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Tennis world unites to offer cash boost to players struggling during coronavirus lockdown

Organisers of the French Open are among the tennis officials who have contributed to a fund for lower ranked players.
Organisers of the French Open are among the tennis officials who have contributed to a fund for lower ranked players. AFP/File
3 min

Organisers of the international tennis tour and the four Grand Slam tournaments have joined forces to raise 6 million euros for a fund to help lower ranked players survive the circuit shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

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The ATP and WTA - which run men’s and women’s tennis respectively - contributed cash to the Player Relief Programme along with the International Tennis Federation.

The Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open also boosted the fund which aims to help around 800 singles and doubles players in the lower echelons of the game.

“The creation of the Player Relief Programme is a positive demonstration of the sport’s ability to come together during this time of crisis,” said a joint statement.

The professional tennis circuit shut down as countries throughout the world went into a lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. It is due to resume on 13 July.

Circuit disrupted

The French Open in Paris - the second Grand slam event of the season - that was scheduled for late May was postponed until September while organisers of Wimbledon cancelled the grass court tournament for the first time since the second world war.

A decision as to whether the US Open will be staged in New York between 31 August and 13 September will be taken in June.

““We will continue to collaborate and monitor the support required across tennis with the aim of ensuring the long-term health of the sport in the midst of this unprecedented challenge to our way of life,” the joint statement added.

In April, the world number one Novak Djokovic, who is the players’ representative on the ATP council, promoted the idea of the top 100 players contributing to the fund.

Player hardship

"The majority of the players who are ranked between 200, 250 in the world, and the 700th or 1,000th do not have federation support, do not have sponsors. They are completely independent and left alone," Djokovic said in an Instagram chat with fellow player Stan Wawrinka.

"Guys who are ranked between 200-250, especially to 700 are thinking of leaving tennis right now,” Djokovic added.

Former world number ones Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal backed Djokovic’s proposal in which the top five players would pay around 25,000 euros to the fund while those ranked in the 90s would contribute around 4,000 euros.

Dominic Thiem, who rose to number three in the world following his run to the final of the Australian Open in January, said in an Austrian newspaper interview that he would be reluctant to pay into Djokovic plan.

 Able to survive

"Quite honestly I have to say that no tennis player will be fighting to survive, even those who are much lower-ranked," Thiem said.

The 26-year-old Austrian, who lost the 2020 Australian Open final to Djokovic, has racked up more than 20 million euros in prize money since propelling himself into the upper reaches of the sport.

Losses to Nadal in the 2018 and 2019 French Open finals added nearly 2 million euros to his coffers.

Thiem said he based his comments on his own time playing in  second and third tier Challenger and Futures tournaments. During this time, he said, he saw unprofessional attitudes among many players

"None of them are going to starve,” Thiem added. “I would rather give money to people or organisations that really need it.”

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