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Volume 6 No. 264
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Novak Djokovic Suggests Players Break Away From ATP

Prize money in men's tennis has "more than doubled in the last five years" but for Novak Djokovic and some other players, "that is not enough," according to Paul Newman of the London INDEPENDENT. The former world No. 1 told a meeting of players at the Australian Open that he "wants them to form a breakaway union to fight for a bigger slice of the pie." The men's tour -- but not the four Grand Slam tournaments or the Davis Cup -- is run by the Association of Tennis Professionals, which is owned 50% by the players and 50% by the tournaments. Since the ATP was formed in '72, there have been moves to form a separate players' organization which would "enable them to negotiate more effectively with tournaments." At "the heart of the players' arguments is the question of what percentage of total revenues at the Grand Slam tournaments is fed back to them" in the form of prize money. While 15-28% of the revenue from tournaments on the ATP tour goes back to the players in prize money, it is understood that the percentage at Grand Slam tournaments is "significantly less than that," with some suggesting the figure is "as little as" 7-8% (INDEPENDENT, 1/15).

POWER SHIFT: In London, Stuart Fraser reported the "threat of a power shift in men's tennis is brewing." Djokovic "surprised many of those present at a mandatory male player meeting" in Melbourne on Friday by taking to the stage and "suddenly asking for ATP officials and any non-players to leave the room." Djokovic, who is the president of the ATP Player Council, addressed those remaining with his belief that "tennis falls short in rewarding its players with sufficient prize money, compared to other sports." An Australian professor, with specialist knowledge of workplace law, then joined Djokovic on stage to explain the process behind setting up a new player union. This was "merely the early stages of a proposal and there are no indications that this is likely to happen soon" (LONDON TIMES, 1/15).

'RALLYING CALL': In London, Simon Briggs reported the "rallying call" to the players came only "an hour or so" after Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley outlined his plans for an increase in the total prize pot for the Australian Open from A$55M ($43.8M) this year to around A$60M ($47.8M) in '19, with an "aspiration to reach" the A$100M ($79.7M) mark in five years' time. ATP Player Council VP Kevin Anderson was asked about the situation after he came off the court on Monday and suggested that the goal is to "extend the number of players who earn a reasonable income from the tour." Anderson said, "Things have got a lot better from where we were four to five years ago. Now if you are top 100 you are making a good living. I think we want to push that to 150, 200 and keep going" (TELEGRAPH, 1/15).

'OUT OF KILTER': In London, Kevin Mitchell reported among players present at Friday's meeting were Andy Murray, who is "convalescing in Melbourne after his hip operation," defending Australian Open champion Roger Federer, who is said to be "sceptical about the move," and Rafael Nadal. Many leading players regard their remuneration to be "out of kilter with other sports, particularly golf." The riches are "considerable at the top, but minuscule outside the top 100." Djokovic's "surprise intervention follows on the heels of unfortunate remarks" by Australian Bernard Tomic, who lost his final qualifying match on Sunday and "turned on waiting courtside reporters with a sarcastic reference to his own obsession with money." Tomic said, "I just count money, that's all I do. I count my millions. You go do what I did [on court]. Bye bye." Former player Andy Roddick said that Tomic's problems looked to be "self-inflicted" and there was a "storm of antagonistic responses on social media against the player whose career has been littered with controversial incidents" (GUARDIAN, 1/15).

SIGNIFICANT INCREASES: In Melbourne, Leo Schlink reported Djokovic's push for greater rewards "surprised officials, and many players, on several fronts." There have been "significant" prize money increases on the ATP World Tour, rising from A$91M in '14 to A$137M ($109.2M) this year. More than 50 players last year earned more than A$1M in prizemoney -- up from 30 players four years ago (HERALD SUN, 1/15).