Serbian tennis superstar and former world No. 1 Novak Djokovic is pushing for tennis stars to be given a greater share of tournament incomes. As well, Djokovic believes that men’s tennis players should form their own union separate from the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), which is currently controlled 50/50 by players and tournaments.
During a presentation at the annual men’s players meeting ahead of this year’s Australian Open, Djokovic shocked ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) officials when he asked them and officials from Tennis Australia to leave the room so that he could speak to his fellow professionals alone. Following this, the Serbian asked a union lawyer to give a presentation outlining the potential benefits that a players-only union could bring.
Greater Financial Security for More Players
The essence of Djokovic’s argument seems to be that men’s tennis players should take home a far greater share of tournament incomes than they currently do. By increasing the prize money for major tournaments, Djovokic—the current president of the ATP players council—believes that they can expand the number of players able to make a decent living off the game.
According to ATP player council vice-president Kevin Anderson, currently only those in the top 100 of the world rankings are able to make a decent living. However, increasing the available prize money could potentially push this to where it includes those ranked among the top 150 or 200 players in the world.
Reaction to Djokovic’s Proposal
Officials from the ATP and Tennis Australia were most definitely caught off guard when Djokovic asked them to leave the room. However, it seems that the ATP will wait to see whether this movement gains more traction amongst the players before it decides to make a move one way or another. Still, it is far too early to predict what might happen as players have already spoken out for and against the proposal. Andy Murray is among those who have gone on record to say that they believe tennis players should be paid more, while Roger Federer is believed to support the ATP.
Player Earnings: How Does Tennis Compare to Other Sports?
Some critics have suggested that Djokovic’s proposal for a players-only union is simply another case of a rich, entitled athlete being greedy and wanting more. After all, the man has earned more than $100 million. Nonetheless, Djovokic has stated that his plan is meant to provide increased benefits to a greater number of players rather than further lining the pockets of the highest-ranked players. Unfortunately for the ATP, the Serbian’s case for forming a player’s union starts to make sense when you consider the numbers and compare tennis to other sports.
Currently, the four tennis grand slam tournaments pay out approximately 7 percent of their total income in prize money. This means that under the current ATP rules, the tournaments get to keep 93 percent of the income despite the fact that the ATP is supposedly a 50/50 venture between players and tournaments.
During his presentation, Djokovic reiterated the fact that forming a union would give players more power and allow them to bargain for better pay. He specifically used the example of American pro basketball, where approximately 50 percent of the NBA’s total income is distributed amongst its players. While the Serbian isn’t necessarily arguing that tournament prizes should equal 50 percent of their total income, the disparity between the percentage of income that tennis stars earn compared to those in other sports seems to suggest that Djokovic has a very good point. Nonetheless, we’ll have to wait to see how this all turns out as it looks likely that this issue will stick around for some time.