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Australian Open revenue talks ‘productive’

Players want better pay for low-ranked players taking part in first major of year

Gulf News

Melbourne: Tennis officials said they held constructive talks with players pressing for a greater share of revenue at the Australian Open, a day after Andy Murray played down a boycott threat.

Last week organisers of the season’s opening major boosted prize money to a record Aus$30 million (US$31.1 million or Dh114 million) as they responded to a push by players to gain a higher percentage of Grand Slam revenues.

At issue is the pay of lower-ranked players, who often exit in the first round after making the long journey Down Under.

Tennis Australia chief executive Steve Wood said he met with the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) and Player Council on Thursday at the Shanghai Masters about a fairer distribution of the prize money and talks were productive.

“Tennis Australia has had some very constructive and positive discussions with the ATP and the Player Council,” he said. “We feel we have been well received and are buoyant about the future.

“We have talked about our long-term plans for player compensation, including further significant increases and the feedback we have received from the ATP and the players has been positive.”

While this year players pocketed Aus$20,800 (US$21,600 or Dh79,338) for a first-round defeat at the Australian Open, some players struggle to make ends meet during the year as they pay for much of their own expenses and travel.

Without a high profile, they are also unable to score lucrative sponsorship deals that could help sustain their careers.

Players Council president Roger Federer on Sunday cautiously welcomed the move to boost prize money but said he was not sure it was significant enough to quell player unrest over the long-running row.

However, on Wednesday Murray said he and other players never viewed a strike as a realistic option.

“From all the players I’ve spoken to so far, everyone’s been very happy with the increases in the prize money and their plan over the next few years, as well,” said the Scot.

While the prize money break-up has yet to be revealed, Australian Open director Craig Tiley last week said increases would be weighted towards those who lose in the early rounds.

More talks are scheduled to take place before a final decision is made, Wood said.

“We have plans for further discussions regarding distribution and will also be having talks with the WTA to get their feedback,” he said.

“Our intention has always been to make a major contribution toward improving the compensation of professional tennis players to make their profession more viable throughout their ranks. The attitude of the players has been very pleasing.”

The Australian Open is played at Melbourne Park in January.