There's a mandatory meeting tonight for all ATP World Tour players.
Last years US Open became a major battleground in the struggle between the players and Grand Slam officials over the thorny issue of how big the slice of tournament revenue should go to the players in prize money and now it is emerging that next Januaryís Australian Open is seriously under threat of a boycott from competitors if things donít improve.
A mandatory meeting for all ATP World Tour players will take place in New York tomorrow (Saturday) evening and there is growing pressure to stage a mass boycott of the Australian Open; by virtue of both finance and geography the least strong of the four majors.
Rumors currently abound that the ATP is contemplating staging a large alternative event, almost certainly in Dubai , if moves are not made to give the players a larger percentage of tournament revenue that currently stands below 20%.
The major issue is not the prizes on offer to the winners, this year Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer all picked up record prize checks for their respective wins in the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon , but the awards for losers in the initial rounds. This year all of the majors announced improvements in this respect, Wimbledon announced a 26% pay rise for first-round losers, but clearly it is not enough.
And the overriding message that will come from the New York meeting will undoubtedly be: We the players are integral to the financial success of the four major events because without us they wouldnít generate as much revenue. Therefore we deserve more.
Earlier this year the issue caused a split between Federer, the long term President of the ATP Players Council, and his deputy Nadal. The Spaniard became so frustrated as Federers intransigence to support any action that he actually resigned from his position.
Federer is crucial to the whole issue because he has a good relationship with all four majors and up to now has always respected their eminence in the game. However it now emerges the Swiss is finally to end his nationís tradition of neutrality and prepared to lead the fight.
However the irony of the situation is that the ATP boycott in Melbourne would be organized by executive chairman Brad Drewett who is of course an Australian and is thought to have considered joining Tennis Australia when the issue of a successor to the outgoing Adam Helfant dragged on a year ago.
A boycott of the Austalian Open would also have a potentially disastrous effect on the build up events staged at Brisbane and Drewettís home-town of Sydney as well as Auckland in New Zealand . Few leading players would be prepared to make the long January trip if big money was to be made available in the Middle East .
Jonas Bjorkman, once an integral member of the ATP Players Council and now involved in the running of Swedish events in Bastad and Stockholm , understands the mood. It has been coming for a very long time, he said. Basically the players have felt they have been screwed over by the Slams for many years. Back when I was playing the percentage of revenue dedicated to prize money was below 14%.
When the guys see how much goes to players pay in other sports, and the figures are much nearer to 50% than 15, they begin to think that something needs to be done.