ATP extends rankings freeze, boosts prize money at smaller events

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Paris (AFP)

The ATP announced Wednesday it will prolong its rankings freeze and increase prize money at lower-level tournaments as part of a package of measures to help players affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Organisers of the men's tennis tour have also introduced a new protected ranking system to give players who miss four consecutive weeks of the season greater flexibility in their scheduling.

"Between the Australian Open and Wimbledon, minimum prize money levels for ATP 250 and ATP 500 tournaments will be raised to 80% and 60% respectively, from 50%," the ATP said in a statement.

Tournaments have been played in the absence of spectators or with strict attendance limits since the ATP and WTA tours restarted last August following a five-month interruption.

The extra funds generated will primarily come through the redistribution of part of the ATP Bonus Pool, which is usually divided between the top 12 players at the end of the season.

The decision received the backing of the ATP player council, which includes Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

"Our tournaments' revenues continue to be severely impacted by restrictions on ticket sales, and a substantial improvement on this front looks unlikely before mid-year," said ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi.

"Our focus is to ensure the Tour continues supporting as many players as possible and I would like to thank the top-ranked players and the Player Council for supporting this measure, which will help improve conditions for the larger player group over the coming months."

The ATP will extend its rankings freeze through to the end of the Toronto Masters, which runs from August 9-15.

That means results from events played between March 4 and August 5 in 2019 can continue to be calculated towards rankings if the 2020 edition of the tournament was cancelled.

"For example, a player will be able to count either 50% of his 2019 Madrid result, or 100% of his 2021 Madrid result, whichever is greater, for the next 52 weeks," the ATP explained.

Officials said the traditional ranking system, incorporating only results from the previous 52 weeks, will apply again on August 15, 2022, if there are no further changes.

The new Covid-19 protected ranking scheme will grant players entry into four tournaments, but it does not apply to the Grand Slams or the Olympic Games.

Individuals will only be able to use their protected rankings for as many Masters 1000 events as they missed while away from competition.

The ATP will also allow players to increase the size of their support team at events, a number which had been restricted to two since the tour's resumption, "on a first-come, first-served basis".

A $10,000 allocation will be set aside for each event on the ATP Tour and second-tier Challenger circuit to cover hotel costs arising from additional isolation or quarantine periods.