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EXCLUSIVE: Lleyton Hewitt argues against Novak Djokovic proposal

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Novak Djokovic and Hewitt

Australian tennis legend Lleyton Hewitt has highlighted a big problem with Novak Djokovic’s proposal to distribute wealth to struggling lower-ranked players to compensate for the COVID-19 shutdown.

 

 

Djokovic, who is the president of the ATP Player Council last month sent a letter to the players outlining how more than USD $4 million could be generated to support the players ranked from 250-700.

His proposal included over USD $1 million in donations from the world’s top 100 singles players and top 20 doubles players.

Kyrgios’ heartwarming offer of help
Novak Djokovic hold hewitt

It would see the megastars in the top five, including himself, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal donate USD $30,000 out of their own pocket, while the players ranked 50-100 would donate USD $5000 each.

When Djokovic sent his proposal to the players the ATP had already created a scheme to raise over USD $1 million to contribute to singles players ranked 150-400.

Novak Djokovic hold hewitt

Djokovic’s proposal that has split opinion, with Australian Open finalist Dominic Thiem the highest profile player to come out swinging against it in a controversial interview with Austria’s Krone Sport that lit a fire under the debate.

Hewitt has a strong relationship with Thiem and speaking to Sam Groth on Wide World of Sports’ Down The Line he said the Austrian World No.3’s argument against donating to the relief fund had been blown “out of proportion”.

Novak Djokovic holds trophy

Admitting it was “a touchy subject” Hewitt pointed to Australian journeyman James Duckworth, currently ranked 83 in the world, as a perfect example of the flaw in Djokovic’s proposal.

“I look at someone who’s worked extremely hard like James Duckworth,” Hewitt said.

“In the last few years he’s done everything right to give himself the best opportunity to get himself back in the top 100.

“He’s making no money right now, he’s running at a loss, yet the ATP want him to potentially donate five or ten thousand dollars to players ranked just outside 100.

“I don’t think that sits well, I don’t think it’s going to get over the line with a lot of those lesser players.”

Novak Djokovic

Duckworth, 28, has earned just over $1.6 million in prize money over the course of his career. Djokovic, by comparison, has earned $132 million in prize money and has several lucrative sponsorship deals on top of that.

Hewitt said Djokovic and his peers at the upper echelon of earnings should be taking on more of the burden themselves.

In his proposal, the Serbian world No.1 outlined that he and the other top players in the sport would donate six times more than the players ranked from 50-100 but according to Hewitt that doesn’t compute.

“If you’re actually looking at the breakdown in money I think the top four or five guys could probably afford a little bit more than what they’re going to give,” Hewitt said.

Groth, who was best known for a rocket serve, held a highest singles ranking of 53 over the course of a decade-long professional career.

While he sympathised with the effort it takes to get to the top of the sport, Groth wondered if the prize money from the biggest tournaments could be spread more equitably to afford the lower ranked players a better living to begin with.

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“It’s hard isn’t it because you’ve worked hard to be one of those top guys and they make a lot more,” Groth said to Hewitt.

“I also think the prize money isn’t distributed evenly enough. You look at a guy like Novak Djokovic winning the Australian Open, you’re talking $4-5 million for winning a final in a grand slam.

Novak Djokovic drop racket

“If you were to go and take $500,000 off the men’s and women’s purse from that winners’ purse and distribute it, there’s all of a sudden $8 million a year, or $4 million a year, depending on how much you take and where you take it from.”