It was in 2018 that Novak Djokovic first called for an increase in prize money, in the hope that players get a bigger share of the revenue raised by Grand Slams and other tournaments. But there has been very little progress on that front, and the recent decision of the Miami Masters to reduce the prize money pool for this year's event has prompted John Isner to call the ATP a 'broken system'.
The Miami Masters, scheduled to take place from March 22 to April 4, will have a significnatly smaller prize money pot as the tournament adjusts to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent report, the Masters 1000 event will see the champions take an 80% cut from last year, down to $300,110.
Former top 10 player John Isner is clearly miffed at that, and he took to Twitter to give his thoughts on the situation. In a series of tweets, the American lamented how there is very little understanding between players and tournaments right now.
"ATP is a broken system," John Isner wrote. "Players and tournaments as 'partners' need to work together, but 60% cut and 80% champions cut in one of our biggest events that has TV, Data, sponsorship, and newly approved gambling revenue intact, isn’t a partnership at all."
"How about a true audit to see much how tourneys are actually hurting?" - John Isner
In August last year, Novak Djokovic tirred the pot by creating a new players' union called the PTPA. One of the many reasons behind forming this player body was to ensure a better and more uniform distribution of the revenue generated by different tournaments at different levels.
For the uninitiated, the players and the tournaments have equal representation on the ATP Board of Directors, with three representatives for each. This should theoretically mean equal sharing of power and money at the table, but that apparently has not been the case in reality.
John Isner believes that the relationship between the players and tournaments lacks transparency, and that tournament directors have continued to overplay their hand at the table. The American also asked for an audit of all tournaments to determine whether they were actually affected by COVID-19 so badly that they had to slash the players' prize money.
"How about a true audit to see much how tourneys are actually hurting and then a money formula after the event to reconcile," John Isner continued.
The Novak Djokovic-led PTPA was formed to better represent the players' prize money interests
Novak Djokovic had initially formed the PTPA because he believed the ATP Players Council had not done enough to safeguard the players' prize money interests. John Isner has now seemingly reinforced that belief, asserting that tennis is being run like an 'intramural sport' unlike professional leagues for American football, hockey, basketball and baseball.
"Tennis is run like an intramural sport," Isner said. "Check NBA, MLB, NHL, PGA etc etc. Not comparing revenue/popularity to those sports but take a peak at their structure, talent representation, and percentage of revenue models. Tennis is plagued by conflict and lack of transparency."
The distribution of tournament revenue has been unbalanced for many years now. In 2018 the USTA reported $380m in revenue for that year's US Open, but paid only $53m in player compensation. That amounts to a measly 14% of the total revenue generated.
Novak Djokovic had also complained a few years ago about how American basketball leagues distribute around 50% of their income, while the Grand Slams in tennis only paid around 7% to the male players.
At the end of his thread, John Isner highlighted the discrepancy between being a promoter (tournament director) and a contractor (the players). The American even called it 'hypocritical' that professional tennis players are being forced to take prize money cuts while ATP executives continue to enjoy full salaries.
"So players should take a 60% cut and 80% champions cut while ATP executives keep full salaries, benefits and expense accounts? Make that make sense. Seems just a little bit hypocritical, don’t ya think," John Isner said.