Being the only major in 2012 to not increase its prize money to first round losers, next year’s Australian Open may be forced to go ahead without the world’s leading male players.
It’s been well reported this year that tennis’ Big Four – Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray – have been instrumental in securing pay rises for first and second round losers at three of the season’s Grand Slams, and now they’ve inspired the rest of the ATP world tour members to take action in Australia. During a mandatory meeting for all players in the ATP rankings on Saturday, top of the agenda was whether or not they would stage a mass boycott at the Australian Open next year.
Both its location and the prize money offered have made the Australian Open the least attractive to players over time, and Tennis Australia’s refusal to give struggling and lower-ranked players more of an incentive to compete at the event has left feelings running high. It was rumoured that discussions during the meeting, held in New York, also involved the ATP staging an alternative event in Dubai if players were not granted a higher percentage of tournament revenue.
Clarifying just why increasing prize money for lower-ranked players has become such an important issue to the ATP, Phillip Brook, ATP Chairman, explained “For the lower-ranked players the rising costs of professional tennis have outstripped the growth in prize money. What we are doing is taking a significant step to redress that gap that had emerged over the last five years.”
So far Tennis Australia has refused to comment, although President Stephen Healey, Chief Exec Steve Wood and Craig Tiley, Australian Open tournament director, are expected to arrive in the city over the next few days to conduct meetings of the grand slam committee. The main message that will be conveyed to them by ATP members is that “We, the players, are integral to the financial success of the four major events because without us they wouldn’t generate as much revenue. Therefore we deserve more.”
Players who make first round exits at the Australian Open are only give prize money equating to $21,630, which is less than 20% of overall tournament revenues. Comparatively, first-round losers at the US Open are expected to be paid around $23,000 and both Wimbledon and the French Open paid out on average $22,290 to earlier exiters during 2012. When compared to other sports, such as Basketball where as Andy Roddick points out “players earn 50 per cent of revenue”, tennis players across the rankings are some of the lowest-paid professional sportspeople.