Shapovalov says deflated prize money makes bubble life even less alluring

DUBAI, 18 Mar: Denis Shapovalov said on 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 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 cancelled 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 in the competition 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 semi-finals 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 prize pots 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. (AFP)