September 21, 2023

Open Court


The international governing bodies of tennis announced Tuesday – in a chorus of synchronized and identical press releases – that the group is “in discussions” to create a fund to help lower-ranked players survive the pandemic shutdown.

Here’s how it reads.

With so much uncertainty around when it will be safe to restart the professional tennis tours, the international governing bodies of world tennis can confirm they are in discussions to create a Player Relief Program to provide much needed assistance to the players who are particularly affected during this time of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.

These discussions have been progressing well and details are being finalized with an announcement expected in the near future. Already agreed is that the WTA and ATP will administer the Player Relief Program and all seven stakeholders will make a significant contribution.

The health and safety of everyone involved in tennis is the absolute priority for all the governing bodies, and the tennis community has been unwavering in playing its part in limiting the spread of the infection.

This is particularly true of our players, with so many engaging their fans through messages of hope while reiterating the importance of staying safe at home, as well as demonstrating creative ways to stay fit and practice our sport to be ready for when the time comes that play can begin again.

We know that for our players, as well as for so many people worldwide, there is the need for financial support for those who need it most and we look forward to finalizing and sharing the further details of a plan in due course.

There remain many details to be worked out, no doubt.

As Novak Djokovic said during an Instagram Live broadcast earlier Tuesday, the ATP players themselves demonstrated resistance to any sort of mandatory contribution.

As well, we’ve heard that the WTA Tour’s discussions about player relief ran more to the players in the 100-200 range, more than the much lower-ranked players on the ITF Tour.

There no doubt will be discussions and calculations and algorithms in terms of how to fairly allocate the money, given the vast disparity between a player ranked No. 250, and one ranked No. 700.

WTA Tour chief Steve Simon told the New York Times that some $3 million in relief had already been distributed to players through rebates on their membership fees (which runs $650 for an associate membership, to $1,500 for a full membership) and from giving the equivalent of the first-round prize money at Indian Wells.

If the WTA offered a rebate for the last three years, as British player Tara Moore indicated, that would be about $3 million right there.

(It seemed, at the time, that it was the Indian Wells tournament itself that distributed the first-round money cheques. So it’s possible that Simon misspoke about that).

ITF president David Haggerty told the New York Times that the fund was expected to amount to more than $6 million.

It sounds like a significant amount. And any amount is better than no amount.

But if the early word on the players to be helped remains, and we’re talking about players ranked No. 250 through No. 700, that’s a total of 900 players between the men’s and women’s tours combined.

Split up 900 ways, $6 million works out to $6,666.66 per player.

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