The big money is being spent on those ranked between 10 and 50, I'm not talking about the quality of play here, we all know how good that is, but do they sell the sport? I asked, before stretching the question to the backend.

At the 2020 Australian Open, players who fell on the qualification field or even in the first round of the main draw, potentially ranked between 80 and 250, won between $ 20,000 and 90,000 Australians. There are four specializations in a year, but the Futures, Challenger, and Tour-level events choices are not that big. And, there are salaries to distribute to coaches, coaches and physios, in addition to travel and accommodation.

This is a very real problem today. Like most countries in Covid-19, we are not prepared for that, Amritraj said. The Tour it is not configured as a gift. There is no money coming from anywhere to take care of anyone.

Amritraj, who championed the players' pension scheme almost 30 years ago, wondered if the Tour s could go back to tournaments and ask for a percentage to be put aside for times like this. "This happens to be a global phenomenon, what happens if it's a regional one?" he asked forcefully, but wasn't hopeful of the outcome.

For years, tournaments have been battling paying players who aren't helping with ticket sales, he noted. Let's get rid of the doubles, for example. We only have four teams, they are not helping to sell tickets, this is how they see it. Now, to tell you that we need to save a little more money, to take care of the players who will come tomorrow, who will be classified outside the top 100, we do not know what they will say.

The board of directors must reach an agreement, he said, before warning: That this already affects us does not mean that we will not be affected by it again.

Amritraj, ranked No. 16 in the world at his peak, was president of the ATP Player Council from 1989 to 1992, and again in 1994. "The discussion then was whether there should be big discrepancies in the winner and runner-up checks, the runner-up and the semifinalists and all the way down," Amritraj said of 30 years ago, when the Tour as we know it today came into being.

There could be only one or two points that differentiate the winner and runner-up, 7-6 in the third or fifth set. Why then are we making such discrepancies between first and second place until the first round? Losers? That is what I did not agree with at the time. I'm not saying that sport should have a socialist form of financial settlement, but it was a discussion that paid off.

Amritraj added: We come from a country where we believe that there should be no such discrepancies. The West, especially Americans, play with the winner-take it all philosophy. It is as Vince Lombardi said, winning is not everything, it is the only thing. But from a public relations perspective, it seemed like something we can live with because with all the baseball, soccer, and basketball guys getting big contracts, nobody was really talking about the guy who didn't make the team.