Novak Djokovic Steps into his Leadership Role
Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the apparent latest decision of Novak Djokovic.
The coronavirus global pandemic has paralyzed folks around the world, both within tennis and just generally in every sphere of life.
As a result, everyone everywhere simply has way too much time on their hands. This can be both a good and a bad thing; we’re all accustomed to living healthy and busy lives, but what do you do if and when there’s nothing you can do but stay home and, like, simply be?
Well that can bring out both the good and the bad in people. And this week, we’ll highlight one of each.
Let’s start with the good.
Djokovic said that he has been talking to Federer and Nadal about the tennis relief fund and in the short term he wants to raise $ from: money from players, end of year bonus pool and/or Australian Open prize money. The figure he gave: $3m-$4.5m.
— Tumaini Carayol (@tumcarayol) April 18, 2020
You read that right. Novak Djokovic, current best player in men’s tennis and president of the ATP Player Council, apparently wants to take his leadership role to heart and intends to take steps to ensure the financial well-being of all fellow pros.
Granted, this is a late-breaking story so it’s not like we know all the details involved; as time progresses, we will likely learn more and more.
But as we’re writing this column, we know that the great Djokovic enlisted the help of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to create a plan for a Player Relief Fund and, ultimately, the raising of hopefully no fewer than $4 million. In his letter, which you can read in full here, Djokovic mentions that the ATP Tour has already pledged $1 million to the fund to help specifically players ranked between No. 150 and No. 400. For his part, the Serb wants to raise money to help out players ranked from No. 250 to No. 700, the players that Djokovic calls “the grass roots of tennis and base of professional sport” and those with the smallest financial security of all.
How can we do this? Well, says Djokovic, it’s up to Top 100 singles players and Top 20 doubles players to step up and contribute to the fund based on a sliding scale—between $5,000 and $30,000 each depending on where players are ranked. If this happens, that adds another $1 million+ to the fund and Djokovic’s hope is for all Grand Slam events to then contribute $500,000 each. There’s also something that can be done with the World Tour Finals prize money, should that event even ever happen.
There are more details if you’d like to know them but those are the clear highlights. In the end, the Big 3 wants to give each of the players ranked between No. 250 and No. 700 the lump sum of $10,000.
Whether this happens or not remains to be seen but the fact that Djokovic, Nadal and Federer have all backed the idea and lent their name to it speaks volumes. This is good news because there is a clear need for such an initiative since the 2020 season is increasingly looking like it will be shelved for the foreseeable future…if not forever. Tennis players, you might recall, don’t have guaranteed salaries of any kind and while the likes of Djokovic and company have plenty to eat, the same can’t be said for other, lower-ranked players.
We love this initiative for at least four different reasons. First, it targets directly those who need it most: $10,000 might not sound like much but consider that it’s more than half of the prize money No. 294-ranked Matthew Ebden has captured so far this year. In that sense, it’s extremely needed in this trying time; it’s fun to see folks and players participate in things like the “100 volleys” challenge, or whatever else, but ultimately these won’t help you pay your bills. Thirdly, this is a poignant example of folks coming together and trying to work toward a common goal and not looking to throw anyone under the bus. (We’re looking at you, Roland-Garros organizers.)
Finally, it’s coming from our favourite player ever so we’re bound to be all-in. Sometimes, that’s all there is to it.
Now, remember the beginning of this article? While he was putting into motion this would-be plan, Djokovic was also basically outing himself as a sorta-maybe-kinda-anti-vaxxer for the coronavirus?
Novak, what you even doing man wtf???? Smh.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG