Dubai – Denis Shapovalov said Thursday that tennis tournaments this year will continue to suffer high withdrawal rates because of the decrease in prize money as a result of the pandemic.
The 21-year-old Canadian, ranked No. 12 in the world, said most of the older top players “don’t have a reason to go” to non-Grand Slam tournaments and that many more would skip events if they were not contractually obligated to compete by their sponsors.
Next week’s Masters 1000 event in Miami has been hit by a slew of high-profile withdrawals including Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem.
The total prize money at the Miami Open this year has gone down from $16.7 million in 2019 to $6.68 million. The event was one of the first canceled last season because of the pandemic.
A singles champion in Dubai this week will make $149,490 compared to the $565,705 Novak Djokovic earned for lifting the trophy last year.
“I definitely think there’s going to be a lot of withdrawals and a lot of people not going to tournaments because the prize money is low,” said Shapovalov, who advanced to the semifinals in Dubai on Thursday.
“In a way it’s not motivating to play every week and play all the big tournaments because there’s not really a lot in it for us other than the Slams at this point that are paying just as much or better, like in Australia this year,” he added.
He feels the ATP can find better ways to secure bigger purses for the players. Unlike other sports leagues, where players receive salaries and have certain guarantees, tennis players are independent contractors and only earn money when they are competing, with their income directly dependent on how much they are winning.
“Hopefully the ATP or someone can do something to improve the prize money and bring it back to what it was, but it is what it is right now,” said Shapovalov.
“We have other obligations from sponsors, contracts that obligate us to play as well, so for sure that’s definitely one reason why a lot of players are still playing, because, otherwise, I feel like a lot of players just wouldn’t play at all.
“I feel like other sports have been able to find solutions and find ways to keep the prize money and keep their salaries. I feel like there are better ways to solve this problem and go about it from the ATP side.”
Shapovalov has spoken this week about the mental toll the constant “bubble life” can take on a player, and already said he will compete in fewer tournaments this year to avoid being confined to a hotel room all year.
While he noted that the Dubai bubble is “one of the best” on tour because it allows players to be outdoors in specific areas and in comfortable surroundings, he still finds it strange and restrictive.
“It’s still difficult, you’re looking across the pond and you’re looking at regular life and you feel like you’re kind of in an aquarium,” he confessed.
“I felt that last year, by the end of it. It was depressing to be out there.
“There are ways that I’m trying to cope with it and for sure I think the reason why I’m playing, again, are contractual obligations but also I’m playing the big tournaments because I do love to play the big events and I do want to still achieve certain things.
“I want to win big tournaments, I want to go up the rankings but I think for the bigger guys it’s not really motivating. They’ve been there, they’ve won Masters, they’ve won Slams, so they don’t have a reason to go and play.”
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