American tennis star Andy Roddick has stated that the non-appearance of Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer at the the Shanghai Masters event was clear evidence of the toll put on players by their gruelling schedules.
The shine has been taken off the tournament due to the absence of injured world number one Djokovic and 16-time Grand Slam champion Federer, leaving only Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray of the current “Big Four”.
Murray told the BBC last month he had held several talks with other players at the US Open and they would be discussing the issue in Shanghai.
Roddick, speaking after a first-round win in Shanghai over Taiwan’s Lu Yen-hsun, said it had to be addressed.
“People have to understand, people act like we pull out and we get something out of it. We don’t get anything. They’re out of the bonus pool now. They don’t get their money this week.
“Obviously, if they were feeling well and they weren’t worn down, then they would (play). We’re not getting away with anything by pulling out of tournaments. I feel like that’s the way it’s presented sometimes. That’s just not the case,” he added.
Former world number one Roddick said players were still fired up over the issue and insisted Federer and Djokovic were “only a phone call away” but he was unsure what would happen in Shanghai.
“I don’t think we’re storming offices, but I think the sentiment is still there. I think it is a broken system purely from a numbers game on votes on our, you know, player board and council and all that.”
Roddick also raised the issue of earnings for players lower down the rankings compared with other sports, which forces them to play a demanding schedule.
“You know, if we’re getting selfish about it, I think players get 13 percent of total revenue, something like that, from the US Open, and the NBA is at a crossroads because they’re going to have to go from 57 percent to 50 percent. That’s an alarming number.
“That’s not the be all and end all. I think we all feel very fortunate for what we get, but we are putting people in seats.
“We’re spoiled. We’re lucky. We get it. There’s nobody complaining about anything. But if you look at, I said it the other day, the guy on the PGA Tour just won $11.5 million (Bill Haas).
“I think 15 on the all-time ATP career prize money list was $14 million”, Roddick added, comparing the all-time earnings of tennis players with the prize money from a one-off golf tournament.
Roddick said tennis players ranked about 80 or 90 in the world were not making the same money as many baseball players and were also having to pay expenses out of their own pockets.
“That is who it would benefit even more so than us, but it starts with us,” said Roddick.
The sport’s administrators claim the players are to blame for the heavy schedule because they voted for current dates and point to changes such as allowing the top eight seeds byes into the second rounds of tournaments.