MELBOURNE – World number one Rafa Nadal voiced his support for players to demand a greater share of tennis revenues, saying lower-ranked professionals should be able to make a living from the sport.
Nadal’s comments follow media reports this week that Novak Djokovic, the president of the Players’ Council, had urged players to unionise at a pre-Australian Open meeting and revolt over the way the revenues from the four Grand Slams are distributed.
The 30-year-old Serb has denied any threat of a boycott.
Nadal, a former vice-president of the Players’ Council, said tennis had improved “a lot” for lower-ranked players in recent years but felt more needed to be done.
“Just to be clear, at some point, I don’t know 100 percent about what’s going on or not, but at some point it’s good that the players speak between each other about what we want or what we don’t want,” he said after winning his second round match against Argentine Leonardo Mayer yesterday.
“(It’s) not about union or not union. I believe that the tennis improved a lot the last couple of years for the lower ranking players. One sport is bigger not only when the top guys win a lot of money. It’s bigger when a sport creates a lot of jobs. If there is 300 people living from tennis is better than if there is only 100.”
Tennis has been compared unfavourably with soccer, golf and basketball in terms of the number of professionals able to make a living from the game and the overall share of wealth given to players.
But the Spaniard, who has earned over $94 million in prize money from the ATP Tour, suggested such comparisons were unhelpful.
“You know what? The market is the market,” said the 31-year-old, who will play Bosnian 28th seed Damir Dzumhur for a place in the fourth round at Melbourne Park. “Probably our sport is more global than football. At the same time the sport is much bigger, football (more) than tennis, in terms of money, in terms of millions of fans.
“But we cannot compare the sports. We have to fight to make our sport better, bigger, and to have the best show possible for the crowd. Only like this we going to grow in all terms.”