Exclusive: Joao Sousa criticises the distribution of prize money on the ATP Tour - UBITENNIS
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Exclusive: Joao Sousa criticises the distribution of prize money on the ATP Tour

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Joao Sousa at the 2015 Valencia Open (image via Kai Foersterling, EPA)

Portuguese world No.34 Joao Sousa has become the latest player to call for a review of how prize money is distributed on the ATP Tour during an exclusive interview with ubitennis.

 

During a one-to-one interview with Andrea Lavagnini for Ubitennis, the 26-year-old has called for more standardisation in prize money. The comments from Sousa comes a week after Gilles Simon told French media that the top players earn too much compared to the lower ranked players. When asked about Simon’s comments, the world No.34 backed him.

“Well, I agree with him. All those that play within the tennis world know how hard it is to enter the top-100 and there is a huge difference between the top players and all the others, or at least those who are a bit ‘lower in the rankings, so yes, I agree”. He told Ubitennis.

Sousa approaches the end of his season with new confidence after claiming his first ATP title in Valencia since 2013. Prior to his title in Valencia, the Portuguese player has also reached three other ATP finals in 2015. At 34th in the world he has currently earned $848, 973 in prize money this year. His earnings this year is seven times less than world No.3 Andy Murray ($6,103,571) and almost 19 times less than world No.1 Novak Djokovic ($15,986,989).

Speaking about the huge financial difference between the top players and the lower ranked players, Sousa is optimistic that a solution can be found via the Players Council.

“Surely it could standardize a bit, especially in the slam’s where the money is higher. We have a board that is that Gilles is part of and he certainly will try to discuss it with other players to find a solution”. He said.

This issue of prize money has been a fragile topic in recent years. The lower down the rankings, the bigger the issue becomes. China’s highest ranked male tennis player, Zhang Ze, has publicly said that he needs more money to progress his game during a recent press conference in Shanghai. Another report came from American player Jean-Yves Aubone. Writing for Tennis Atlantic, Aubone finished 2014 at 484th in the world and earn $9260 in singles prize money that year, which is almost $5000 below the American annual minimum wage.

Earlier this year ATP CEO Chris Kermode announced an increase in prize money at Challenger events. He said in January that the ATP is looking into other methods to try and reduce the costs for players on the tour.

“We need to get the right Challenger events in the right weeks, reducing travel costs and improving the medical services, player education, officiating and marketing at these events.” Kermode said.
“We are taking a holistic approach as we look to make the time players spend at the Challenger level more sustainable.”

The full interview with Joao Sousa can be read here.

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Only Double Vaccinated Players Will Be Allowed To Play Australian Open – Government Minister

Players will not be exempt from a ‘universal application’ applied to those wishing to travel to the country.

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A high ranking official from the Australian government has confirmed for the first time that players will not be allowed to enter the country next year if they have not been double vaccinated against COVID-19.

 

Immigration minister Alex Hawke has stated that there will be no exemptions in force for tennis players hoping to play in the Australian Open amid recent speculation. According to Andrey Rublev, he had been told that unvaccinated players could be allowed to play but will have to enter into a 14-day quarantine upon arrival. However, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said on Monday that it was unlikely visas would be issued to those who are unvaccinated.

Trying to clarify the current situation, Hawke has told ABC radio that all entrants into the country will be required to be vaccinated regardless of who they are. His comments come before Tennis Australia has made any official announcement regarding the tournament and it’s entry requirements.

“The government in establishing its borders has said that you’ll need to be double vaccinated to visit Australia. That’s a universal application, not just to tennis players. I mean that every visitor to Australia will need to be double vaccinated,” Hawke said on ABC radio.

The move raises further questions about the prospect of Novak Djokovic being able to attend the Australian Open. The 20-time Grand Slam champion recently said he doesn’t want to reveal his vaccination status to the public. In the past he said he was against the idea of being forced to have a vaccination but rejects allegations that he is an anti-vaxxer.

“I don’t have a message to Novak. I have a message to everybody that wishes to visit Australia. He’ll need to be double vaccinated,” Hawke later added.

Unlike other sports, tennis’ governing bodies have not issued any public statements outlining the vaccination rates among players on their Tour’s. Reuters news agency estimates the vaccination rate is 65% for the ATP and 60% for the WTA based on recent media reports. However, The Age newspaper reports those who are double vaccinated are below half with 35% for the ATP and 40% for the WTA.

