Coronavirus: Player Relief Fund a blessing for struggling Indian players

The fund is to help lower-ranked tennis players who are staring at months of zero income due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The criteria for the selection of players should be more flexible, says Sasi Kumar Mukund.   -  R. Ragu

The Novak Djokovic-driven initiative to come up with a Player Relief Fund to help lower-ranked tennis players who are staring at months of zero income has come as a relief for a bunch of Indians.

Djokovic, who is also the ATP Player Council president, wrote to fellow players recently to arrange for a money pot that could potentially generate in excess of USD 4 million through contributions from high earning stars.

The fund is proposed to be used to help those singles players ranked in the 250-700 bracket. The ATP has set aside USD 1 million for this fund and is planning to help those ranked from 150 to 400. The overall goal is to provide USD 10,000 to each player. India currently has six men’s players ranked between 150 and 700.

“It is a great thing for players like me,” said Manish Sureshkumar, ranked 642. “USD 10,000 is a significant amount. I wish it is extended for players below 700 as well.”

‘A good start’

World No. 281 Sasi Kumar Mukund, while welcoming the move, stated that the criteria should be more flexible. “It is a good start, but the ranking criteria seem arbitrary. It is unfair to penalise someone ranked 249 and help the guy ranked 251. Also there is not much difference in the level of players who are ranked from 700 to 900.”

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“Even if we can reduce USD 1,000 or USD 2,000, and keep it at USD 7,000-8,000 and increase the number of beneficiaries, it will be better. But it is a good policy and it can always be improved upon.”

The proposal may not benefit Niki Poonacha, ranked 823 in the world, but he hoped that the governments and national tennis federations will take a cue. “It’s really good that the ATP and top players are trying to help. So may be the government and country’s local tennis governing body can help the rest of us.”

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While the women’s tour is yet to come up with a comprehensive plan, Ankita Raina, ranked 163, felt that the ATP’s move was an important message in ensuring that players still believed they could make a living out of playing tennis. “It is great that they have come up with this,” Ankita said. “The WTA is also doing its bit. They have refunded three years’ registration fee and I received USD 1,950. All of this is helping us cope at a mental level too.”

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