The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells is prepared to reduce its prize money back to 2011 levels if the ATP Board of Directors does not approve its proposed increase for the 2013 tournament, TENNIS.com has learned. This year’s tournament begins on March 4.
In December, the ATP Tour Board of Directors deadlocked at 3-3 over a proposal by the BNP Paribas Open to increase its prize money by at least $1.6 million ($800,000 would also go to WTA players), where most of the increase would be distributed to winners of the first three rounds of play. Total prize money for the 2012 tournament was $5.5 million, meaning the proposed increase is roughly 29 percent, a substantial amount and 20 percent above the minimum increase required by the ATP.
Indian Wells Tournament CEO Raymond Moore told TENNIS.com that the ATP and WTA Players’ Councils, as well as the WTA Board of Directors, voted unanimously in favor of the increase, but it is being opposed by Mark Webster, Gavin Forbes, and Charles Smith, tournament directors on the ATP board. ATP CEO Brad Drewett abstained from the vote in December; the ATP later released a statement to TENNIS.com opposing the Indian Wells proposal.
Moore also said that ATP Players Council head Roger Federer, whom Moore calls the most powerful and influential figure in the sport, has written a letter to the Drewett objecting to the tournament representatives’ stance.
“Their vote is purely political and we are appalled,” Moore said. “They don’t want to see another tournament out-distancing them and that’s as clear as nose of my face.
“The driver for this is Mark Webster because the European tournaments don’t want to us progressing beyond what they can do. It’s totally anti-competitive. Everything he tells me is shallow and has no merit. There is division between players and tournament representatives on the board. The players keep asking for more and more and Webster said to me: ‘We are in the middle of prize money discussions about increases and we’re holding firm not to increase and then you do it. We have to keep the players in tow. It’s like land grab, give them your finger and they ask for the arm.’
“It’s an us and them, the tournament representatives against the players. They don’t want to go above what’s minimally mandated.”
In 2012, Indian Wells offered more prize money than any other North American Masters Series tournament: $700,000 more than Miami, $1.8 million more than Cincinnati, and roughly $2 million more than Canada. Of the three Masters Series tournaments in Europe -- Madrid, Rome and Paris/Bercy -- Madrid comes the closest in prize money to Indian Wells, but still offers about $1.6 million less.
The ATP Board is supposed to re-vote on the issue next week. If they don’t approve it, Moore says that Indian Wells will revert to its 2011 prize money levels, about $4.5 million overall.
“I’m not optimistic at all,” Moore said about the upcoming vote. “We’ve folded our tent. We have a proposal and they can either accept it or reject it. We are going to go with whatever the tour rules and be good citizen, which doesn’t mean we have to like it. If they vote against it we are going to the minimum requirement, and the players are going to lose big time. Instead of offering $1 million to our singles winners, it will be $760,000, and instead of $11,000 to first-round losers, we are going to give $8,000. I think the players are going to go ballistic and they should.”
The ATP is also objecting Indian Wells’ proposed 82-18 split between singles and doubles prize money. The ATP is holding firm at 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 that times have changed, as fewer top singles players play doubles.
ATP CEO of Americas Mark Young has sent Moore a new proposal where the doubles winners split $275,000, the singles semifinalists receive $200,000, and singles quarterfinalists receive $100,000. The Indian Wells proposal offers increases to every round in doubles, with the doubles winners splitting $240,000, and the singles quarterfinalists receiving 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.”
When asked for an update on the issues earlier this week, the ATP would not provide TENNIS.com with one.