'Misconstrued': John Millman defends rival over tennis controversy

John Millman has backed Dominic Thiem's controversial take on funding lower ranked players. Pic: Getty

John Millman has defended Dominic Thiem after the world No.3 refused to help fund lower-ranked tennis players struggling during the coronavirus shutdown.

Austrian Thiem sparked controversy recently when he expressed scepticism about plans to set up a fund to help lower-ranked players struggling during the suspension of tennis.

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In an interview with Austria's Krone newspaper, Thiem was asked about plans by Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal to organise aid for players struggling with the paralysis of the game.

"Quite honestly I have to say that no tennis player will be fighting to survive, even those who are much lower-ranked," Thiem said.

"None of them are going to starve."

He said that his experience competing on the sport's Futures circuit had shown him that there are "many, many players who don't put the sport above everything else and don't live in a professional manner."

Nick Kyrgios doesn't agree with Dominic Thiem's opinion around a fund for lower ranked players. Pic: Getty

"I wouldn't really see why I should give such players money," he went on.

"I would rather give money to people or organisations that really need it," Thiem said.

Thiem’s take drew widespread criticism from the tennis community but Australia’s Millman has surprisingly leapt to the Austrian’s defence.

Millman says it should not be up to top-ranked players to "prop up the Tour", instead pointing the finger at governing bodies ATP, WTA and ITF for not addressing pay disparity concerns.

World No.1 Djokovic - who is also the ATP Player Council president - has asked players to add to a fund to help lower-tier battlers during the shutdown which looks set to continue until at least early August.

Under the proposal, the top five players would donate about $A47,000 each while those between 50 and 100 would give up almost $A8,000.

Millman says governing bodies need to do more

While world No.43 Millman believed Thiem's comments were "misconstrued", he didn't think it should be the Austrian ace's responsibility to help finance struggling players.

"Look, players outside 100 are struggling all year round whether there is coronavirus or not," Millman told AAP.

"I don't think it should come down to someone like Dominic to prop up the Tour.

"It should be managed better by the ATP, the WTA and the ITF.

"There should have been a bigger effort earlier on for these organisations to have made it a priority to grow the game and help people make money from the game."

Millman said it was a shame that it took a pandemic - which shut down the sport in March - to spur discussion on tennis' pay fairness concerns.

"My biggest problem is that it has taken coronavirus for us to be talking about it," he said.

"There have been plenty of opportunities over the years to try and get more people making money out of the sport and I don't think we have done a good enough job."

Asked if he believed the debate would lead to a better distribution of prizemoney at tournaments, Millman said: "We will see.

"I have sat in grand slam meetings where it hasn't been spoken about.

"I don't know what the answer is but there has to be a way better than the way we are currently doing it.

"Maybe this starts the discussion, but I won't hold my breath.

with Yahoo Sport staff