Champions split over grievances


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Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have long been regarded as the friendliest and most respectful of rivals but, here, on the eve of the Australian Open, there were signs of a significant divide between the two men.

Nadal is unhappy that Federer has not added his voice to those critical of conditions on the tour and instead has leaving other players to "burn themselves" by making their feelings known.

The Spaniard made his comments yesterday after a heated meeting of players on Saturday evening, when there was vociferous criticism of the level of prize-money at Grand Slam tournaments. Nadal (right), who is vice-president of the player council, was seen as one of the most outspoken critics of the authorities when a number of grievances were aired at last year's US Open. However, Federer, the president of the player council, later dismissed talk of a players' strike as "nonsense".

When Nadal was asked about the issues at a pre-tournament press conference here yesterday he was reluctant to go into any details and said he did not want to be seen as a frontman for the players' complaints.

However, in response to a suggestion from Spanish journalists that Federer did not like players making complaints because it tarnished the image of tennis, Nadal said: "No, I totally disagree. For him it's good to say nothing. Everything positive. 'It's all well and good for me, I look like a gentleman.' And the rest can burn themselves.

"He [Federer] likes the circuit. I like the circuit. It's much better than many other sports, but that doesn't mean that it couldn't be better. It doesn't mean there are some things about the tour that could change."

While there are differences of opinion among the players over some of their grievances the vast majority are agreed that the Grand Slam tournaments do not offer enough prize-money.

The US Open, for example, generates revenues in excess of $200m (about £131m), but only 13 per cent of that is paid back to the players in prize-money. In American basketball, ice hockey and American football, about 50 per cent of revenue is paid to the players.