money & Banking

Joanita Wibowo

Novak Djokovic fires up tennis war over Australian Open prize money

Novak Djokovic fires up tennis war over Australian Open prize money

A war is brewing behind the scenes of the Australian Open as men’s players struggle for more pay and independence.

Over the weekend, Melbourne saw players, coaches and members of the men’s tennis tournament governing body the ATP struggle over issues surrounding leadership and prize money.

At the annual players meeting on Saturday, player council chairman Novak Djokovic reportedly voted against extending the tenure of ATP’s chief executive and president Chris Kermode. However, Djokovic refused to confirm his vote, citing the meeting’s confidentiality.

“The decision hasn’t been made on the president,” Djokovic said. “Whether there’s a renewal or not, it’s going to be decided in the next period.”

The ATP board is due to vote on Kermode’s contract renewal before the end of the month.

Tennis legend Roger Federer confirmed that “a lot is happening” behind the scenes. “It’s definitely interesting times, I’d like to call it, not bad times in our sport,” Federer said on Sunday.

“It’s maybe also a bit of a transition time. So it will be interesting to see what’s going to happen.”

A few players have publicly supported the motion to remove Kermode from his position. 

“Grand slams which report hundreds of millions of dollars in profit … yet we get less in prize money than 10 per cent of their revenue,” player council member Vasek Pospisil said in an email sent to players ranked between 50 and 100.

“The governance structure of the ATP favours the interests of the tournaments and its owners,” said Pospisil. “We need a CEO that first and foremost represents OUR interests.”

This is in line with Djokovic’s suggestion last year that the men’s players should form a new union that is separate from the ATP.

However, other players have also expressed support for Kermode’s continued leadership. Swiss player Stan Wawrinka and Australia's Nick Kyrgios said Kermode’s performance in the past few years has brought men’s tennis in the right direction.

“If you look what’s happened the last few years with our president, I think he only helped the tennis to be in a better place,” Wawrinka told The Telegraph.

“I also think that some people have some personal interest for sure … there should be a reason to move someone at that spot after a few years going quite positive for the tennis. That’s maybe where it’s a bit strange.”

Australian coach Darren Cahill endorsed Kermode in a Twitter post, saying the 54-year-old had brought “big increases in prize money, pension plan, new events, doubles initiative supporter, new progressive rules for injured players … facility upgrades” among others.

“I’d be stunned if Chris Kermode is removed. ATP needs stability right now.”

Do you think tennis players should receive more prize money? Tell us in the comments below.