Tennis’ governing bodies have confirmed the creation of a Player Relief programme to support players affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The fund, which is already worth at least $6m (£4.8m), will target around 800 singles and doubles players from the ATP and WTA Tours.
The figure is likely to rise as donations from players, including Briton Andy Murray, will also be added.
Novak Djokovic has been campaigning for all of the men’s top 100 to donate.
The programme has been set up by the men’s ATP, the Women’s Tennis Association, the International Tennis Federation and the sport’s four Grand Slams – the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open.
The ATP and the WTA will administer the distribution of the money, with eligibility determined by both a player’s ranking and previous earnings.
The fund will be split equally between men and women.
World number one Djokovic – as president of the ATP Player Council, and in collaboration with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal – had initially hoped the top male players would contribute to a separate $1m fund for men ranked outside the top 250.
But he admitted it was difficult to “pressure players into giving money, whatever their ranking is”.
Dominic Thiem, who was runner-up to Djokovic in this year’s Australian Open, had expressed his reservations.
“I’ve seen players on the ITF Tour who don’t commit to the sport 100%. Many of them are quite unprofessional. I don’t see why I should give them money,” he told the Austrian newspaper Krone.
Now players can make donations directly to the Player Relief programme, and the fund will further benefit from auctions and virtual tennis tournaments.
When Murray won last week’s Virtual Madrid Open, he donated half of his prize money to the NHS, and the other half to the fund.
In an interview on CNN on Friday, he explained why the money is so important and how more could be raised.
“Hopefully, in a few months’ time there might be some events we can put on as well to help raise some more money for those players, as they will be the ones feeling it the most just now,” he said.
“The players ranked in that ranking bracket will also be the future of our sport. There will be some young players coming through just now that will go on to be Grand Slam champions, and the number one and top 10 players in the world, so it’s important that we try and support those players just now in any way we can.”
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Professional tennis is suspended until at least 13 July, and a decision is expected next week about the European clay-court tournaments which take place in the three weeks to follow.
It seems inevitable all will be cancelled because government restrictions on large-scale gatherings remain in place in virtually all of the countries in question.
The US Tennis Association will then decide in June whether the US Open can go ahead in New York from 31 August.
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