As the President of the ATP Player Council, Novak Djokovic had come forward with a proposal back in April that would generate more than $4 million for a "Player Relief Fund". The fund sought to ensure a steady flow of income for the lower-ranked players, specifically those outside the top 100, during the coronavirus-enforced break.
At the time of announcing the initiative, Novak Djokovic had revealed that he had spoken to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal about it and they were both on-board. The plan would see members of the top 100 in men's singles and top 20 in men's doubles contribute on the scale as mentioned in the tweet below:
However, a lot has gone down since. Novak Djokovic, who at one point was being praised unanimously in the tennis world for the relief fund and his charitable work during the pandemic, has since become something of a pantomime villain. Djokovic has been heavily criticized for organizing an exhibition during the COVID-19 outbreak which left several players and coaches contracting the virus - including the Serb himself.
Against that background, top sports journalist Mike Dickson recently and former British player Dan Kiernan recently appeared on the "Control the Controllables" podcast and talked in detail about Novak Djokovic's intentions to help the lower-ranked players. They also discussed whether tournaments can change their prize money distribution mechanism in order to make it less top-heavy.
Prize money for top players like Novak Djokovic has gone out of proportion: Mike Dickson
Dickson expressed skepticism about whether all the players on tour would be okay with their money being redirected towards their colleagues.
"Everyone can talk the talk, but can they walk the walk is the question," Dickson said. "Will the top players be prepared to forgo these enormous winners' purses and top bloating of the prize money to help those lower down the food chain? And will the tournaments go along with it, provided the top players give it their blessing?"
Novak Djokovic had previously acknowledged the unfortunate condition of the lower-ranked players, pledging to help them as much as he can to get past the COVID-19 crisis. However, the one obvious solution - channeling some of the prize money from the upper echelons into the lower ones - might not be as easy to implement as everyone thinks it is.
"I mean, everyone will have to get used to the idea of earning lesser prize money certainly for a few years, the revenues are gonna be down, and the players will have to suck it up for a few years. It's a bit absurd that players like Novak Djokovic can take these winner's purses which can be around $4M. I think they have got a bit out of proportion," the sports journalist continued.
Tennis is a selfish individual sport: Mike Dickson
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic had stated over a month ago that he would consider giving the 2020 US Open a miss because of the "extreme conditions" in place at the tournament. The three-time USO winner had a problem with the restrictions on the size of the player entourage as well as the limited access to the courts, believing they would have a negative impact on the players' preparations.
The problem has since been solved by USTA, although it did highlight the apparent indifference of Novak Djokovic. The Serb was willing to miss the tournament just because his whole team couldn't travel with him, while the lower-ranked players barely have funds to hire a coach for long periods, let alone assemble a whole coaching staff.
Novak Djokovic's comments came across in bad taste, and did not sit well with the Serb's initial concerns about the players' financial well-being. But Mike Dickson had a diplomatic take on this issue; he claimed that Djokovic is bound by the inherent selfishness of tennis.
"Ultimately, I think this is a selfish individual sport," Dickson said. "You have to look out for yourself, because no one else is going to. So people are going to pursue their own interests. This crisis has exposed the fractured nature of the leadership of the sport, and that we would really be much better off with much centralized leadership."Published 28 Jul 2020, 12:44 IST