As for the suggestion that players who had already contracted COVID-19 should be allowed into the country regardless of their vaccine status, the president of the Victorian Australian Medical Association has dismissed the idea.

“I understand he [Djokovic] had it [coronavirus] but, believe it or not, the immunity from the vaccination is better than the immunity from catching the disease,” Dr Roderick McRae told The Age.
“I think there is an element of standards [here]. It’s important our leaders make these decisions in our interests and it [banning unvaccinated travellers] demonstrates to the community just how important we take this.”

The Australian Open will begin on January 17th. Djokovic and Naomi Osaka are the reigning champions.

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Victorian Premier: Unvaccinated Players Likely To Be Refused Visas To Play Australian Open

The government official has issued a warning ahead of the Grand Slam but one player say they have been told something different…

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photo by atpworldtour.com

The head of the Victorian Government has said there is a good chance that any player who is unvaccinated will be refused entry into Australia next year and be excluded from the Australian Open.

 

Daniel Andrews has insisted that no deals will be cut with the players where they could receive special treatment in order for them to enter the region. Recently local officials implemented a health mandate in Victoria requiring essential workers to be vaccinated, including professional athletes. The move has prompted speculation over the implications that will have on the upcoming Australian Open which will get underway in January.

Andrews, who has been the Premier of Victoria since 2014, will not be the person who has the final say as to if unvaccinated players will be allowed to enter the country. That will be decided by the national government. However, in a press conference on Tuesday he cast serious doubt over their chances.

“I don’t think an unvaccinated tennis player is going to get a visa to come into this country,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“If they did get a visa, they’d probably have to quarantine for a couple of weeks when no other players will have to.
“AFL players have to be vaccinated, but they’re Aussies, they’re not coming from other countries.
“I don’t think any other tennis player, or golfer, or Formula One driver, will even get a visa to get here.
“Professional sport is part of that authorised worker list and they have to be double dose vaccinated.”

The warning comes less than 24 hours after Blic newspaper published an interview with world No.1 Novak Djokovic who admits he is unsure about playing at the tennis major. Djokovic declined to reveal his vaccination status and has accused the media of causing a divide between vaccinated and unvaccinated people. He has won the Australian Open men‘s title a record nine times.

“I won’t disclose whether I am vaccinated or not. It is a private matter, I think it is inappropriate to ask a person that. Too many people allow themselves the freedom to ask and then to judge. Whatever you say – I have, I have not, maybe, I do not know or I am thinking about it – they will use it against you,” he said.

Tennis Australia has not commented on Andrews’ statement and it is unclear as to when a final decision will be made. Although Djokovic believes a final decision could come in two weeks time.

Meanwhile, Andrey Rublev has contradicted what Andrews has said during a press conference in Moscow. Speaking to reporters the Russian says it is his understanding that unvaccinated players will be allowed to play the Australian Open but they will be forced to enter into a 14-day quarantine. Meaning they will miss tournaments such as the ATP Cup leading up to the Grand Slam.

“If athletes do not want to stay in quarantine for two weeks, then they must be vaccinated. As far as I know, Australians recognize many vaccines. If you do not get vaccinated, then you will not be able to leave the room for two weeks. Then you won’t be able to play either the ATP Cup or the tournaments before the Australian Open.” Said Rublev.

Besides the players, local fans attending the Australian Open could also be refused entry if they are unvaccinated and their freedoms won’t be relaxed until ‘well into 2022.’ Andrews said he doubts crowds at the Australian Grand Prix, which takes place three months after the Melbourne major, will not include those are are not double jabbed.

“Why would you get the system going, have the thing up and running and then essentially pull down all of the architecture that you’ve built, the culture that you’ve changed – why would you change that four or five weeks later?” He said.
“For example, the Grand Prix is in April, I don’t think there will be crowds at the Grand Prix made up of people who have not been double dosed.”

The Australian Open is set to get underway on January 17th.

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Novak Djokovic Undecided Over Playing Australian Open, Slams Speculation Over His Vaccination Status

The tennis star says he is ‘irritated’ by some players’ passive attitude to the potential conditions related to the next Grand Slam and has accused the media of spreading fear related to the COVID-19 vaccination.

