Roger Federer demonstrates his elite reflexes by rallying a tennis ball off the wall from short distance. (0:59)
Serena Williams' coach Patrick Mouratoglou has called on tennis governing bodies to come together and devise a way of helping lower level professionals struggling financially due to the coronavirus shutdown.
The tennis season was halted in early March due to the pandemic, leaving players in the lower tiers who solely depend on tournament winnings without the opportunity to earn a living.
Coronavirus: Postponements and cancellations in sport
In a letter posted on Twitter and addressed to the tennis community, Mouratoglou said the current situation showed how "dysfunctional" the sport was.
"Unlike basketball or football players, tennis players aren't covered by fixed annual salaries. They're independent contractors," he said.
"They're paying for their travels. They're paying fixed salaries to their coaching staffs, while their own salaries depend on the number of matches they win."
While tennis rewards top players handsomely those in the lower echelons often struggle to make ends meet.
Mouratoglou, who started working with Williams in 2012 and has guided her to 10 of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles, said the top players deserved everything they earned.Patrick Mouratoglou calls for the tennis bodies to do more to help players who are struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images
The men's ATP Tour and the WTA, which runs the women's circuit, suspended all tournaments until mid-July after countries started locking down their borders to contain the spread of the flu-like virus.
He added: "However, I find it revolting that the 100th-best player of one of the most popular sports in the world -- followed by an estimated one billion fans -- is barely able to make a living out of it."
A 2018 International Review Panel report commissioned to address betting and integrity issues said that players in the lowest tiers were susceptible to corruption because of the difficulty in making a living, with only 250-350 players earning enough to break even.
Georgia's Sofia Shapatava, the world's 375th ranked women's singles player, has started a petition seeking assistance from the International Tennis Federation for lower-level professionals.
Many others have joined her to voice their concerns about the financial hardships players face during the shutdown.
The WTA and the ATP said they were working to boost players' earnings when the sport resumed and might extend the 2020 season to allow more tournaments to be held.
Mouratoglou said it was crucial to keep lower-level players in the game.
"We all rely on those governing bodies, who have the power to protect the professional tennis economy and hold social responsibility," he added.
"We can't leave lower-ranked players behind anymore. This isn't right. Tennis needs change. Let's use this free time to start a discussion."
The day after that announcement, Wimbledon’s outgoing chief executive, Richard Lewis, told the Guardian newspaper that he felt it was possible that no more tennis would be contested in 2020.
But if the sport’s governing bodies decide it’s safe to restart the season in late summer, the Citi Open may end up a beneficiary.
The Citi Open is the first of a three-tournament swing of North American hard-court tournaments that typically serve as a tuneup for the U.S. Open, helping players acclimate to the heat, humidity and fast courts associated with the calendar’s final major.
U.S. Open officials have said they are also proceeding with plans to hold the tournament as scheduled, Aug. 31-Sept. 13, while exploring contingencies. The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, which hosts the two-week event, is being converted to a 350-bed temporary hospital as New York battles its coronavirus crisis.
As it stands, the Citi Open would start three weeks after the earliest date that men’s and women’s tournaments could resume, barring an extension of the current suspension of play.
Ein, a Washington-based venture capitalist who also owns the Washington Kastles World Team Tennis franchise, acknowledged that having to cancel the Citi Open in his second year of managing the event would be costly.
“If the tournament is canceled, we would lose a lot of money,” Ein said, “but the health and safety of everyone in our community is the higher priority. We would hope that doesn’t happen. But if it does, it’s because it’s the right thing to do.”
Rescheduling the Citi Open for later in 2020 would be difficult, Ein conceded, given the sport’s crowded calendar.
French Open officials angered fellow tournament organizers and many players by seizing the Sept. 20-Oct. 4 window to stage their postponed Grand Slam with minimal consultation. Those dates conflict with the Laver Cup, a star-studded, team-format event co-founded by Roger Federer and Tennis Australia. The new dates, starting just one week after the U.S. Open ends, also represent an unprecedented burden for top players because they are now expected to contest four weeks of Grand Slam events on two radically different surfaces in a five-week span.
The men’s field for the 2019 Citi Open, which was won by Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, included eight current or former top-10 players: Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, David Goffin, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, John Isner, Milos Raonic and Marin Cilic.
While the 2020 Citi Open’s men’s field hasn’t been unveiled, the women’s event has received a commitment from Coco Gauff, the breakout star of the 2019 season.
Given the uncertainty of the 2020 tennis calendar, Citi Open officials have put ticket-marketing operations on hold.
AP Published 11:48 a.m. ET April 8, 2020
The group charged with monitoring gambling and punishing corruption in tennis found a near-doubling in the number of suspect matches during the first three months of 2020 — an increase it tied to the coronavirus pandemic.
The London-based Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) issued its quarterly report Wednesday and said it received a total of 38 alerts from the regulated betting industry about matches on lower-level tours from the start of the year through March 22. That is up from 21 alerts in the same period of 2019.
The 38 match alerts in the year’s first quarter break down this way: six from the ATP Challenger Tour, and 16 apiece from the men’s and women’s International Tennis Federation World Tennis Tours.
An alert means unusual betting patterns were noticed but does not necessarily indicate there was match-fixing. It does trigger an assessment, and possibly a full investigation, by the TIU.
Wednesday’s TIU report concluded the jump in cases “is an indication that the entry levels of professional tennis were deliberately targeted by corruptors, as the sport moved towards suspension due to the” outbreak of COVID-19.
Like most other sports, tennis has been affected by the pandemic.
The All England Club canceled Wimbledon for the first time since World War II and all pro tennis tours have been put on hold at least until mid-July.
Contingency plans are being considered for when — and if — the tours can return to action in 2020.
The TIU went on to say that “in anticipation of heightened integrity concerns when tennis resumes,” it is working in conjunction with the various governing bodies of tennis to come up with “an education and awareness campaign to inform and support players, officials and tournament staff.”
Tournaments started getting called off in early March because of the spread of the new coronavirus, which has infected more than 1.4 million people worldwide, while more than 80,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. The true numbers are almost certainly much higher, because of limited testing, different rules for counting the dead and deliberate underreporting by some governments.
For most, the virus causes mild to moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for some older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia and death.
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