© Ella Ling

Wimbledon picture

Wimbledon and the power of the big four


One of the last things Andy Murray said before leaving Monte Carlo last weekend, destination Barcelona, was that there was no chance he would be taking a role on the ATP Players’ Council, the body that works with the ATP Tour on behalf of the players. “Definitely not, no chance,” Murray told a small group of British press. “I’ve been in some of the meetings and they’re very time consuming and not a lot gets done.”

While perfectly understandable, especially for someone like Murray who puts so much time in to his training and preparation, it could have sounded a little on the selfish side. Roger Federer is still the president of the council and until recently, both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal were on it, too. Surely if you are one of those who wants change, the best way to get it done is to have a seat on the council itself.

Well, perhaps not. Of all the things revealed by Tuesday’s announcement by Wimbledon that they are to redistribute their wealth, in terms of prize money, in favour of losers in the early rounds, it was that the power of the big four outweighs any committee, or specific body.

It turns out that the meeting held in Indian Wells last month, when Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray sat down with Wimbledon chairman Philip Brook and former British No 1 and now Wimbledon board member Tim Henman, came at the request of the players themselves. They clicked their fingers and Wimbledon came running.

“We respected that request, it was a very useful thing to do and part of what you see today is a result of that,” Brook said. The chairman praised the attitude and responsibility of the top players, in asking for the lower-ranked players to get more money, but the fact that they were so willing to act proves, yet again, how important those top players are to the game, right now. It is probable that Murray is the least important of the top four, in terms of player power, but if he can get things like prize money done without actually sitting on the council, then good for him.

The players will be speaking to Wimbledon again soon, we understand, and though initial discussions centred on redressing the imbalance in favour of the lower-ranked players, it can be safely assumed that in the long run, they will have to raise overall prize money from its current level, as a percentage of tournament revenue, will be very much on the table.

As The Tennis Space revealed recently, Wimbledon has an exemption from the hosepipe ban in existence across much of the south of Britain at the moment. This exemption – which they receive because they are an Olympic venue – will allow it to continue watering its courts, so there will be plenty of green around this summer.

However, together with announcements that a roof over Court No 1 is a possibility in the future and that this year matches on the outside courts will begin half an hour earlier, at 11.30am, Wimbledon said it would be prudent with regard to water in general. The practice courts will not be watered between the Championships and the Olympics and the number of hanging baskets will be reduced. But don’t worry, the availability of strawberries will not be touched.

One of the interesting things to come out of Andy Murray’s interview with Sir David Frost in Monte Carlo last week was that he regards his first Tour win, in San Jose in 2006, as his favourite victory to date. Back-to-back victories over Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt gave him the title and he came back the following year to win it again. The Scot would, surely, be as disappointed as many others to learn, then, that San Jose is to lose its status on Tour from 2014.

In what is effectively a corporate reshuffle, Memphis, which was itself under threat, will replace San Jose and the ATP Tour will now have a 500 event in Rio de Janeiro, which could be on hard or clay courts. Change happens, but it’s always sad to see one of the oldest stops on the tour, and a genuinely fun, well-run event, disappear.