ATP Chief Brad Drewett Plays Down Strike Threat

January 18, 2012

Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) tour chief Brad Drewett admitted today there were “frustrations” among tennis players but played down swirling talk of a strike after several spoke out over pay and conditions.

The new  men’s boss was speaking after an outcryl of discontent prompted strike rumours and a brief rift between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Drewett said he heard “loud and clear the other night about their issues” after meeting players on the eve of the Australian Open, which is continuing in Melbourne.

“There are frustrations out there. As I said, I plan to take them on board. I’ve heard them,” he said, adding: “Nothing’s ever perfect in any world, and certainly not in the tennis world.”

“The player meetings are a very rare opportunity for these guys to get into one room. You have 150, 200 players. That only happens once, maybe twice a year,” said the Australian.

“Last weekend they were very vocal about a number of issues, but that is not new. I mean, I’ve been in plenty of player meetings where the guys get in there and voice frustrations.”

Players have long complained about the tough tennis calendar, often blaming it for injuries, and they are reportedly unhappy over Davis Cup scheduling and their share of prize money at grand slams, among other issues.

A number of the top male tennis athletes have spoken out this week, including former world number one Andy Roddick, who said there was a strong mood for change after the “passionate” pre-tournament meeting.

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic said he also supported improvements and Nadal accused Federer, the ATP Player Council president, of not doing enough to back his fellow players.

When asked about the possibility of a strike, Drewett said: “I’ve read the articles. I think they’re quite sensational in lots of ways. I’m obviously not going to go there.”

Drewett, who took up his post at the start of the year, refused to be drawn on any initiatives he was planning but highlighted a shorter season in 2012, by two weeks, and a 20 percent increase in prize money over the next three years.

Despite the frustrations, Drewett said the men’s game was riding the crest of a wave and was “in an unbelievable position, arguably the best ever”.

Roddick yesterday became the latest top player to speak out, saying the circuit needed “fundamental” change to give more power to the players.

“U2 doesn’t ask to go on tour. They go on tour. So I think that’s the fundamental issue at hand,” he said.

Australian Open top seed Djokovic also spoke of the need for changes but said he preferred to keep talks behind closed doors.

Russia’s Alex Bogomolov Jr, who earlier tweeted strong support for a players’ strike, said yesterday it was inspiring to see players united — but he was more circumspect on calls for a walk-out.

“Everybody is on the same page and everybody wants to grow the game and make it better. We’ll see what happens,” Bogomolov Jr said.

Federer and Nadal quickly made up their differences, with the Swiss saying he had “no hard feelings”. Spain’s Nadal said he regretted making his feelings public.

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