More than 650 people have signed a petition calling for struggling tennis players to be given financial help during the coronavirus crisis.
Professional tennis was suspended this month and will not resume until at least 7 June. While the shutdown will not be easy for anyone, for players below the ATP and WTA Tours who often live hand to mouth, the concerns are more serious.
The Georgian player Sofia Shapatava was so worried she set up a petition on change.org calling for support from the International Tennis Federation, ATP and WTA.
Shapatava, ranked 371 in the world, said: “I had many conversations with my colleagues and friends about their plans for the upcoming months. Lower-ranked tennis players have no savings and it is a very hard topic.
“Usually everyone makes money on the side by coaching or club matches or prize-money tournaments but, in this situation, countries are on lockdown so there is no way to get additional income. We have no security, nor does anyone take care of us.
“I am sure I can put food on the table. But nobody stopped bills and we still have to pay for everything every month, and it is very hard to do when you stay without income completely for a couple of months.
“And, even if I have some money, I know many others who don’t know how to support themselves more than a week or two. Also many people will quit to play as, after spending all the last cents on surviving, not many will be able to just go and travel again.”
It is understood the ITF will discuss the issue as a matter of urgency, while the ATP chairman, Andrea Gaudenzi, said: “Our ability to address any supportive measures will be best guided once we know the duration of the crisis and when the Tour will resume.”
A statement from the Lawn Tennis Association read: “During these challenging times for our society, our focus over the coming weeks will be to ensure tennis coaches, venues, volunteers, officials and players are supported in any way they can be, so that tennis in Britain emerges from this period in as strong and healthy position as possible.”
Tennis’s fractured nature, the low prize money at smaller events and high costs involved, mean players are particularly vulnerable to falling through the cracks, and Shapatava hopes the governing bodies are listening.
She said: “All I know is that someone has to take responsibility for players as we all are in a way employees and we already don’t get paid enough so, in the moment of huge crisis and shutdown, at least we can have some support.
“We feel now more then ever that we have nobody that takes care of us, and nobody has the responsibility for real if all the tennis tour breaks down. It is a horrible feeling. And I am not the only one who feels it. The petition is a way to be heard.
“I understand that there are far bigger problems in the world than tennis. And I wish everyone health. But, just because there is one huge problem, it does not mean other problems don’t exist.”