October 22, 2021

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ATP ups pandemic financial help for players, tourneys

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It’s been busy in recent weeks in the ATP Tour boardroom and with the Player Council.

Among other things, the governing bodies of the men’s tour have decided that the base prize money for 250 and 500 tournaments, which had been reduced 50 per cent because of the drop in tournament revenue due to (mostly) no fans on site, will be increased.

For the ATP 250 tournaments, the amount will increase from 50 per cent to 80 per cent of “normal” levels.

For the ATP 500 tournaments, it will go from from 50 per cent to 60 per cent.

According to the ATP those increases, which will amount to over $5 million US, will mostly come from part of the ATP bonus pool (which only the top 12 players can benefit from).

COVID-19 protected ranking

Another tweak is that players who don’t compete for four consecutive weeks will be allowed to use a “COVID-19 protected ranking”, once, until the provision expires on March 21, 2022.

Players can use it for four tournaments (not including Grand Slams or the Olympics). Mostly, they can use it for smaller tournaments; the ranking will only apply for the same number of Masters 1000 tournaments as take place during their absence from the Tour.

More support staff allowed at tournaments

It was quickly apparent at the Australian Open that the original restrictions on the size of player teams was … a mere figment of someone’s imagination when it came to the top players.

But those restrictions are more rigidly enforced on the ATP Tour.

And they will now be increased.

As an example, ATP players in Miami will be allowed three player support staff. And two of them will have access to the restricted player areas. The third guest will have access to a more restricted area.

Generally, if the players want even more people to come, tournaments will try to accommodate them whenever hotel space and on-site facilities allow.

Players will have to pay up for the hotel and testing costs for additional team members.

Helping out the tournaments with COVID expenses

The ATP will also disburse up to $10,000 for each Tour and Challenger event in 2021, to help cover the costs of isolating COVID-19 positive players or any additional quarantine measures for close contacts.

(Notably, though, from what we understand, the ATP tournament sanction and marketing fees that events must shell out have not been reduced from regular levels).

The Tour also has added a number of Challenger events in recent weeks including one – finally – in the U.S.

A CH80 in Marbella Spain and a 50 in Oeiras, Portugal will be played the week of March 29.

Another Challenger in Oeiras and an 80 in Split, Croatia will be played the week of April 5.

And a 125 in Belgrade (which was recently switched from hard court to clay), an 80 in Orlando, Fla., a second Challenger in Split and another 80 in Santa Cruz, Bolivia will be played the week of April 12.

Until the addition of the Orlando tournament, there had been just one Challenger in the U.S. in 2021 – in Cleveland, in two weeks.

Unfortunately a 125 Challenger in Orleans, France, which had been announced the previous week to be held the week of April 5, will not take place because of COVID-19.

“Performance Byes” in Dubai

With the Dubai main draw having been expanded to 48 from its usual 32, there will be “performance byes” awarded to players.

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The singles finalists and/or semifinalists from Santiago and Marseille, and the finalists in Doha – if they are not among the 16 seeded players getting a first-round bye in the expanded Dubai draw – will get first-round byes.

A maximum of two byes per tournament will be allowed. So if more than two of the final four in Santiago and Marseille qualified, the higher-ranked players would prevail.

The finalists at those events get first priority, then the semifinalists.

But those byes are not like “special exempts” (of which there already is one in the Dubai draw). If the players were not accepted into the Dubai singles main draw in the first place, they’re not eligible.

Any “bye” spots not used would go to the next eligible player on the entry list.

More financial help for players

The ATP has also earmarked more than $2 million US in additional relief payments for players.

Last year, more than $6 million was split between the men and women, a fund contributed to by the two tours, the the ITF and the Grand Slams. There also were player grants handed out by the ATP in January.

The new fund will give players who learned less than $150,000 US in 2020 (within certain ranking parameters) $5,040 US (minus 6 per cent tax withheld for non-US residents).

Those players have to be ranked within 31-500 in the 2020 year-end singles rankings, and in the top 200 in the year-end doubles rankings.

Players who are still using a protected ranking, but have competed since March 2019 are eligible.

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