Murray plays down boycott threat

Murray plays down boycott threat

An Australian Open boycott is still a long way away, according to Andy Murray.

The leading male players have long been unhappy with the percentage of revenue that is paid out in prize money at the grand slams and have increasingly begun to flex their collective muscle, with the prospect of a boycott emerging over the weekend.

Less than 20% of the revenue from the sport’s biggest tournaments currently goes to the players, which is substantially less than in other major sports.

The main issue is not the money paid out to those who reach the latter stages - the winner of the US Open will take home $1.9m – but the rewards for players who lose in the early rounds.

Travel costs and other expenses incurred by players means even those around the top 100 often struggle to do little more than break even, with the trip to Australia in January particularly costly.

The French Open, Wimbledon and US Open all increased their prize money for first-round losers considerably this year, with the Australian Open the lowest at €17,228.

Asked how likely a boycott was, Murray said: “There’s so many things that go into something like that, with lawyers, forming unions, all sorts of different scenarios that need to be thought through first.

“I think right now it’s a long way away, but I don’t know how serious everybody is about it. If in the next month or two months they get everything sorted and ready to go, then I’ll have a better answer at that time.”

The issue of a potential strike by players first surfaced after the US Open last year, where the leading men were unhappy not just with the prize money situation but also the packed yearly schedule, which has been shortened by two weeks this year.

Although the subject has emerged again now after the ATP held a mandatory players’ meeting on Friday, Murray revealed the most heated discussions were at this year’s Australian Open.

He added: “This player meeting wasn’t, I don’t know the word, but when we went through the player meeting at the Aussie Open, it was pretty brutal. Everyone was speaking up. The whole tour was kind of together – they still are.

“There have been some changes made with regard to the grand slam prize money. But the majority of the players want to see a change in the grand slams.

“Who knows what’s going to happen? I hope it doesn’t come down to that (a boycott). I think that’s bad for everybody really.”

The ATP have already said they will not organise a boycott, although they do support the players over the prize money issue, while Australian Open organisers are confident the tournament will not be affected.

Murray reached the second round of the US Open last night with a patchy but ultimately comprehensive 6-2 6-4 6-1 victory over Alex Bogomolov and next faces Croatia’s world number 18 Ivan Dodig.

Joining the Scot in the second round was 18-year-old Laura Robson, who defeated fellow teenager Samantha Crawford of the US to set up a tasty clash with three-time champion Kim Clijsters tomorrow.

The Belgian will retire after the tournament but Robson insisted the prospect of ending Clijsters’ career would not be a factor, saying: “It’s going to be like that no matter who she’s playing. You can’t really think about that.”

The match is likely to take place on one of the show courts, an environment that suits Robson, who possesses the power to trouble the big names if she can pair that with consistency.

The Londoner said: “It should be amazing. She’s playing really well at the moment. She’s definitely one of the nicest women on the tour and I get on with her.

“Hopefully it will be a night match. Playing against Clijsters at the US Open, I’ve got nothing to lose and I’m just going to try to play as well as I can.”

Clijsters began her campaign last night with a comfortable win over 16-year-old American Victoria Duval and she will not be underestimating Robson, who she practised with at Wimbledon this year.

The 29-year-old said: “She’s a great ball striker. I think physically I felt when she came on tour she was still able to improve a lot.

“When she’s behind the ball, she hits the ball so clean and has a very good eye for the ball as well. So it’s going to be very important to be going for the lines and to try to get her out of her comfort zone a little bit.”

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