Left field

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Roddick leads movement for ATP change

January 18, 2012

By Martyn Herman 

Andy Roddick on Friday insisted that tennis players must adopt “one voice” to push through changes to the ATP Tour but that may not be as easy as it seems despite the general feeling of solidarity.

Pity Brad Drewett, the new chief executive of the men’s Tour, who has the job of trying to keep everyone happy, grand slam champions, journeymen, tournament organisers, sponsors and TV.

The moment he took over the reins the spectre of a player boycott has returned.

A meeting involving hundreds if players took place on the eve of the Australian Open and although talk of a walkout from Melbourne was aired it did not come to fruition.

But there is clearly dissent in the ranks, and Drewett is the man tasked with damping down what could become a firestorm in the men’s game.

He may well discover over the next few months that, to adapt the words of a former U.S. president, he can “please some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time but can never please all the people all of the time.”

To start, he must address the concerns of the game’s biggest draws.

Rafa Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic all insist the heavy schedule is still too punishing on their bodies despite the current season finishing two weeks earlier this year.

While Nadal has been the biggest agitator, his great rival 16-times grand slam champion Roger Federer has refused to offer his backing to the Spaniard – a cause of some unusual friction between the pair this week which they have both sought to smooth over.

The top earners, the players the sponsors hand over big bucks to tournament organisers for, want the prestige of grand slam tournaments to be reflected in more prize money. At the same time they want to play in less of the regular tournaments.

Without them appearing, however, the sponsors would be reluctant to keep paying the money and some events may die – a situation that could have serious implications for the “rank and file” players who grind round the world picking up cheques but never feature on finals day.

While a tennis player’s on-court pay is performance-related, as it is in golf, the prizes up for grabs diminish quickly and for some, just making the books balance is a struggle.

Ukraine’s Sergiy Stakhovsky falls into that category and says mandatory ATP Masters Series events like Miami and Indian Wells should be more lucrative for those losing in the first round.

“We all have issues. My issue is Indian Wells and Miami are mandatory events and if I lose in the first round I am minus (earnings). I am not making money off these tournaments,” he said this week, claiming that most of the top players sympathise with his plight.

American Alex Bogomolov, a journeyman who has earned $1.2 million in prize money in a 10-year career, insists that he is “inspired” by the unity among the players. His better-known compatriot Roddick, a regular spokesman for men’s tennis, said that there is a danger of splits within the game.

“Unity is a hard thing to attain,” former world number one Andy Roddick said. “While I think we have probably the majority, it’s easy to talk about it, but it’s another thing to go through the process and the work and the hours to try to get an angle. There’s a lot of issues.”

The next few months could be interesting, both on and off the court.

Picture: Andy Roddick of the U.S. hits a return to Robin Haase of the Netherlands during their men’s singles match at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne January 17, 2012. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

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