'Poor form': Nick Kyrgios blasts tennis bodies over virus relief fund

Nick Kyrgios, pictured here in action at the Australian Open in January.
Nick Kyrgios has slammed tennis' governing bodies for taking so long. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

Nick Kyrgios has slammed tennis’ governing bodies for dragging their feet in creating a coronavirus relief fund to help players affected by the sport’s current shutdown.

The ATP and WTA, along with the International Tennis Federation and organisers of the four grand slams, announced on Tuesday they are joining forces to create the relief fund.

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The specifics about how much money will be collected and how it will be distributed amongst the lower-ranked players were not disclosed in a joint statement that said details are in the process of being finalised.

“These discussions have been progressing well and details are being finalised with an announcement expected in the near future,” the statement said.

While the move appears to be a positive one on the surface, Kyrgios has hit out at the time it took to come about.

“Should of (sic) happened a lot sooner, leaving all the players in the dark,” Kyrgios wrote in response to a tweet from the ATP Tour.

“Poor form to be honest. Hurry up.”

The tennis season was halted in early March due to the coronavirus pandemic, which makes it difficult for those in the lower echelons of the sport who depend solely on tournament winnings to earn a living.

According to the statement, both the men's ATP Tour and the WTA, which runs the women's circuit, will administer the players relief program and each of the seven stakeholders will make a significant contribution.

“We know that for our players, as well as for so many people worldwide, there is the need for financial support for those who need it most and we look forward to finalizing and sharing the further details of a plan in due course,” the statement said.

John Millman exposes shocking pay gap in tennis

The move comes after John Millman highlighted the disturbing gap between tennis' haves and have nots, declaring tour battlers are better off financially on the government's JobKeeper program than playing.

Millman has questioned a planned initiative by grand slam giants Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer to support lower-ranked professionals during the coronavirus crisis and is pleading with officials to come up with a permanent fix to the alarming pay disparity.

Fellow Australian Chris O'Connell, the world No.116, brought home the extent of the struggles of being a touring pro when he announced this month he'd hit the Centrelink queue.

O'Connell's revelation prompted fans to claim that seeking the weekly $750 JobKeeper allowance may be more financially attractive to many.

“I don't think that's far fetched at all,” Millman told AAP.

“There would definitely be players making more money in this time now by not playing - and players who are not necessarily struggling in terms of their ability either.

John Millman and Roger Federer, pictured here after their match at the Australian Open in January.
John Millman has exposed problems with relief efforts from Roger Federer and co. Image: Getty

“It's not a secret - and I've made it pretty clear - that I think the (tennis) pay distribution has always been a bit warped.”

Millman, who is increasingly becoming a voice for the battlers, said it was ludicrous that someone like O'Connell could only earn $US72,921 last year in the most global of all individual sports.

He pointed out that soccer players, basketballers, baseballers and others were raking in tens of millions of dollars annually even if they weren't among the very elite.

“For the standard of tennis that's out there and for the amount of countries that play competitively and for how big the product of tennis is - because it is a big product, especially globally - the fact that 100 people in the world make money it's a bit laughable, to be honest,” Millman said.

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.

That may involve prize money from the ATP Finals and the Australian Open going towards a special relief fund.

But Millman, ranked 43rd and a victor over Federer en route to the 2018 US Open quarter-finals, wrote on Twitter. “If the concern is to help players ranked 250-700 in the world why has it taken a global pandemic to realise this?”

with Reuters and AAP