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By Chris Oddo | Friday April 17, 2020

 
Andrea Gaudenzi

ATP CEO Andrea Gaudenzi says that tennis' governing bodies are working on a package to aid financially unstable players during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Photo Source: AP

The ATP and WTA are working together on providing relief to lower-ranked players and smaller tournaments, with several parties involved in the conception. According to ATP Chief Executive Andrea Gaudenzi the discussions are progressing well and a plan could be finalized in the next few weeks. Perhaps more important, it will be a collaborative effort that characterizes the process, one that involves all of the sports' governing bodies.

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“We are going to try to step in over the next couple weeks to provide support to those players who don’t have the means to actually go on financially in these very difficult times and we are asking the Grand Slams to join forces, so we’ll know more in the next couple weeks but the discussions we have been having are very positive and I’m sure we be able to come up with something,"
Gaudenzi told Tennis Channel’s Steve Weissman and Paul Annacone during an interview on Thursday.

With tennis on hold since Indian Wells was officially cancelled on March 8th, players have been left to sit in a holding pattern with no opportunities for prize money, the lifeblood of the professional tennis player. In normal times many players eke out a living on the tour, barely breaking even after paying for their travel, coaching, and fitness teams. The Coronavirus has taken the modern player's finances to shakier--and scarier--ground.

With tennis joining the rest of the global sporting world on lockdown, one can envision a scenario where many professional tennis players experience difficulties making ends meet on a daily basis.

“It’s definitely needed,” ATP player Noah Rubin told Tennis Now on Thursday. “I’m like others, where rent is going to be a concern in a little while. And I have friends that are already concerned.”

Rubin, the founder of the rapidly growing website Behind the Racquet, hopes that the scary times cause a reckoning of sorts. “I’m just hoping that this awakens the people at the top of the sport to say ‘Hey, these are highlighting the issues that we are all dealing with in the sport of tennis. Let’s use this time to evolve.’”

Gaudenzi says that one welcome by-product of the Coronavirus pandemic has been a change in tone and tune from the sport’s governing bodies. Known for being a fractured, self-serving collection of separate entities, Gaudenzi says tough times have helped foster a new spirit in the sport.

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“The spirit of collaboration among the governing bodies has been awesome in the last few weeks,” Gaudenzi said.

USTA CEO Mike Dowse echoed those sentiments on a conference call on Thursday saying that his organization is they are willingly getting involved in the discussion for the sake of the players, along with the other three federations of the Grand Slam hosting nations.

“There are really two things we're doing to support those lower-ranked players,” he said. “We've made a commitment to continue to fund the challenger series and ITF related tournaments when those come back online. That's an investment in the neighborhood of $7.5 million. On top of that, literally on a weekly basis, we're talking with the WTA and ATP. We've made a commitment to them, along with our peers at the other Grand Slams and the ITF, to support the packages they're putting together for their stakeholders.”

Details and dollar amounts have yet to be fixed (though some are starting to come), but with all four Grand Slams and both tours involved, it could prove substantial enough to buffer players in need, especially if further cancellations occur and the tour’s return date is pushed back beyond July 13.

“We want to do this as part of a holistic package," Dowse said. "It will be part of that relationship we have with the ATP and WTA. Those details are being finalized right now by those two organizations. As a matter of fact, we have a call with them this Friday and early next week to get that information out as soon as we can.”

Gaudenzi, who took over for outgoing ATP CEO Chris Kermode in January, says that providing financial relief for lower-ranked players is a top priority at the moment. He says that smaller tournaments will also rate a slice of the pie.


“Whatever type of relief we will come up with we will have to match with the tournaments with the same principle, so trying to help challengers and 250 events first, because those are the tournaments who need it the most,” he said. “Same logic applies to the tournaments that applies to the players.”

One potential limiting factor is the fact that all parties involved are taking huge financial hits this year. Wimbledon has been cancelled for the first time since 1945 already, along with the clay season and the grass season. Roland Garros made a last-second move to save their tournament by moving it to late September and many believe they did it because they simply can’t afford to lose out on all the revenue they stand to earn over the fortnight, especially after spending so much money on the final renovations to the tournament's site in Paris, including a new roof over Court Philippe Chatrier, the French Open's main showcourt.

The USTA’s financial situation is dire as well, and it could be hurt more significantly if the US Open ends up being shut down—a very real possibility given the scope of the pandemic and the current state of New York City.

Players are aware that there is only so much money to go around.

“I’m concerned about money, and do I want it? Yes, of course,” Rubin said. “But at the same time I honestly know that there isn’t a lot of money to go around. Tennis just doesn’t make enough money, so I’m hoping this lights a fire to say ‘Hey, we have to create something that is a different system within tennis to actually expand the pool of players where we can protect players in certain situations like this and everybody can get their share, so I’m hoping that happens but I am not holding my breath.”

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Gaudenzi admits that the ATP could face more turbulence in the weeks and months to come, especially if the ATP Finals, the tour's crown jewel, aren’t played this November. Such things need to be considered when handing out financial relief.

“The difficult part is finding the resources,” he said. “The ATP finances rely strongly on the finals and we don’t know yet 100 percent if we will be able to play the finals, unfortunately. I think something needs to be done now, especially for the players. We’ll deal with the tournaments a little bit later when we have a clear idea in the calendar and have an idea of who is able to reschedule or not.”


 

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