The ATP says the reason why it has opposed the BNP Paribas Open’s prize-money proposal is not because of overall amount of the increase ($800,000 more to the male players), but because its distribution model violates current rules.
Indian Wells CEO Raymond Moore has proposed an 82-18 split between singles and doubles prize money. The ATP is said to favor an 80-20 split. It was Moore himself who first helped create the formula back in the early 1970s when he was still a player, but he believes times have changed as fewer top singles players play doubles.
Total prize money for Indian Wells in 2012 was $5.5 million. The proposed 2013 increase is $1.6 million, a 29 percent boost, as WTA players would also get an $800,000 bump. The WTA supports the proposal.
“The ATP welcomes tournaments increasing prize money, however, in this case, the issue revolves around a tournament proposing a prize money distribution that deviates from the ATP rules that players and tournaments themselves have agreed, and which every other tournament on Tour follows,” ATP spokesman Simon Higson told TENNIS.com. “Historically, ATP rules have required increases to be applied at a specified percentage for each round, so that growth is proportionate. This is a model that has been developed by the players and tournaments working together over many years. This is not a prize money increase issue, but a Tour-wide prize money distribution issue.”
Last year, Indian Wells increased prize money by $1 million and deviated slightly from the ATP’s normal distribution formula, which is essentially to double the prize money for every round won. Any year-over-year increase must be applied at the same rate for each round, so growth is equal for players.
In 2012, that was the case at the other North American Masters Series tournaments -- Miami, Canada and Cincinnati. Indian Wells followed that formula until the quarterfinals, when prize money jumped from $43,250 to 100,000; a 131% increase. The tournament then doubled the earnings for semifinalists (to $200,000), but give the finalist $500,000 (a 66 percent increase from $200,000). The winner receieved $1 million.
It is unclear how much Indian Wells proposed to give players during the first three rounds of this year’s tournament, but Moore has said that the first-round losers would earn $11,000. There will also be small raises for the quarterfinalists and the semifinalists, but no increase for the finalist or champion.
ATP CEO of Americas Mark Young recently sent Moore a new proposal where the doubles winners split $275,000, while singles semifinalists receive $200,000 and singles quarterfinalists receive $100,000. The Indian Wells proposal offers increases to every round in doubles, but the winners would split $240,000, and the singles quarterfinalists would receive somewhere between $105,000 - 110,000.
“I said, ‘Mark, are you kidding me’?” said Moore, who believes most players would go along with his 82-18 formula. “Are you going to tell me that winners of the doubles should get more than semifinalists in singles? Frankly we don't agree and that’s why we can abide by your prize money breakdown.”
The ATP’s Higson responded: “The Indian Wells proposal has produced a unique set of circumstances which the ATP Board of Directors continues to address. We remain hopeful of not only resolving this specific matter concerning Indian Wells, but in addition providing a rule for future proposals from tournaments when they want to deviate from established prize money distributions. Whilst we remain optimistic of resolving this matter ahead of the 2013 BNP Paribas Open, it is important that the necessary due diligence is carried out when considering any rule changes that affect the Tour as a whole.”
Moore has said that if the ATP Board does not approve the increase, the tournament will revert back to 2011 prize money levels. In 2011, total prize money was $4.5 million.
ATP Board member and player representative Justin Gimelstob says he’s confident that the matter will be resolved before the tournament begins on March 4. However, a source told TENNIS.com that the Board of Directors vote has been delayed once again. It was scheduled for the next couple of days.