Tennis legend Vijay Amritraj has spoken about the growing concern towards lower-ranked tennis players as the sport is currently at a halt due to the growing COVID-19 outbreak. With near about 1000 tennis tournaments around the world stands either cancelled, postponed or delayed, players, especially those around the 100-rank mark are struggling to make ends meet. Also Read - Grigor Dimitrov Tests Positive For Coronavirus After Playing in Novak Djokovic's Exhibition Tournament
A dispute in prize-money between the top stars and those who don’t belong in the top bracket has been a long-existing issue in tennis, but despite concerns raised by many, Amritraj reckons he doesn’t see it changing since it’s the top brass – Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams or Rafael Nadal – that drives the sport. Also Read - US Open 2020 to be Held As Per Schedule Without Fans: Report
“Outside of the top players, there may be half-a-dozen others who really sell the sport. The big money is being spent on those ranked between 10 and 50, I’m not talking about the quality of play here, we all know how good that is, but do they sell the sport?” Amritraj told Times of India. Also Read - Nick Kyrgios Takes Another Dig at Novak Djokovic, Tells Andy Murray 'You Are Better Than The Serb'
Like most countries in Covid-19, Amritraj says they aren’t prepared for such times and that the Tour is not set up as a gift. There’s no money coming from anywhere to look after anyone. Having served as a Player Council president and led the players’ pension scheme almost 30 years ago, Amritraj has an advice as to what can be done in a time of crisis like this.
“Let’s get rid of doubles, for example. Let’s just have four teams, they’re not helping ticket sales, is how they look at it. Now, to tell them that we need to put some more money aside, to look after today the players coming tomorrow, who are going to be ranked outside the top-100 – we don’t know what they will say. The board of directors needs to come to an understanding, that we are hit by this already doesn’t mean we won’t be hit by it again,” he pointed out.
“There could be just one or two points that differentiate the winner and the runner-up, 7-6 in the third or fifth sets. Why then are we making such discrepancies between the first and second place all the way down to first-round losers? That’s what I disagreed with at that time. I’m not saying that the sport should have a socialist form of financial arrangement, but it was a discussion worth having.
“We come from a country where we believe there shouldn’t be such discrepancies. The west, especially the Americans, sort of play with the winner-take-it-all [philosophy]. It’s like Vince Lombardi said, winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. But from a public relations perspective, it seemed like something we can live with because with all the baseball, football and basketball guys getting big contracts, nobody was really talking about the guy who didn’t make the team.”