Australia’s John Millman has defended Dominic Thiem after the World No 3 refused to help fund lower-ranked players struggling during the coronavirus shutdown, while American Reilly Opelka has criticised ATP officials for not taking a pay cut to help overcome problems resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Look, players outside 100 are struggling all year round whether there is coronavirus or not. I don’t think it should come down for someone like Dominic to prop up the tour. John Millman
Millman says it should not be up to top-ranked players to ‘prop up the tour’, and pointed the finger at the ATP, WTA and ITF for not addressing pay disparity concerns.
Australian Open finalist Thiem, who has more than $37 million in career earnings, has been criticised for saying he had no interest in contributing to a proposed relief fund for lower-ranked players, saying ‘none of them are going to starve’ and he would rather give to people or organisations that really need it.
World No 1 Novak Djokovic, who is also the ATP Player Council President, has asked players to add to a fund to help lower-ranked players during the tour shutdown, which looks set to continue until at least early August.
Under the proposal, the top five players would donate about $50,000 each, while those between 50 and 100 would give up almost $10,000.
“Look, players outside 100 are struggling all year round whether there is coronavirus or not,” World No 43 Millman told AAP.
“I don’t think it should come down for someone like Dominic to prop up the tour.
“It should be managed better by the ATP, the WTA and the ITF.
“There should have been a bigger effort earlier on for these organisations to have made it a priority to grow the game and help people make money from the game.
Millman added that it was a shame that it took a pandemic, which shut down the sport in March, to spur discussion on tennis’ pay fairness concerns.
“My biggest problem is that it has taken coronavirus for us to be talking about it,” he said.
“There have been plenty of opportunities over the years to try and get more people making money out of the sport and I don’t think we have done a good enough job.”
Asked if he believed the debate would lead to a better distribution of prizemoney at tournaments, Millman said: “We will see. I have sat in Grand Slam meetings where it hasn’t been spoken about.
“I don’t know what the answer is, but there has to be a way better than the way we are currently doing it.
“Maybe this starts the discussion, but I won’t hold my breath.”
Meanwhile, USA’s Reilly Opelka, 22, criticised the ATP for not handling the coronavirus pandemic better, leaving players in the dark.
The World No 39 Opelka also wondered why the ATP executives had not taken a pay cut as WTA and ITF executives have done.
“The ATP? I think they couldn’t have handled it much worse. We’re completely left in the dark, we don’t know what’s going on,” Opelka told Racquet Magazine. “And the execs haven’t taken pay cuts.
“You know, the WTA execs are taking pay cuts, the WTA [players] have gotten first-round prize money at Indian Wells.
“I rented a really expensive house for two weeks there. Way in the red there. I don’t think it’s a good look when the ATP execs are gonna be making more money than Roger Federer’s prize money this year.
“And again, I don’t know what the reasoning is.
“We’ve been left in the dark completely as players so we don’t even know what they’re really doing right now.”
Opelka, who achieved a career-high ranking of No 31 toward the end of the last season, has earned $1,809,190 over the course of his short career and last week, the rising American won the UTR Pro Match Series exhibition event in West Palm Beach.