ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi recently weighed in on the feasibility of tennis' four Grand Slams taking place with limited or no fans. According to Gaudenzi, the Majors will likely face severe hardships if the requirement of adhering to COVID-19 protocols extends for another couple of years.
In 2020, Wimbledon was canceled because of the global health crisis. However, the financial hit to the All England Club was covered by the pandemic insurance that the Club had bought in 2003.
The French Open, meanwhile, was moved from May to September but played with limited fans. And the US Open was played behind closed doors, in a bio-secure 'bubble'.
The 2021 Australian Open allowed limited fans as well, although a lockdown in Melbourne during the event saw fans being banned for a few days.
In addition, Tennis Australia spent a lot of money to arrange for players to come in socially-distanced charter flights. They also took on the bill of quarantining all the players and their support staff for two weeks in hotels before the start of play.
In an interview with Reuters, Gaudenzi claimed that while the Slams were able to absorb the financial hit for one year, it may not be possible if the same situation continues for a second or third year.
"Most of them run a federation as well so they’re also in charge of tennis development throughout the country," Gaudenzi said. "I think a year is sustainable but two years in a row for the Grand Slams, or three, is definitely going to be a problem ... they also need some oxygen, absolutely."
The Grand Slams definitely took a hit, but they have different economics: Andrea Gaudenzi on the differences between Slams and other events
Andrea Gaudenzi also highlighted the fact that the Grand Slams were able to maintain overall prize money at the same level (2021 Australian Open) or somewhat close to previous levels (French Open and US Open) due to their deeper pockets. In contrast, several other tournaments have had to deal with steep prize money cuts.
The Miami Open, which begins next week, has seen overall prize money drop from $16.7 million in 2019 to $6.68 million in 2021 (the tournament was canceled in 2020).
Andrea Gaudenzi explained that the difference in the changes was due to the fact that Grand Slams have historically enjoyed much higher profit margins as compared to other tournaments.
"It’s an extremely challenging situation also for them," Gaudenzi continued. "But obviously the Grand Slams are bigger, and obviously when you’re bigger you have broader shoulders. And it’s a different economics. The four Grand Slams account for around 60% of the entire volume of business for the tennis industry."
"They definitely took a hit, but they have different economics," the Italian added. "They have been capable of delivering 100% prize money because they obviously have different profit margins than our tournaments."