Tennis needs a centralized “commissioner-style” structure to ensure that players of all levels can make a fair living out of the sport and prolong their careers, according to the director of the Australian Open.
Tennis is lagging behind other sports such as golf when it comes to player compensation, tournament director Craig Tiley said, and the four Grand Slam events need to work more closely with the three governing bodies.
Tiley, a South African-born Australian and a former head tennis coach at the University of Illinois, said in an interview in Paris that he could see “a global structure that’s commissioner-like.”
The Grand Slam Committee, which coordinates general management, direction, financial control and government of the four majors, will meet at Wimbledon tomorrow.
“Tennis is a global sport,” Tiley said. “To make it a truly global, growing sport, if that’s what we want, then we’ve got to look at the ways to get there. The current structure doesn’t provide us with enough clarity on that.”
Tennis has seven different government bodies. The four Grand Slam events have their own management, and work with the International Tennis Federation, which also oversees the Davis and Fed cups. The men are organized under the ATP World Tour and the women under the WTA tour.
“It just depends what the issue is, how closely we ever work together,” Tiley said last month.
The French Open and Wimbledon both increased prize money this year for the early rounds of the main draws as well as the qualifying tournament after calls from the ATP and its players for a better distribution of revenue generated by the four tennis majors: the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
Although he welcomed the changes made at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, player compensation shouldn’t just be boosted by the four majors alone, Tiley said.
“There are other stakeholders,” such as the men’s and women’s tours, the lower-level ITF Futures events, the mid-level ATP Challengers as well as the Davis Cup and Fed Cup team competitions, he said.
Tiley, who is also director of tennis at Tennis Australia, is calling for a more “coordinated and integrated” approach to player compensation.
Tennis Versus Golf
“The issue is to make tennis a viable career for a player ranked from 80 to 200 in the world,” Tiley said. “It’s not right now. Depending on where you are from, you probably have to be ranked 120th in the world in the men, and 100th in the world in the women to break even. That’s just to break-even. In golf, it’s triple that.”‘
Wimbledon has increased its prize money for first-round losers by 26 percent to 14,500 pounds ($22,600). Five players retired in the first round of the singles draw, the same as last year. During last month’s French Open, four players retired in the first round of the men’s and women’s singles, compared with none last year. A first-round loser at Roland Garros received 18,000 euros ($22,600), a 20 percent increase on last year.
“In professional tennis, we cannot accept the idea that a player who is not fit for play is just going to walk on court for a few minutes and then walk out,” French Open tournament director Gilbert Ysern said in an interview at Roland Garros. “We have to address the problem and fix it.”
Boosting pay at the majors alone may lead to some players risking their health, Tiley said.
“The current situation leads to players taking short cuts in high performance which can lead to injury,” Tiley said. “If we want to attract the best athletes into tennis, and this is an issue for all nations, then we want to be competitive with other professional sports remuneration.”
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