x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

French take first steps to address imbalance

Even the stars were not always in the top 10, and the sport needs to make sure it doesn't starve the elite of tomorrow with niggardly prize money today.

Tennis has been roiled over the past year by two unhappy groups in the ATP: those who believe the season is too long and requires too many appearances, and those who believe the sport is not adequately sharing the wealth.

The first group is made up almost entirely of elite players, and their complaints have received a wide airing.

The second group is the rank and file, who tend to be ignored. They are unhappy about the prize money given to players who exit in the early rounds of tournaments, so unhappy that they nearly boycotted the Australian Open.

Sergiy Stakhovsky, the Ukrainian, said "more than enough" players were ready to walk out on the grand slam event in protest. They held back only because of a feeling that Australian organisers should have been warned.

The French Open is the first major tournament to react to the complaints by the little guys.

A few weeks ago, organisers at Roland Garros revealed a seven per cent increase in the purse, to US$2.4 million (Dh8.8m), with the most dramatic rises going to players who lost in the first round: from $19,700 to $23,670, a gain of 20 per cent. Certainly, players ranked higher than No 30 do not sell many tickets.

But even the stars were not always in the top 10, and the sport needs to make sure it doesn't starve the elite of tomorrow with niggardly prize money today.

The French Open's move to address the imbalance ought to be emulated around the world. The schedule can be addressed later.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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