January 16, 2018 / 4:12 AM / a year ago

Tennis: Prize money row rumbling behind scenes at Melbourne Park

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Six-times Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic is leading calls for players to be given a greater share of the sport’s revenues and have their own union independent of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), a report in the Daily Mail said.

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne, Australia, January 14, 2018. Novak Djokovic of Serbia hits a shot during a practice session before the Australian Open tennis tournament. REUTERS/Toru Hanai

Djokovic, who is president of the Players’ Council, voiced his frustrations about pay at a meeting held the weekend before the start of the year’s first grand slam, the report said.

Djokovic, due to play later on Tuesday, has not yet commented publicly on the report, which says his main grievance is the percentage of revenue raised by the four grand slams that is allocated to the prize money pot.

While few players were prepared to speak about the meeting, the report said Players’ Council Vice-President Kevin Anderson confirmed ‘discussions’ had taken place about prize money.

Anderson, the U.S. Open runner-up last year, said the Council’s focus was on helping lower-ranked players make a better living.

“The top guys aren’t out for how they can squeeze more money for themselves,” the report quoted the South African as saying.

“Obviously they’ve had very lucrative careers. I think success should be rewarded, which it is, but I think everyone has a huge push to make tennis as attractive as possible.

“Now if you are top 100 you are making a good living. I think we want to push that to the (top) 150, 200,” added Anderson, who was beaten in the first round on Monday.

Prize money in the slams has increased drastically in recent years.

Wimbledon’s total prize money has nearly doubled in the last five years, rising from 16.06 million pounds to 31.6 million pounds ($43.59 million) in 2017, although the percentage rises have been greatest for early-round losers.

The Australian Open prize money increased by 10 percent this year to A$55 million ($43.82 million) with the winners of the men’s and women’s singles titles pocketing A$4 million.

Prize money on the ATP Tour, which is owned jointly by the tournaments and the players, has risen by 113 percent in the last 10 years.

Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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