Feliciano Lopez, the Spanish veteran who won both the singles and doubles titles at Queen’s Club’s Fever Tree Championships 12 months ago – the latter in partnership with Andy Murray – has voiced a major concern which players and organisers will have to face up to over the coming months if not years.
I think we have to start playing as soon as possible because it will be of benefit for the majority of the tour Feliciano Lopez
“We have to understand that tennis is not going to be the same, at least for one, two, three years. I don’t know how long,” Lopez, who is also the tournament director of the Madrid Open which he still hopes will be played in September, said.
He continued that even if the sport returns to some normality, prizemoney and sponsorship will be reduced thanks to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the coffers of those who are financing the sport.
“The companies and the sponsors, they might have to fire employees,” the 38-year-old Lopez was quoted as saying by the BBC.
“This is happening everywhere in the world so the first thing they cut is sponsorship, and this is going to be affecting tennis massively.
“We need to survive this moment and we need to be united.
“The players need to understand that it’s going to be a significant reduction in the prize money.
“I see now the scenario where tournaments will survive with a significant reduction in prize money – not only for this year, but also for (the) 2021 season.
“In Madrid for example, we are working on this plan that there is going to be a reduction in the prizemoney, if you can have the tournament with some people in the stands or if you don’t have any spectators at all.”
No professional tournaments have been held on either the ATP or WTA tours since March following the shutdown to fight the pandemic.
The current easing of the restrictions could see the tours returning in August and a decision on the US Open is expected this week with the deliberations on its staging allegedly starting today.
Lopez, who is still active on the tour as a player ranked 61, believes the US Open will go ahead despite the reservations of some of the top players, including his compatriot Rafa Nadal, the defending champion, who says he is reluctant to travel whilst the virus is still at large, a fear which is also expressed by the women’s world number one Ashleigh Barty.
The men’s number one, Novak Djokovic desn’t like the safety restrictions which the USTA are imposing on participants while Roger Federer has opted out of the tour for the rest of the year following another knee operation.
“I think the US Open know there might be many players that don’t want to go and play there,” Lopez admitted.
“This is very personal. Myself I will go and play. I will take the risk, if there is any. I think the majority of players would do the same.
“But I think Stacey Allaster (appointed last week as Tournament Director and the first female to do the job) said they are confident that the situation will get better and they will be able to allow more people in the stadium in two months, when the US Open is going to be played (Aug 31 – Sep 13).
“But I think the US Open is not depending on only the top players playing. My personal opinion is that they are planning to have the event thinking that some of the top players – I don’t know how many – might not play.
“I think we have to start playing as soon as possible because it will be of benefit for the majority of the tour.”