The men’s and women’s tennis tours have been abeyance for a little over a month now on account of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lockdown on the tennis tours has been extended to 13th July, from the initial estimate of 20th April 2020.
But the resumption of the tours on this new date, too, seems unclear given that the disease and the virus causing it (Coronavirus) have not exactly flatlined across nations, especially those that would be hosting tennis tournaments at that time.
This potentially-upended status quo of the season affects tournaments and their revenues. It also cripples the livelihood of players who constitute these tournaments, especially those dotting the outside of the top-100 of the sport’s rankings.
Under these conditions, tennis not having a system to ensure that lower-ranked players do not get left out by unforeseen circumstances hits out the hardest and starkest. And, this situation has not gone unnoticed – be it by the players (who have no choice but to accept this reality), by the audiences, and by the coaches (who are just as bound by circumstances as their charges).
The ongoing scenario will be resolved – later perhaps than the proverbial, sooner. But the extent of the problem – to give one example, Wimbledon’s first cancellation since the Second World War – and the frequency with which external scenarios have begun to cast shadows on not only tennis but also sports make it imperative that sports – including tennis – start to look at preserving the interests of their sportspersons.
Emphasising on this requirement, 23-time Slam champion Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou shared his thoughts in a series of tweets, asking for a noticeable reform in tennis’ continuity hereon. “…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,” the Frenchman noted, addressing his statement to the “tennis community”.
Mouratoglou also quoted former top-10 player Tim Mayotte, who has pointed out that players need to earn at least $200,000 per annum to “make a living wage”. Mouratoglou also spoke about Noah Rubin stating that since players ranked outside the top-50 and top-100 did not have many opportunities vis-à-vis sponsorship, playing events was their only chance of earning a living.
Summing these predicaments, Mouratoglou continued, “… It is time to think about those players and help them, first in the immediate future, and then in the long-term. For this reason, I would like to see the ATP, the WTA, the ITF and the Grand Slams sit together (albeit virtually) to try and find a sustainable solution.
We all rely on those governing bodies, who have the power to protect the professional tennis economy and hold social responsibility… 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”. With over three months to go for tennis’ lockdown to potentially end, indeed, this looks like a time to ruminate as much as a time to prioritise the well-being of tennis’ first citizens – its players, specifically, that of the not-so-known ones.