Opinion: Djokovic’s Union and Becker’s Trophies

Novak is not facing Pinkerton Strike Breakers

Novak Djokovic’s move to discuss forming a new union prior to the Australian Open commencing was an interesting move.  I don’t think it was a bad one either.  Many people lept at the idea that Djokovic had made enough money and did not need more.  Many stories exist regarding the tricky circumstances players face when ranked outside of the top 150 or even top 100.  Coaches, trainers, access to sports medicine, and more are not cheap.  If a player is not supported by a national federation and not ranked highly, a decision to stay on tour or find another way to earn a living emerges.

Not every player finds his top form in the time frame that a national federation is likely to fund.  A move to change the percentage of prize money allocated to players from overall revenue could help make tennis more viable for talents who might have otherwise had to leave the tour.  That to me is a good idea.

Questions for the New Union

  1. Will the new union even get off of the ground?  Most players are going to support the idea of being paid more.  Will the groundwork be undertaken to actually get a new organization off of the ground?  Tennis pros have a lot of demands on their time.
  2. Where do female professionals fit into this picture?  It seems like a non-starter for ITF events to again pay male players more than female players.  If there is strength in numbers, adding the endorsements of key players from the WTA Tour would strengthen
  3. What happens to player development funds?  Djokovic makes a great point that the NBA pays its players roughly 50% of the revenue the NBA generates while tennis tournaments often pay out less than 10% of revenue generated by participating players.  I cannot speak to other national federations, but the US Open helps to fund the entire USTA operations.  These include funds for growing the sport of tennis through youth outreach.  Nearly all of the players reached by these funds will not become touring professionals, but I don’t think these tasks should be taken lightly by touring professionals.  If more people play tennis, there will likely be more people who watch tennis in the stands or on tv.  30% of a big pie may be much better for players than 50% of the revenue produced by a niche sport.
  4. How does tennis generate revenue in an increasingly multi-platform media age?  Apps such as TennisTV offer tennis potentially new revenues, but it is also possible that ESPN may not indefinitely pay increased rates for broadcast rights to tennis.  Tennis needs to be sure that revenue streams do not dry up or percentages will mean little to helping more players make a life on tour.

It is Sad to think that Boris Becker’s Wimbledon Trophies may be Sold

Bjorn Borg considered selling his trophies at one point in an effort to become more financially sound.  Boris Becker is now faced with that possibility.  I won’t comment on Becker’s finances as they are not my business.  His 1985, 1986, and 1989 Wimbledon trophies are an important part of tennis history.  His 1985 Wimbledon victory played a big role in me taking up tennis.  If his trophies are to be sold, I hope some group interested in the integrity of tennis history find a way to preserve and honor those victories.  Andre Agassi led efforts to attempt to keep Borg’s trophies out of some private collection.  Becker could perhaps receive similar consideration from retired and active players.

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