Australian Open Officials Confident ATP Players Will Not Boycott Over Prize Money
Tennis Australia today said that it was “confident players would not boycott the Australian Open over a prize money disagreement, but it was taking the threat seriously,” according to Madeleine Coorey of the AFP. ATP World Tour players reportedly were “considering a boycott of January's tournament in a bid to gain a higher percentage of Grand Slam event revenues for themselves.” At issue is the “pay of lower-ranked players who often exit in the first round.” Players this year were paid US$21,600 for a first round defeat. Australian Open Tournament Dir Craig Tiley said, "It's not necessarily just a Grand Slam problem, it's an all-sport problem.” He added that it was “unfair to target the Australian Open, which this year offered the biggest prize money pot in Grand Slam tennis” at US$27M (AFP, 8/27). In London, Barry Flatman wrote at the “top of the agenda at a mandatory meeting” for all ATP World Tour players in N.Y. Saturday night was "the growing pressure to stage a mass boycott of the Australian Open." The ATP reportedly is "considering staging an alternative event, almost certainly in Dubai, if moves are not made to give the players a higher percentage of tournament revenue," which currently stands below 20% (LONDON TIMES, 8/26). In Sydney, Darren Walton notes the players are “unhappy about the discrepancy between the tennis elite and fringe competitors who make 128-man grand slam draws possible.” Tiley “understands their gripe and says the Australian Open will consider a range of changes to ensure lower-ranked players are compensated, including increasing prize money for those who lose before the quarter-finals” (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 8/27). Tiley said, "We are the first to say that for tennis to be a viable career, the top 250 players need to make a good living" (Melbourne HERALD SUN, 8/27).
GOLDEN AGE: In a special to USA TODAY, Douglas Robson in a sports section cover story writes the men's game is “in the midst of its own so-called golden age” led by Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. But “how much longer can this period of excellence last?” Federer is “31, when tennis skills generally decline,” and Nadal is “plagued by chronic tendinitis in his knees.” Although Djokovic is “still in his prime,” he has “fallen off from his dominant form of last year.” Andy Roddick’s coach Larry Stefanki said, "There's been a lot of special eras." He calls the designation golden era "overused." Robson notes “most agree, however, that this is a unique time,” as tennis has “never been deeper.” The best players have been “popping out memorable matches like a PEZ dispenser.” Tennis Channel analyst and former ATPer Justin Gimelstob said, "In terms of the quality and what it takes to win points and tournaments and Grand Slams -- it's a new level. This is the apex, right here" (USA TODAY, 8/27).
BEST FORMAT? On Long Island, John Jeansonne notes the “idea of a more compact best-of-three-sets format in men's Grand Slam tennis was volleyed around a bit this summer (to no clear conclusion).” Two “respected stewards of tennis conscience,” Billie Jean King and journalist/commentator Bud Collins, both are “on record favoring best-of-three play.” Collins would have the men “play best-of-three until major quarterfinals, then best-of-five.” King has said, "All tennis should be best-of-three. I want the players around for longer careers" (NEWSDAY, 8/27). In N.Y., Ray Krueger notes there is “one way to put this issue to rest: let the women play best-of-five.” But the extra time on the court “raises concern over injuries and wear and tear on players” (N.Y. TIMES, 8/27).