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Divide over player relief fund brings proposal to a "standstill"
ATP world No. 8 Matteo Berrettini and No. 35 Guido Pella are among those who think it's a good idea, but have declined in favor of supporting other initiatives.
Published May 12, 2020
Top players are still divided on contributing to a relief fund for the lower ranks, and WTA player Ines Ibbou's response to Dominic Thiem's refusal has created even more discussion.
In recent interviews in Austria, Thiem had said he did not want to donate to ITF-level players because some were not fully committed to the sport.
"None of them are starving," he said. "I would rather donate to [those] who really need it."
No. 620-ranked Ibbou, from Algeria, called Thiem's comments "hurtful" and noted that players have different circumstances. While Thiem grew up with access to top-level coaching and funding, she had little background in the sport or access to sponsors.
"You know that in a country like mine, it’s not easy for a woman to be a high-level athlete... I’m a lonely lady, traveling the world. Always looking for the cheapest tickets," she said. "I cherish the day when I’ll be able to afford a gift for my parents."
While Ibbou added that relief funding should be done mostly by organizations like the ITF, she called for Thiem to also acknowledge the role of lower-ranked players.
"Helping players is helping the game to survive," she said.
Her video received positive reaction from Venus Williams, Nick Kyrgios and thousands of others on social media.
In addition to the $6 million announced by the ATP, WTA, ITF and Grand Slams to provide funding for lower-ranked players, there has also been an initiative from ATP No. 1 Novak Djokovic, along with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, to get the ATP Top 100 to contribute $1.1 million to help those between 250 and 700 in the rankings.
But ATP Player Council member Vasek Pospisil recently said the effort is at a "standstill," with other players also reluctant. Players had been asked to contribute between $30,000 and $5,000 based on ranking.
No. 8 Matteo Berrettini and No. 35 Guido Pella are among those who have declined.
"I would prefer to help those having more difficulties, like a hospital, or a family with problems, before a tennis player," Berrettini told ANSA.
But he acknowledged that it was difficult for players while there are no events to play, saying, "There are a lot of players who need help and are in the red. The fund is very positive for tennis and shows that players care about their further down colleagues."
Pella also called the relief fund a "good initiative" but said he would prefer to help his hometown needy.
"It's not the same for Djokovic, Nadal and Federer to put in $30,000 when they have won $100 million," the Argentine told Argentine radio. "I can't be required to contribute when they don't know my economic position.
"There's Christian Garin. He's ranked No. 18 because he had a good start, but I find it arbitrary that he should have to pay so much because of his ranking. And someone like Jack Sock, who is below Top 100, would get help even though he had earned more than $10 million during his career."
The exact distribution of the player relief fund has not been announced.