The tour is not configured as a gift: Vijay Amritraj
BENGALURU: The big bags in tennis They are claimed by the elite of the sport, the structure is such. Vijay Amritraj He feels that there aren't many nonprofits like ATP and WTA Tours that can do even in these desperately dark times, when players have lost their livelihood and lower-ranking professionals are struggling to make ends meet.
Almost a thousand tournaments across all platforms, agegroup events to the senior pros, have been cancelled or postponed. The situation isn’t unique to tennis or its stakeholders. The world, ravaged by a virus, is on its knees. But tennis , unlike team sports and other individual disciplines, makes greater demands on its pros.
Indian superstar Amritraj, who has worn various hats, including that of the Players Council president, stressed that a more equitable distribution of
the prize money was a problem that the boards had to address, but he didn't see much hope on the agenda, given that the power of the stars drives 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 financial stability of the 100th-ranked player in the world. “I find it revolting that the 100th-best player of one of the most popular sports in the world is barely able to make a living out of it,” the Frenchman wrote, adding that professional tennis operated under a “dysfunctional” system.
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 races in a year, but the choices for the Futures, Challenger and Tour events 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 ready for it, said Amritraj. “The Tour is not configured as a gift. There is no money coming from anywhere to take care of anyone.
Amritraj, who defended the players' pension plan almost 30 years ago, wondered if the Tours could return to tournaments and ask for a percentage to be set aside at times like this. This is a global phenomenon, what if it is regional? he asked forcefully, but had no hope in the outcome.
For years, tournaments have been struggling against 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 have to save a little more money, to take care of the players who will come tomorrow, who will qualify outside the top 100, we do not know what they will say. The board of directors must come to an agreement, he said, before warning, that this has already affected us does not mean that it will not affect us again.
Amritraj, who was ranked 16th in the world at his best, was chairman of the ATP Players Council from 1989 to 1992, and again in 1994. The discussion then was whether there should be large discrepancies in winner controls and second place, runner-up and semi-finalists and all the way down, ”said Amritraj of 30 years ago, when the Tour as we know it today was born.
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 down to the first 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 the Americans, play 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 wasn't on the team.