May 29, 2020

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Exclusive: ATP, WTA finalize player relief schemes as ITF promises help for those outside top 500

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The ATP and WTA Tours have finalized their financial relief packages for lower-ranked players, to help them weather the COVID-19 storm.

And in the end, there are three takeaways.

The first is that the two tours have devised separate sets of criteria – and different payout amounts.

The second is that the ATP is offering only half the singles payment to its doubles players, while the WTA does not appear to discriminate between the two.

The third was that, unless the ITF comes to the fore with additional aid, no player ranked below No. 500 in singles and below No. 175 (WTA) and No. 200 (ATP) in doubles will be getting any help at all – at least, not from the seven governing bodies which combined to put a reported $6 million into the fund.

(On Monday, the ITF weighed in on that – see below).

This was not what the initial purpose of the fund seemed to be. Indeed, early rumblings were that players ranked as low as No. 700 might be getting some benefits to get them through the shutdown.

And, as a first public step amid talks of potential consolidation between the Tours, it’s definitely a “go your own way” kind of proposal.

Ranked No. 51 in singles, 22-year-old Alexander Bublik – who has earned nearly $300,000 already in 2020 – was not eligible for relief. But at No. 100 in doubles, it appears he can receive a $1,000 cheque via the exceptions in the modified travel grant. (Stephanie Myles/Opencourt.ca).

ITF will help out the 501-700 players

On Monday, the ITF weighed in with an announcement that, while short on immediate details, promises “additional measures” to help not only those players ranked outside the top 500, but other stakeholders as well.

Whether that help utilizes the ITF funds promised to the overall relief fund, or additional funds, may be revealed in due course.

To the WTA, singles = doubles

From confidential information provided to Open Court from players on both circuits, we can report that the WTA package will be a maximum of $10,400 per player (all amounts USD), paid in two instalments.

Qualified players are ranked No. 500 or higher in singles, or No. 175 or higher in doubles. There doesn’t appear to be a “highest ranking” beyond which a player wouldn’t qualify; you would expect, without going through them one-by-one, that the majority of the top 100 would exceed the prize-money limits set out below. Those who don’t would get the grant.

Latvia’s Daniela Vismane – seen here during Fed Cup doubles with countrywoman Jelena Ostapenko, ended up on the hot seat as she is currently ranked No. 501 in singles on the WTA Tour. The cutoff for air was … No. 500.

To get the maximum, players have to have competed in at least six WTA and/or Grand Slam tournaments over the 12 months ending on March 16, 2020 – when the rankings were frozen. One of those tournaments must be a Grand Slam.

If the player has fewer than six WTA tournaments on their resumé the last 12 months, or more than six – but none of them is a Grand Slam tournament – they get half that, or $5,200.

And in the basic tier – a $2,600 grant goes to players who competed in fewer than six WTA/Grand Slam events during those 12 months, earned less than $20,000 in the previous year and less than $80,000 in the previous four years.

A player who competed in less than 6 WTA + Grand Slam events in the 12 months prior to March
16, 2020; AND
 Earned less than $20,000 in the 12 months prior to March 16, 2020, and less than $80,000 in the
4 years prior, to March 16, 2020.

Early on, it seemed the Big 3 were involved in trying to not only get help from the top 100 to aid the less fortunate, but get the help down to the lower levels. That seems to have faded into the woodwork – perhaps because the other players didn’t see it the same way and made their feelings known – despite the big-three power and influence.

We’re efforting on whether that slice also applies to players who have played as few as one or two.

As well, players who have earned $350,000 or more in prize money over the last year ending March 16, or at least $1.4 million over the four years prior – or $3.5 million or more during their career – are not eligible.

Notably, per this Tweet quoting Player Council member Aleksandra Krunic, the players “unanimously” rejected a proposal to help the players ranked between No. 500 and No. 700.

Given the parameters below for the ATP relief fund, you would have to conclude that they decided the same thing.

ATP calculations more complicated

For the ATP Tour, the calculations were made more complex by the fact that the Tour already issues travel grants to players who primarily spend their time on the Challenger circuit.

The basic criteria for the ATP payments is as follows: two payments of $4,325 US for players ranked No. 101-500 in singles, or two instalments of $2,165 US for those ranked No. 51-175 in doubles. That includes protected rankings.

The exclusions on the ATP side are suspended players, those who earned $250,000 or more in the last year, or $1 million or more the last four years.

Grant or relief – or both?

The ATP has another program that distributes travel grants to players with slightly different criteria.

An amount of $4,000 ($2,000 in January and the same in July) goes to singles players ranked between 151-400, and $2,000 (divided into two) for players ranked between 76-175 in doubles.

American Martin Redlicki, at No. 200 in the doubles rankings, just squeezed into the travel grant portion of the aid. At No. 503 in singles, he missed out on a significantly bigger cheque by … three spots. (ATP Tour website).

For the purposes of the relief fund qualifications, doubles players ranked between No. 176-200 have been added to the grants list, as well as players who earned over the limit in prize money for the main payment even if they qualify by ranking.

The rankings (for the January payment) were the year-end rankings for 2019. For the scheduled July payment, the qualifying rankings were to come at the conclusion of the French Open (which would be the same as they are right now, given the rankings are frozen).

There seems to be a bit of confusion on whether the players can get one of the grants, or both – we will confirm this as soon as we can. The instructions for the payout of the relief money say that “qualifying players will only receive one payment, defaulting to the highest amount”, and that the scheduled July payments will thus be disbursed early. That could mean that the two payments will simply be combined into one automatic deposit – and not that the players only qualify for the higher of the two amounts.

The instructions also indicate that “the Player Relief Programme and the ATP Player Grant are separate initiatives, each with its own criteria.”

Cost savings from Challengers

The total amount of the travel grants, which we understand are paid out of the Challenger streaming revenues, was $387,000 in 2017 and $462,000 in 2018. In 2020, it was upped to a total of $1 million.

One helpful bit for the ATP is it no longer has to pay out its funding grants to the Challenger tournaments themselves, because those events are not being held.

If you calculate those amounts – which are on a sliding scale depending on the size of the Challenger – through the end of July (with the amounts for July based upon the 2019 Challenger schedule), the ATP has nearly $520,000 U.S. in savings that it could conceivably put toward the player relief fund, without going into the reserves.

No doubt the reactions to all this will be coming in the next few days.