Tennis plans virus-related financial fund: 800 players, USD6M

AP – The governing bodies of tennis plan to announce as soon as this week they are launching a fund of more than USD6 million aimed at lessening the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic for about 800 singles and doubles players.

According to an email obtained by The Associated Press on Monday, the WTA and ATP professional tours, the groups that run the four Grand Slam tournaments and the International Tennis Federation are expected to establish eligibility rules that will factor in the players’ rankings and past prize money earnings.

If USD6 million were evenly distributed to 800 players, each would get USD7,500.

The seven entities involved in the initiative are contributing to what the email refers to as the ‘Player Relief Programme’, and the money will be divided equally among men and women.

The hope is additional funding will come via other sources, including donations from higher-earning players and auctions.

File photo shows John Isner returning a ball in his semifinal match against Taylor Fritz at the Mexican Tennis Open in Acapulco, Mexico. PHOTO: AP

The email also confirms the WTA and ATP would oversee the distribution of the financial aid, something mentioned when word emerged last month of some sort of tennis fund in the works.

Like most sports around the world, tennis has been on hold since March because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

More than 30 tournaments have been postponed or cancelled — Wimbledon was scrapped for the first time in 75 years, for example — and no sanctioned events are on the calendar until mid-July at the earliest.

That has left many players ranked outside the top 100, along with coaches and others in the industry, trying to figure out how to deal with economic issues. Some exhibitions are being organised without fans, including an eight-man event in Germany that began on Friday and wrapped up on Monday.

Most lower-ranked players depend on participating in tournaments to make their income; if they can’t compete, they can’t earn.

“It’s obviously very unprecedented. Most tennis players … most of their income is basically 100 per cent prize money. Not everyone has endorsement deals that have guaranteed money. So it’s obviously a really big struggle when there’s no tournaments,” Mitchell Krueger, a 26-year-old American currently ranked 195th, said in an interview last month.

“Outside of maybe getting injured — where you’re maybe laid off for a month, two months, three months, depending on however bad your injury might be — you’re kind of in a situation right now that most players have never been in.”