The ATP, the organizer of the top men’s tennis tour, has guaranteed its players a minimum wage for the first time as part of a three-year trial launching in 2024.
The “Baseline Programme” will see the tour ‘top up’ the wages of the top 250-ranked players each season if their earnings fall below a certain threshold.
For 2024, the levels are set at $300,000 for the top 100, $150,000 for those ranked 101 to 175, and $75,000 for those between 176 and 250 in the world.
The ATP said it is expecting to provide financial support to between 30 and 45 players who meet the threshold.
It added: “This assurance will empower players to plan their season with greater certainty, focus on their game and invest in their teams.
“This includes covering the expenses of coaches and personal physios as well as travel.”
The tour said it will also support players financially who compete in less than nine ATP Tour and Challenger Tour events in a season due to injury.
The threshold for injury protection in 2024 is set at $200,000 for the top 100, $100,000 for players ranked 101 to 175, and $50,000 for those ranked 176 to 250.
The move comes as the sport acknowledges the massive inequality that exists in tennis. While top players on the tour can earn huge sums through prize earnings and sponsorship deals, lower-ranked players earn much less and rely on tournament earnings to sustain their careers, which involves increased expenses as they travel to compete in national and international events.
The cyclical nature of being self-employed and lower-ranked means if you don’t make enough money, you can’t pay for a team around you or for travel and accommodation, making it tougher to succeed.
The issue was exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic when the season was temporarily halted, leading top players including Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic to urge the tour to find a solution.
Djokovic specifically set up a breakaway players union, the PTPA, last year after becoming disillusioned during his time as ATP Player Council president. He said it opened his eyes to how the system was set up to favor the tournaments over players and said that the pandemic showed what can happen if things are allowed to continue as they are.
One of the organization's inaugural tasks has been to challenge financial inequality within the sport. Since then, he and the PTPA have been calling for the ATP to provide lower-ranked players financial protection.
ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi, who was re-elected for a second term in June, said the new initiative is a “shift” in the way the tour deals with player finances.
He said: “It represents our commitment to the players and their careers – fostering an environment where they can thrive and elevate the sport.
“It is also just the start of what we hope to achieve. Our ambition is to expand this game-changing initiative in the years to come.”
In June, Gaudenzi said the ATP had held talks with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth Public Investment Fund (PIF), as well as other potential investors, about possible co-investments in the sport.
He told the Financial Times he held “positive” discussions over their involvement in various projects and ventures, including infrastructure, technology investment, and events in new markets.
Saudi Arabia is yet to stage an official ATP Tour event but has hosted exhibition events in the kingdom, with the launch of the Diriyah Cup in 2019. The event returned in 2022 after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.
PTPA: Tennis’ breakaway union is looking to revolutionize player representation.