In a series of tweets earlier this week, John Isner lashed out at the Miami Masters and the ATP for their lack of transparency over recent prize money reductions due to COVID.
Nearly all of the events thus far since the tour restarted in August have had to reduce prize money due to sponsorship shortcomings, fan restrictions, safety requirements and other issues.
Isner voiced his concerns calling the current ATP equal partnership between players and tournaments “broken” citing that events like Miami and the tour as a whole is not sharing in the revenue shortfall like the players are.
ATP is a broken system. Players and tournaments as ‘partners’ need to work together, but 60% cut and 80% champions cut in one of our biggest events that has TV, Data, sponsorship, and newly approved gambling revenue intact, isn’t a partnership at all.
How about a true audit to see much how tourneys are actually hurting and then a money formula after the event to reconcile. Amazing we still don’t have this in a lot of our big events. How does that make any sense?
Tennis is run like an intramural sport. Check NBA, MLB, NHL, PGA etc etc. Not comparing revenue/popularity to those sports but take a peak at their structure, talent representation, and percentage of revenue models. Tennis is plagued by conflict and lack of transparency.
Promoters own assets that appreciate and have infinite time to monetize that asset, whereas the players have a short amount of time to maximize our talents. That’s a broken system.
So players should take a 60% cut and 80% champions cut while ATP executives keep full salaries, benefits and expense accounts? Make that make sense. Seems just a little bit hypocritical, don’t ya think?
ATP is a broken system. Players and tournaments as ‘partners’ need to work together, but 60% cut and 80% champions cut in one of our biggest events that has TV, Data, sponsorship, and newly approved gambling revenue intact, isn’t a partnership at all. 1/5 https://t.co/MmrZjCtpOW
— John Isner (@JohnIsner) February 24, 2021
The sentiment is shared by many other players including Reilly Opelka who joined in on Isner’s crusade.
Not only are they not willing to take a salary cut, but they are also not willing to show up to any of our events. Was really shocked when our execs were not present when we re opened in Cincy/NY
Hard for things to change when our board members do NOT serve terms. Also, almost 50% of our board members would be considered “conflicts of interest” in any other sport or company.
The big issue for both players and others is the reality that next month’s Miami event will see prize money to champions cut by 80% from $1.35M in 2019 to just over $300K for 2021. And overall prize money reduced 60%.
So players have a right to be upset. That’s a huge hit for a sport as big as tennis and for one of the top tier events. It’s fair to say if in a 50-50 partnership if one group gets cut by 60%, then the other group should as well. Isner and Opelka are asking that question but not getting an answer.
And why is tennis taking it on the chin. Other sports are seeing such dramatic cuts at their top levels, but tennis is different to the NBA, NHL, NFL, PGA, etc. It’s global.
The Australian tennis season just finished and while the smaller events didn’t offer much in prize money, the Open did, keeping the total purse level with 2020. However, that’s Australia which has a deeper interest in tennis then America.
In fact, the players should be thankful that the Miami tournament is happening at all, and they have an opportunity to play for prize money! The The event didn’t happen last year due to COVID, which must have been financially devastating. And with fan limits and like reductions from sponsors and unknown player participation, this is not going to be the normal Miami Open.
If I break even then its a big week for me! https://t.co/VWenEDXabV
— Reilly Opelka (@ReillyOpelka) February 25, 2021
Indian Wells and the Laver Cup are also uncertain and the NY Open and Houston events were cancelled outright for 2021. Even the US Open last September was down in prize money. So tennis in the U.S. is in a tough state right now.
Meanwhile, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic started the PTPA back in August to address such concerns, but what has the organization done? Djokovic suggested (or demanded) the players be taken better care of during the Australian quarantine. A request that fell flat.
He also advocated for the tour to build a bubble for the season. Another miss. And that follows a forgettable summer of 2020 when just about everything went wrong for the Serb.
At least the tour is back, now. Players are playing. Tournaments are being won and being lost. And there haven’t been any outbreaks.
Players across all sports are having to deal with and adapt to this new evolving COVID environment. Because of its complex global nature and its many governing bodies, this has been especially hard for tennis. A fact Isner already knows.
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