A sizeable number of top male tennis players, including some big stars, are backing a petition seeking a major prize money boost from Grand Slams and other tournaments in a behind-the-scenes revenue fight at the US Open. And women’s players might join them in the battle.
Canada’s Vasek Pospisil pulled the cover off the turmoil on Tuesday amid reports that up to 100 players have signed the petition.
“There are a lot of players, a lot. I’ll just leave it at that,” said Pospisil. “We have big names as well.”
Pospisil says only the top 100 ATP Tour players make money because only 14% of the sport’s revenues goes back to the players. And he has talked to WTA player council members, including Sloane Stephens, who have similar goals and seek a united effort for more money from tournaments.
“We all want change. We all want to make our tours better. The more unified we are going in that direction the better,” Stephens said. “I love that he’s so passionate about changing the atmosphere and making our tours better. I think that’s what we need right now.”
The world number 216, at his lowest spot since May 2011, played down the notion players could threaten not to play to force greater profit sharing from ATP and Grand Slam events.
“I think we’re just wanting to say, ‘Hey, we’re here, let’s have fair talks, explanations, transparency. Explain why things have to be certain ways,’” Pospisil said. “It’s just a very gentle, ‘Can we come to the negotiation table and can you just explain to us why it has to be a certain way, why it has to be 14 percent?”
Pospisil upset Russian ninth seed Karen Khachanov 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 to reach a second-round match with American Tennys Sandgren. Players seek better incomes for those outside the top 100 who still play significant roles in Grand Slam events.
“The players get 14% of the revenues, 7% to the women, 7% to the men,” Pospisil said. “Our sport is doing so incredibly well, but there’s still just 100 players or so that are making a good living. I just think it shouldn’t be that way when the sport is so incredibly profitable.
“But it’s normal because the players are relatively powerless in their positions with the tournaments. We don’t have legal representation that just solely looks out for the players’ best interests. How are you ever going to have fairness? It’s business.”
Pospisil cites North American team sports leagues, where ownership and players split revenues about 50-50.
Stephens seeks more money for younger players and those a level below the elites. “The girls that are below us that struggle a bit more, they deserve a little bit more because they are part of our tour,” she said. “I think helping the younger girls coming up... they need a little bit of support. My biggest thing will be just making sure they get that support. Coming up, the prize money is increased, all that stuff that’s really important when you’re younger.”
Prize money goes fast
Pospisil, who has had lawyers talk to men’s players, pointed to the expense and effort needed to get into the top-money Slams.
“I think prize money is pretty top-heavy. Every round it doubles, doubles, doubles. Obviously the guys in later rounds are doing well,” he said.
“Early round guys, qualifications, one thing that’s overlooked, there are only four Grand Slams in the year. People like to say, ‘Look at this guy, he played first round, lost 6-2, 6-2, 6-3, whatever, picked up a $50,000 check.’ That’s just the wrong way to look at it.
“That player had won 43 matches at the highest level of the sport to get to that ranking to be a direct entry, and he has four events to make that kind of money. He pays taxes, pays travel experiences, his coach, hotel, everything. There’s more to it than just $50,000 or whatever for a first-round loss.”
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