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Novak Djokovic during a Men's Singles championship match at the 2021 US Open, Sunday, Sep. 12, 2021 in Flushing, NY. (Andrew Ong/USTA)

World No.1 Novak Djokovic says he has concerns over potential rules which may be implemented on players travelling to the Australian Open next year and is not ruling out the possibility of not attending the Grand Slam altogether. 

 

Djokovic, who has won the Melbourne major more times than any other male player in history, has accused some of his peers of not being interested enough in the topic and just accepting any conditions which may be implemented. In an interview with Blic newspaper, the Serbian said he is ‘irritated’ with what he brands as disinterest among players and believes there needs to be more unity on the Tour. 

“I am following the situation around Australia and as far as I understand, the final decision of the Government of Australia and Tennis Australia will be in two weeks, so it is the first or second week of November,” said Djokovic.

“I do not believe that the conditions will change much in relation to what we already know. As was the case this year, there will be plenty of restrictions. What I heard from my manager who is in direct contact with people from the Federation of Australia is that they are trying to improve conditions for everyone. Both for those who have been vaccinated and for those who have not been.”

One of the most worrying issues for the 20-time Grand Slam champion is the prospect of having to be isolated upon arrival in Australia if somebody on his flight tests positive for COVID-19. At this year’s Australian Open dozens of players have to spend 14 days in quarantine after coming in contact with a positive case. Should such rules be implemented again next year, he faces a dilemma of whether to risk going or not. 

“Put a professional athlete in that kind of quarantine so he can’t get out of the room, and then expect him to play on some level, really … Not to mention the increased risk of injury, of which there were many, including me at this year’s Australian Open. If such conditions remain, I think that many players will think very well whether they will go or not.” Djokovic commented. 

Frustration over vaccination obsession 

Novak Djokovic at the 2021 US Open (Garrett Ellwood/USTA)

One of the most uncertain aspects relates to the fate of unvaccinated players wanting to play at the tournament. Recently the Victorian government issued a health mandate requiring essential workers, including athletes, to be vaccinated. Sports minister Martin Pakula recently told the Sports Entertainment Network that he is unsure if unvaccinated players will even be allowed in the country. That decision will be made by the national government who will likely implement extra restrictions on those players should they get the green light. 

Djokovic, who tested positive for COVID-19 in 2020, has previously said he disagreed with the concept of being forced to have a vaccination but has dismissed suggestions that he is an anti-vaxxer. Pressed by Blic about his current vaccination status, he refused to reveal it and instead hit out at the media for their obsession with it.

“Considering all that, I still do not know whether I will play in Melbourne,” he said. “There is excessive speculation, from the media as well, which bothers me a lot. I have not spoken too much (on vaccination) because everyone was making assumptions based on something I have said a year ago,” he argues.

“Not only in sports, but in the world in general, I am disappointed with the discord being made between the vaccinated and unvaccinated people. If we discriminate against someone because a person wants to make a decision for themselves, whether they want to get vaccinated or not, I think that is horrible… Media is putting pressure on a lot of people. At this moment, there are too many things that are not clear, too much information that is not valid, and then they turn out to be valid, then they are not again. Everything is changing.”

The 34-year-old has also accused the media of ‘spreading fear and panic’ and he does not want to be part of the ‘storm.’ Branding their attitude to the subject as ‘unfriendly.’  

“I have my own stance,” he said. “I won’t disclose whether I am vaccinated or not. It is a private matter, I think it is inappropriate to ask a person that. Too many people allow themselves the freedom to ask and then to judge. Whatever you say – I have, I have not, maybe, I do not know or I am thinking about it – they will use it against you.

“I think the media is spreading fear and panic and I do not want to take part in driving people against each other. I feel that the general media attitude is unfriendly so I do not want to give anyone the reason to write about me. Your editors can take what I have just said and turn it into a scandal. I do not want to be a part of that storm.”

Whilst Djokovic’s Australian Open presence is in doubt, there is clarity concerning his plans for the rest of this year. After taking a break following his loss in the final of the US Open to Daniil Medvedev, he is set to return to competition at the Paris Masters which will start on November 1st. He will also play the ATP Finals in Turin followed by the Davis Cup. 

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