Indian Wells prize money the latest in long line of tennis nonsense
It's like a boosted immune system. Spend enough time around tennis and you develop a threshold for mutant strains of nonsense, a resistance to the highest concentration of inanity and insanity. Yet even by tennis standards, this most recent one made us sick.
According to multiple sources, at Tuesday's ATP board meeting in London, the following issue was on the agenda: Should the ATP accept an offer from Larry Ellison to boost prize money at the Indian Wells BNP event by $800,000?
Why is this even an issue, you ask? Good question. A promoter is offering more money to the players. And it would be distributed evenly among rounds. A mainstay in the Big Three of the Forbes 400 rankings -- along with Bill Gates and Warren Buffet -- Ellison is precisely the type of credible, galactically wealthy figure the sport would do well not to antagonize. And at a time when the players make periodic threats to boycott the Grand Slams, you might think the ATP would want as much financial leverage as possible.
Think again. This, after all, is tennis, the sport that can't get out of its own way. If Ellison boosted the Indian Wells prize money, how would that make other events -- most obviously the IMG-owned Miami event the following week -- look? And ... well, actually, there are no other logical reasons why an organization tasked with growing and improving the sport would turn down a volunteer increase in money. Yet, that's what happened. With IMG's representative allegedly leading the charge, the three tournament representatives on the board rejected the prize money increase. The ATP's CEO, Brad Drewett, invertebrately declined to take action. And the measure died.
The ATP sent us this statement via email: "We welcome tournaments increasing prize money. However, in this case, a tournament is proposing a distribution that is not in line with the ATP rules that players and tournaments themselves have agreed to, and which every other tournament on tour follows. The ATP distribution model is designed in part to protect the middle-ranked players' share of prize money, and more evenly distribute prize money throughout every round in a tournament. We would be happy to approve a prize money increase if it complies with ATP rules on distribution."
One suspects that every player from Roger Federer to the likely first-round losers is hurling crockery, wondering why his own organization would take money off the table. But one also wonders how this went over with Ellison.
We imagine it went something like this ...