The seven governing bodies of tennis have raised more than $6 million (£4.9 million/€5.6 million) for the Player Relief Programme, a fund that financially assists athletes affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The move by the seven stakeholders provides the financial backbone of the programme, with opportunities for additional contributions to follow... The creation of the Player Relief Programme is a positive demonstration of the sport's ability to come together during this time of crisis. ITF Statement
The initiative has seen the ATP, the WTA, the ITF and the four Grand Slams of the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open, all contribute to the fund.
Due to the pandemic, which has now resulted in more than 3.74 million confirmed cases and the deaths of more than 258,000 people worldwide, tennis has been suspended until 13 July, leaving many lower ranked players in major financial difficulties.
The ATP and the WTA will administer the distribution of the fund to players, which will see respective contributions split equally for men and women.
In total there are approximately 800 ATP and WTA singles and doubles players who require financial support from the Player Relief Programme.
Eligibility for the fund will take into account a player’s ranking as well as previous prize money earnings.
“The move by the seven stakeholders provides the financial backbone of the programme, with opportunities for additional contributions to follow,” the ITF said.
“Funds raised through initiatives such as auctions, player donations, virtual tennis games and more will provide opportunity for further support of the programme moving forward and are welcomed.
“The creation of the Player Relief Programme is a positive demonstration of the sport’s ability to come together during this time of crisis.
“We will continue to collaborate and monitor the support required across tennis with the aim of ensuring the long-term health of the sport in the midst of this unprecedented challenge to our way of life, and our thoughts remain with all those affected at this time.”
Meanwhile, the men’s tour has partnered with online learning platform Coursera to help players gain new skills and knowledge, as well as look after their mental health during the COVID-19 shutdown.
With the sport at a virtual standstill due to the virus and many countries in strict lockdown, many professional athletes have been left anxious as they struggle to cope with all the uncertainty that lies ahead.
“The players are mostly very competitive people, they like to achieve things,” ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said on Thursday. “They are productive people.
“If you sort of have your focus on something that gives you that drive and passion it will help channel their energy into something, even though not physical but mental, to achieve something new.”
Through ATP’s partnership with Coursera, which will be initially for two years, players will have access to over 4,000 courses across topics like business, technology, data science, personal development and mental well-being.
“One of our most popular courses is called The Science of Well-Being from Yale University,” Kim Caldbeck, Chief Marketing Officer at Coursera told Reuters. “And already this year, there’s been over 1.8 million enrolments in that course.
“There’s also quite a few different courses on Coursera everything from mindfulness to helping find your purpose.
“So there’s quite a bit that allow people to both directly address mental health as well as help them stay stimulated and learning about interest that they might have longer term during this time.”
Gaudenzi, who reached a career-high singles ranking of 18 during his playing career, earned a law degree and an MBA before launching a successful business career in entertainment, data, technology and media.
The 46-year-old Italian, who took over as the Chairman of ATP in January, feels an online learning platform is a perfect fit for a professional player.
“I did my law degree while I was playing on the tour. It took me about 10 years,” he said. “I had to go to the University of Bologna obviously in between tournaments.
“The preparation and the interactions with the professors and the university was minimal because I was working on the tour for 40 weeks a year.
“There was no internet at the time nor any online education so I was travelling with books.
“I remember the private law books and commercial was about 10-15 kilograms. Just to carry them around was extremely uncomfortable.
“An education while on the road is extremely difficult.”
An individual has to normally pay $399 annually for a course on the learning platform but players will gain access without any charge from Coursera, who are working with a sport body for the first time.
For players, who are used to leading an active life, going through an online course initially could prove daunting, the Italian warned, but the rewards are plenty and will be a huge asset for a player’s post-tennis career, he added.
“A tennis player is also bit of an entrepreneur,” Gaudenzi said, adding he found it very tough to sit through his MBA degree initially.
“From an early age they have to be able to manage their money, manage assets, finances, hire people, whether it’s a coach, an agent, a physio, so you are more sort of running a small business. And you need knowledge to do that.”
The WTA has its own Player Development program to promote and enhance players’ career fulfilment, safety and well-being.
In addition to mentoring and media training, players are offered ‘Transitions’, which provides sophisticated education, training and career guidance to maximise opportunities in business and in life, during the tennis career and after.
Current and alumnae women players have access to a range of programs, from financial planning and investing, gaining coaching certifications, networking and alumnae, and public speaking / business presentations.
Elsewhere, the FFT has announced that all tickets purchased for this year’s French Open are going to be cancelled and reimbursed instead of being transferred, after the tournament was delayed by four months.
“The current situation generates too much uncertainty for all the events that bring people together all over the world,” the French Open said on its Twitter account.
“While we fine-tune the organisation of the tournament, we have decided to reimburse all tickets.”
The event was due to be held from 24 May-7 June, before being postponed to 20 September-4 October because of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday, organisers said they had been in talks with tennis’s governing bodies to fine-tune the calendar amid media reports that tournament was to be delayed by another week.