As the tennis tour remains in lockdown for more than two months now, the lower-ranked players continue to struggle to make ends meet during the global health crisis. Novak Djokovic indicated on Sunday that he feels responsible for not doing enough to counter the harsh reality of tennis.
Ever since the sport came to a halt, the world number one has kept himself busy — be it pledging €1million to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, or expressing concerns about compulsory vaccination, or pondering over how the lower-ranked guys can be helped with a relief fund.
“We have earned enough money to live comfortable lives. We are lucky and grateful as well to have the life that we have but 95% of tennis players are struggling,” Djokovic said in an interview with former player Gustavo Kuerten.
“Especially the ones that are lower-ranked. They don’t have the opportunity to compete, and earn money. For a lot of those players, it’s a kind of a survival problem in terms of continuing to play professional tennis or not,” he added.
Although the governing bodies recently raised over $6 million to help lower-level players, the 33-year-old pitched in personally as he helped the Serbian Tennis Federation to organize an exhibition event.
“This is the reality now. So I did spend a lot of time in these last two months to help the Serbian Tennis Federation to set up a tour. I also spent a lot of time talking with the ATP to understand the best ways to help the lower-ranked players,” he added.
“I consider myself responsible, not just because I am the President of the Council of ATP but also as a top player of the world and someone that had a lot of blessing in tennis. I need to be on the call as much as I can be available to contribute in any possible way,” said the 17-time Grand Slam winner.
“I did talk with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. There was a lot of communication. I am really glad how the men’s tennis world responded in these difficult times.”
Although Djokovic’s plan for a relief fund was welcomed by all, world number three Dominic Thiem rejected the notion that players should chip in to help lower-ranked competitors. His statement created a whirlwind in the player fraternity, most notably, when world number 620 Ines Ibbou opposed the Austrian with an emotional video.
With the livelihoods of lower-ranked players and broadcasting deals on the line, the authorities are considering the possibility of playing behind closed doors. Earlier this month, the French Tennis Federation said it was in talks with the ATP, WTA, and the ITF over a revised calendar for the season.
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