King wants tennis reset to make financial system fairer
Women’s tennis legend Billie Jean King has called on the sport's governing bodies to address the financial "inequalities" in the sport she claims have been exposed by the coronavirus shutdown.
With all tennis suspended until at least 13 July, lower-ranked players who depend solely on tournament prize money have been deprived of income.
Elite players and those ranked inside the top 100 are likely to be less impacted given their sponsorship deals.
While tennis' governing bodies have come together to provide temporary relief for players, 12-time grand slam champion King said the sport should use this time to overhaul the financial system for the future.
King told Tennis Channel: “This is a good time to reset and to have one voice in the sport, which we really never had. I hope they [the governing bodies] will all work together more after the Covid-19 situation calms down.
“Maybe someday, and I didn’t think it was possible, we might have a commissioner. I don’t know. We are not the biggest sport in the world, we don’t have as much money as say, soccer. So we need to stick together and everyone needs to help each other.
“The thing that’s also good is it shows the inequalities that go on. So this is a good time to reset and think about how we want our sport to look in the future. What can we do to make it better, stronger and more secure? This is a really good chance to have a new normal for tennis.”
King's comments came after Patrick Mouratoglou, coach of women's tennis star Serena Williams, published an open letter earlier this month highlighting the financial struggles of lower-ranked players and said the current situation showed how “dysfunctional” the sport was.
In his letter posted on Twitter, Mouratoglou said: “Unlike basketball or football payers, tennis players aren’t covered by fixed annual salaries. They’re independent contractors. They’re paying for their travels, they’re paying fix salaries to their coaching staff, while their own salaries depend on the number of matches they win.
“I find it revolting that the 100th-best player of one of the most popular sports in the world – followed by an estimated one billion fans – is barely able to make a living out of it.”
In response, Mouratoglou yesterday announced his tennis academy will host a five-week tournament in May and June, which will distribute money among players more evenly.
The men's ATP, the women's WTA, the International Tennis Federation and the organisers of the four grand slams have teamed up to create an emergency relief fund.
Both the ATP and WTA said they are also working to boost players’ earnings when the sport resumes and may extend the 2020 season to allow more tournaments to be held.
Yesterday, both Germany and India announced they will host tennis events to aid players who are struggling financially during the sport’s shutdown, while top men's player Novak Djokovic said he was in discussions with fellow champions Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to find ways to fund lower-ranked players.
A 2018 International Review Panel report commissioned to address betting and integrity issues in tennis said players in the lowest tiers were most susceptible to corruption because of the difficulty in making a living from the sport.