John Millman exposes glaring problem with tennis legends' virus gesture

Roger Federer and John Millman, pictured here after their clash at the 2020 Australian Open.
Roger Federer and John Millman after their clash at the Australian Open in January. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

John Millman has questioned why it has taken a pandemic for something to be done about the glaring divide between tennis’ top stars and the lower-ranked players.

The Australian No.3 has questioned the planned initiative from tennis’ 'Big 3' of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer to support lower-ranked professionals during the coronavirus crisis.

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World No.1 Djokovic has been in touch with fellow ATP Player Council members Federer and Nadal to discuss ways to assist players facing financial struggles amid the pandemic.

And that may involve prizemoney from the ATP Finals and the Australian Open going towards a special relief fund.

But Millman has suggested something similar should have been done years ago.

The World No.43 wrote on Twitter on Sunday: “If the concern is to help players ranked 250-700 in the world why has it taken a global pandemic to realise this?

“Surely over the many years of top end heavy prize money increases we maybe should have maybe distributed the spread a little more...”

Millman’s take divided opinion among Twitter followers, with the Aussie posting a follow-up tweet featuring screenshots of his previous concerns about the issue.

“Here’s a couple of tweets where I’ve talked about unfairness of the lower tours,” he wrote.

“A quick google search will show how uncomfortable I’ve always been with the top end heavy sport and often referenced the struggle.. because I’ve properly lived through the lower levels...”

Tennis greats do their bit for lower-ranked players

However, the four grand slams have recently increased the amounts paid to those losing in the first round.

Djokovic, who is also president of the ATP player council, was quoted by French paper L'Equipe in a letter calling for the top 100 to make donations on a sliding scale.

While he and the rest of the top five would donate $US30,000 ($A47,133) dollars, Millman would be asked to donate $US10,000.

It is believed the initiative would raise between $8-14 million.

Djokovic warned that many lower ranked players may have to leave tennis if they cannot make it work financially.

“If we don't have any events (in 2020), maybe next year's Australian Open prize money can be contributed to the fund,” the Serb added.

Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, pictured here in New York in 2015.
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer are doing their bit for their colleagues. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

“I'm glad the tennis eco-system is coming together. Everyone realises the base of tennis. These guys ranked 250 onwards are the ones making the future of tennis.”

The tennis season was suspended in early March due to the pandemic, leaving players in the lower tiers who depend solely on tournament winnings without the chance to earn a living.

The plight of players ranked outside the top 100 in singles has prompted the game's stakeholders - the ATP, WTA, ITF and the organisers of the four Grand Slams - to devise plans to provide some assistance.

“Players hopefully will (also) contribute collectively to the relief fund that the ATP (and others) will distribute using models and criteria,” Djokovic added.

“You want to avoid giving money to a player who fits into this category (low ranking) but does not need the money compared to someone else ... hopefully between $US3-4.5 million will be distributed to lower-ranked players.”

with AAP