Federer rules out strike action to fix crowded calendar

 

Two months after there were suggestions of possible strike action by players, Roger Federer and his colleagues are looking as likely to man the picket lines as this week's Paris Masters is to offer chip butties and mugs of tea for lunch. After Andy Murray admitted here that plans for players to discuss their grievances had got "nowhere", Federer himself said that he did not believe a strike was necessary and that such talk was "absurd".

At the US Open the likes of Murray, Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick were talking openly about players getting together to discuss numerous issues, including the length of the season, the Davis Cup's place in the calendar, levels of prize money and even the formation of a players' union. However, some of those championing the players' cause advised them subsequently that airing their gripes in public was not helpful.

Federer, who is president of the player council at the Association of Tennis Professionals, agrees. "The season is too long, this is not good, we should change this, change that," the Swiss said here yesterday. "Clearly we need to make changes, but we don't need to make them publicly or within the press."

Murray and Federer, who play the Frenchmen Jérémy Chardy and Adrian Mannarino respectively in their opening matches today, both said it was difficult to arrange player meetings given that there had been no tournament since New York when all the top men have been present. They also agreed that the first priority now was to appoint an executive chairman of the ATP following Adam Helfant's decision to leave at the end of the year.

As for the idea of a strike, Federer said: "Until this very day, we've never gone on strike or boycotted the Davis Cup or, from my side, anything. If you want to do that, you have to basically miss what's most dear to you. So what would that mean to me? Strike at Wimbledon? I don't know. Strike at the US Open? What is that? That would be something you would have to think twice before you wanted to do it."

Federer said the problems in tennis were "not that great for us to have to do such a thing. I think normal common sense can solve so many problems within our sport." He added: "I think before we even look so far, we have to find the right CEO and look for so many other things at this moment."

The player who might currently have most to complain about the calendar – and in particular the eight Masters Series tournaments which the leading men are mandated to play – is Novak Djokovic. The world No 1 has utterly dominated this season, winning 10 titles, including three Grand Slam tournaments, and $10.7m (about £6.6m) in prize money, but was shattered by the end of the US Open, where he injured his back and ribs.

An end-of-year ATP bonus pool is shared by the top 12 players in the world rankings, but deductions are made if they miss mandatory tournaments. Djokovic was due to receive a $2m bonus, but he has already lost $400,000 after pulling out injured from last month's Shanghai Masters and would sacrifice the remaining $1.6m if he did not play here, for whatever reason.

The Serb, who played in the first six Masters Series events of the year, hurt a shoulder in his comeback tournament in Basle last weekend and was due to test it out in a practice session here last night before his opening match against Ivan Dodig today.

Federer thought Djokovic "maybe" deserved his bonus "because he's fulfilled a lot of commitments this year and it's been wonderful for the tour", but said it was a decision "that needs to be made internally".

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