ITF plans on new relief fund to support lower-level players
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has said it is working on additional measures, including a new relief fund, to support lower-ranked professionals who have been left in the lurch due to coronavirus-led lockdowns.
The professional tennis season was halted in early March and will remain shut until at least July end due to travel restrictions that numerous countries have implemented to contain the spread of the virus.
Earlier this month, the ITF, ATP, WTA and the governing bodies of the four Grand Slams raised over $6 million to help about 800 lower-ranked players, who depend solely on tournament winnings earn a living.
The ITF World Tennis Tour consists of lower-rung tournaments and serves as a transition circuit between the junior and senior games, allowing more professionals to make money as well as improve their rankings to qualify for the men’s ATP Tour or the women’s WTA Tour.
The ITF said its new measures will include a relief fund to help tour players ranked between 501 and 700, and are not covered under other relief programmes. Further details will be announced following its board meeting on June 2.
“We are doing everything within our power to ensure that the talented players climbing the ITF pathway receive the support they need and continue their development during these uncertain times,” ITF President David Haggerty said in a statement late on Monday.
Eligibility for the previous program took into account a player’s ranking as well as previous prize money earnings, according to criteria agreed by all stakeholders.
Over the last few years, governing bodies have attempted to improve the pay and conditions for a deeper pool of international players but it has not proved enough.
Not players' job to help fellow professionals - Berrettini
Matteo Berrettini thinks tennis players should not be put in a position where they have to provide financial aid to fellow professionals and it should be the responsibility of those governing the sport, the Italian world number eight has said.
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic had urged players to contribute to a fund set up by the sport’s governing bodies to help the lower-ranked professionals affected by the tennis shutdown which began in March and will continue at least until end of July.
“I took a moment to reflect on my priorities, not because I don’t respect the other players, because I believe that no player - in any kind of sports - should be put in the position of helping another player financially,” Berrettini told Eurosport Italy’s Call-azione show.
“I think that this responsibility belongs to the federations, ITF, ATP, WTA... they are the ones who make tournaments happen, and us, the players, pay them back with our performances.
“They have to take care of us. The real problem is deeper.”
The governing bodies recently raised over $6 million to help the lower-level players, who depend solely on tournament winnings to earn their living, during the shutdown caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The International Tennis Federation has said it is working on additional measures, including a new relief fund, to help players ranked between 501 and 700, and are not covered under other relief programmes.
World No. 3 Dominic Thiem had earlier rejected the notion that top tennis players should chip in to help the lower-ranked competitors, saying he felt there were sections of society that needed more urgent help.
“We need to invest money in a different way in order to help lower-ranked players,” the 24-year-old Berrettini said. “Personally, I prefer to help other more specific causes.
“I spoke with Djokovic and he told me ‘don’t worry Matteo, the donation is not mandatory. It’s something that you can agree on if you feel like it. If you prefer to buy masks for hospitals like Spallanzani or helping families in need, I respect you’.
“That’s an important message, it should be spread outside of our players’ circle.”