Melbourne: Twelve-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic is leading a push to create an independent players union to fight for even more prize money, reports said today.
The Serb, president of the ATP Tour player council, made the suggestion at a mandatory player meeting in Melbourne on Friday, attended by Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray among others.
The London Times said he took the stage and suddenly asked that ATP officials and any non-players leave the room, bringing in an Australian professor with specialist knowledge of workplace law.
According to Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, Djokovic then outlined his argument that the Grand Slams only pay out about seven percent of their income.
It said he compared this to American basketball, which pays about 50 percent.
His speech reportedly came after Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley outlined plans to boost prize money at the opening Grand Slam of the year from $55 million to $100 million over the next five years.
The Times said any new union would break away from the present set-up under the ATP, the men’s governing body, which jointly represents the interests of both the players and tournaments.
The ATP refused to comment to AFP, while Tennis Australia had no immediate reaction.
“It was a discussion, nothing more than that,” Kevin Anderson, who is vice-president of the ATP player council, was cited as saying.
But he added: “I think there’s a big case to be made as far as percentage goes.
“If you see an NBA (basketball) player or an NFL (American football) player you think seven figures in their bank account and I don’t think that’s the case even for some players who make the main draw at Grand Slams.”
Nadal did not want to be drawn on the issue.
“Every year here in Australia, there is talk about new things. There is always an issue here in Australia, no?,” he said when asked about it following his first round match in Melbourne late Monday.
“I really believe that there is plenty of time later on the year to speak about things.
But now is the moment, for me personally, to play tennis. That’s all really. I really focus on this.