Australia’s John Millman has questioned a multimillion-dollar plan floated by Novak Djokovic to help struggling tennis players during the COVID-19 shutdown, asking why it had not been done before.
Novak Djokovic on Saturday said that the “Big Three” — himself, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal — were organizing aid for lower-ranked players who have no income while the sport is suspended because of the pandemic.
“The majority of the players who are ranked between 200, 250 in the world, and the 700th or 1,000th do not have federation support, do not have sponsors. They are completely independent and left alone,” Djokovic said in an Instagram chat with friend and rival Stan Wawrinka. “Guys who are ranked between 200-250, especially to 700 ... are thinking of leaving tennis right now.”
World No. 43 Millman said that lower-ranked players should have been paid better in the past.
“If the concern is to help players ranked 250-700 in the world why has it taken a global pandemic to realise this?” Millman wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “Surely over the many years of top end heavy prizemoney increases we maybe should have maybe distributed the spread a little more...”
Brisbane-based Millman, Australia’s No. 3, said that the “unfairness of the lower tours” meant he had always been “uncomfortable” with the top-end heavy sport.
“[I’ve] often referenced the struggle … because I’ve properly lived through the lower levels,” he wrote.
Djokovic said that the players, the ATP and the four Grand Slams “would all get together and will contribute to a player relief fund that ATP will distribute.”
He estimated that between US$3 million and US$4.5 million could be distributed through the scheme.
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