Massive cuts in prize money due to the COVID-19 pandemic are demoralising players, with Denis Shapovalov predicting an increasing rate of pullouts from big events due to sheer economics.
“There are way more guys pulling out than there were,” the 21-year-old Canadian said on Thursday after reaching the ATP Dubai semi-finals 7-5, 6-4 over Jeremy Chardy.
“That’s good for young guys like me, but older guys who’ve been there (tournament titles, Grand Slam wins) there’s no reason for them really to play.
“There will be a lot of withdrawals, a lot of people not going to events.”
Next week’s Miami Masters, to be played in a parking lot stadium with champions on the men’s and women’s side each taking home UDS 1 million less (down to 300,000) is a glimpse of the future as long as tennis must be played in a health bubble.
Absentees on the ATP will include Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka and Nick Kyrgios among the household names.
Shapovalov said flat-out that reduced money means reduced participation and motivation among the elite.
“It’s not really motivating to play every week if there’s not a lot in it. The Slams are paying just as much or more than before, but things are difficult for players.
“(Many of us) are playing due to obligations from sponsors and contracts. That’s why a lot are playing – I feel like otherwise some would not be playing at all.
“Other sports found solutions to keeping money and salaries. There are better ways to solve this problem from the ATP side.
“It’s depressing. “
The Canadian added: “I’m trying to cope with it, I’m playing now for contractual reasons but I love to play the big events,
“I want to win one and go up in the rankings. But for the big guys, it’s not really motivating (without the usual prize money).
“They don’t have a reason to go and play.”
Shapovalov said that the mental strain of weeks on end in the hotel-court bubble can be hugely draining. While the public in some events – like Dubai – can eat at restaurants and live a relatively normal life, competitors are locked away.
With the tournament hotel a five-star job within 100 metres of the match court, Dubai is one of the best – and atypical – bubble setups.
“I can look out to the (public, club outdoor) restaurant and see people out eating.
“We don’t have the freedom, we can’t go to restaurants, can’t grab a bite,” Shapovalov said.
“You can live that way for one, two, three weeks but after a month or two it becomes very difficult mentally.”
Main photo:- Denis Shapovalov winning quarter-final match in Dubai by ATPTour.com