MUMBAI: In a surprise outburst against lower-ranked players, Dominic Thiem questioned their professionalism and refused to contribute to ATP player fund, which is meant to help struggling players since the tour is suspended.
“There are many, many players who don’t put the sport above everything else, and don’t live in a professional manner,” Thiem told Austrian newspaper Krone.
“None of us top players got anything handed to us. We all had to fight our way up. I don’t have the guarantee in any job that I will do well and earn lots of money. I don’t really see why I should give such players money. I would rather give money to people or organisations that really need it.”
According to the proposal by Novak Djokovic, the World No 3 Austrian was to contribute $30,000 to the fund, which hopes to aid players ranked World No 250 to 700. Just to put this in perspective, Thiem has earned $1,741,575 this year (from three events).
“Contributing is not mandatory,” says Sidharth Rawat, World No 438. “He could have just refused. There was no need to question the players’ professionalism. It is a very demotivating thing to hear, especially in these circumstances.”
While Chennai-based Sasikumar Mukund doesn’t entirely disagree with Thiem, he said the tone could have been less harsh. “It is true that a lot of players on Futures tour are just going through the motions, not always giving their best,” said the 23-year-old. The World No 281 also trains in Austria.
“Thiem is one of the most hard-working guys. If he hits 10,000 balls in training, he tries to hit all of them perfectly. He obviously is not going to be happy to give money to someone who trains for an hour a day. But he has made a very generalised statement.
“Almost 200 countries play tennis. The statement can’t apply to all of them. At the same time, when ATP does decide to help players financially, they are not going to take it case by case, on whether one person deserves the money and the other doesn’t.”
Rawat, who is working on his fitness for three hours a day even during this lockdown, added that Thiem’s statement assumes that all players have the “same opportunity.”
“If all of us had the same chances and training facilities at our disposal, then what he’s saying can hold true,” remarked the 26-year-old. “But that’s not the case. For example, players from India have to worry about visas. We don’t have the same support systems, nor do we have that many higher-level tour events (Challenger and above).”
The tennis world has put a mostly-united front till now, given the extraordinary circumstances. But Thiem’s comments could open up a few fissures and confront the game with its familiar problem of wealth distribution.