Detailing the growing divide amongst players in tennis relief fund

The tennis relief fund created by the game’s top players have caused controversy among other players. Here is the latest on the critical decision that’s currently in a standstill.

On the surface, all looked well when Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic proposed the relief fund for lower-ranked professional players. The majority of top players supported the cause and were more than willing to donate, even willing to take prize money cuts in order for money to be distributed.

In addition to the $6 million dollars that the governing organizations have proposed, the Federer-Nadal-Djokovic team have also asked other players to donate between $5,000 and $30,000 dollars based on their current ranking. Australian John Millman (ranked 43rd on tour), among others, have also suggested for more prize money to be distributed through the tour.

Some players have opposed the fund, most notably World #3, Dominic Thiem.

“None of the players are starving. [The top players] all had to fight our way up the rankings,” said Thiem to the Austrian newspaper, Krone. “I’ve seen players on the ITF Tour who don’t 100 percent commit to the sport. Many are quite unprofessional. I don’t see why I should give them money.”

Thiem’s opposition stems from the idea that nothing is given and you must work for it. He’d rather give the money to people truly struggling and in need in the world rather than to the tennis community.

“I would rather give to people and institutions who really need it,” he said.

Players have jumped out against Thiem, especially lower-ranked players. Ines Ibbou, a WTA player ranked 620th in the world, wrote a letter about the Austrian’s comments.

“You know that in a country like mine, it’s not easy for a woman to be a high-level athlete… I’m a lonely lady, traveling the world. Always looking for the cheapest tickets,” the Algerian said. 

Nick Kyrgios has also voiced his opinion regrading Thiem’s comments, saying that the wealth distribution on tour isn’t a good system and how players at the top are being paid too much.

“He still doesn’t understand the point. We at the top get paid far too much and there is not enough to go around,” Kyrgios said.

World #8 Matteo Barrettini has also said he’d rather donate the money elsewhere rather than in the tennis community.

“I would prefer to help those having more difficulties, like a hospital, or a family with problems, before a tennis player,” he told Italian news site Ansa.

Guido Pella acknowledged the positives of the fund, saying it was good that the fund exists, but there are people more in need than tennis players. The top-100 players funding money have caused a lot of controversy, with the current rankings being dictated by how good or bad of a year some players have had.

“There’s Christian Garin. He’s ranked No. 18 because he had a good start, but I find it arbitrary that he should have to pay so much because of his ranking, Pella told Argentine radio. “And someone like Jack Sock, who is below Top 100, would get help even though he had earned more than $10 million during his career.”

With the fund at a complete standstill, it’s up in the air how long lower-level players can last without the relief. It’s possible that, with the (RE)Open in full swing, both tours will create more local tournaments for players only outside of the top-100 or players that are in true need of relief. A system could be put in place to determine that, as well as the amount of money given to players for participating in the tournament.

As the days without tennis continue, more players will certainly give their opinions on the matter and the decision will soon be made. With how important the fund is, we can only hope that the discussion is closed and the fund can begin as soon as possible.