ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi says tennis may have to wait longer than other sports to resume due to the amount of travel involved, and pledges to try to help players struggling financially during to the coronavirus pandemic.
Our guys are at home, obviously unable to play, unable to earn money and financially struggling, so we will try to help. The difficult part of it is also being conscious that the ATP reserves and resources are not infinite. We depend on the tournaments to be played and we don’t know when we will go back on court. Andrea Gaudenzi, ATP chairman
The 46-year-old, who enjoyed a successful career as a player from 1990 to 2003, took over the reigns at the ATP in January and gave an interview on ATP Tennis Radio this week to give an update on the suspension of tour until at least 13 July.
“Our guys are at home, obviously unable to play, unable to earn money and financially struggling, so we will try to help,” said the Italian, who earned three ATP titles during his career, recording a career-high singles world ranking of 18 in 1995.
“The difficult part of it is also being conscious that the ATP reserves and resources are not infinite.
“We depend on the tournaments to be played and we don’t know when we will go back on court.
“One of the large revenue streams of the ATP is actually the ATP Finals.
“It is a bit difficult to actually go in full, without exactly knowing how deep the hole is.
“We will try to do something to help those players who need it the most.
“Honestly, I’ve been quite touched by the top players who reached out, the big names expressing their desire of helping the lower-ranked players and putting those players first.”
The ITF has also expressed concern over finances, with President David Haggerty revealing that close to 50 per cent of ITF-related activity has been postponed in the first half of this year, accounting for approximately 50 per cent of income.
With so much uncertainty surrounding when it will be safe to restart the professional tennis tours, the governing bodies of world tennis are in discussions to create a Player Relief Programme to provide much-needed assistance to the players who are particularly affected during this time of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
These discussions have been progressing well and details are being finalised with an announcement expected in the near future.
Already agreed is that the ATP and the WTA will administer the Player Relief Programme and all seven stakeholders will make a significant contribution.
“There is a big opportunity for tennis but we can only grasp it if we work together as a group,” Gaudenzi says.
“Nobody could foresee what is happening now.
“The dynamics are complicated and the uncertainty is still there, but the spirit of cooperation among the governing bodies has been awesome the last few weeks.”
Before beginning his four-year term, Gaudenzi served on the ATP Media’s board as an executive, and picked up on a barrier that needed immediate addressing from top-level leadership.
“I noticed that most of the energy focus and resources were allocated to solving internal infighting, but in reality we don’t compete with each other, we compete with other sports and other entertainment platforms,” Gaudenzi said.
“This crisis could divide us further or unite us once and for all, I hope the latter will happen.”
Despite the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, Gaudenzi tries to see the positive side of the current crisis.
“Managing the current scenario is extremely complex, especially because of the nature of our calendar, the nature of our business,” he said.
“But I’m an optimist, in general, by nature.
“I try to see the positive side, which has been a tremendous collaboration with the other Grand Slams, the Women’s Tennis Association and the International Tennis Federation (ITF).”
While Wimbledon was cancelled, the French Open was pushed back until September amid uncertainty over when, and if, play will get underway in 2020.
“We have 3,000-4,000 people coming from all over the world and therefore tennis could be one of the last sports to return,” he said.
“We have 50 calendar options. Nothing is yet decided. We will make decisions late May.
“There are assumptions [like] playing on the red clay after the US Open if all goes well and then continue with the normal season – in Asia, indoors and close with the [ATP] Finals in London.”
There have been more than 1.6 million cases of coronavirus worldwide, with the death toll exceeding 102,000.
The health and safety of everyone involved in tennis remains the absolute priority for all the governing bodies, and the tennis community has been unwavering in playing its part in limiting the spread of the infection.
This is particularly true of players, with many engaging fans through messages of hope while reiterating the importance of staying safe at home, as well as demonstrating creative ways to stay fit and practice the sport to be ready for when play can begin again.