“Grand tournaments are not invincible” – Wawrinka
Stan Wawrinka turned professional more than 20 years ago, in 2002, and over the past two decades, the man who became known as “Stanimal” has reached the pinnacle of the sport, becoming a genuine long-term Big Three contender. He won three major titles in a period of three years, putting the official stamp of legitimacy on his generation.
There’s no doubt that Wawrinka will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when his career is over, but before the legendary Swiss hangs up his racket, he still has things to prove – and say.
This week, in an exclusive interview with L’Equipe, Wawrinka gave honest opinions and expressed his frustration with the sport as it is currently governed.
What the four major leagues pay players is ‘ridiculous’
Wawrinka believes the Grand Slams are holding the sport back by not working together to improve the quality of life for all players on the tour.
“They are not redistributing enough to tennis compared to the income they generate,” he noted. “And they have a lot of power, because they make (a lot of) money.
“(The Grand Slams) are where the history of tennis is written… These are the richest federations that do not redistribute much. Even between them there is no communication… The income from Grand Slams today is very important and the percentage that goes back to the players is ridiculous. It has barely increased at all .
When told that qualifiers and first-round losers were receiving more money than ever before, Wawrinka rejected that argument.
“You are talking about the prize money, not the percentage paid. Revenues also increased significantly at the same time.” “Grand Slam tournaments are only about their interest, their country and their federation. Today, we are stuck until the day the players say stop.”
“We don’t need a union”
Wawrinka says he has not seen any progress from the PTPA for Novak Djokovic, and added that he does not believe the players need a union.
He stressed: “We do not need a players’ union, we need players at the decision-making table.”
The 38-year-old, who also won an Olympic gold medal in doubles and a Davis Cup, went on to say that players are not consulted on major decisions. He cites the Australian Open’s decision to start play on a Sunday (rather than the traditional Monday) making the main draw a 15-day event rather than a 14-day event.
Tennis Australia is expected to benefit from an extra day of ticket sales, TV rights and concessions, but players are unlikely to benefit proportionately, Wawrinka says.
“Tennis Australia came in and said, ‘We’ll start on the first Sunday,’ like that, thank you, goodbye,” he said. “Has anyone asked us what we think about it? No. It’s like that. From the outside you are telling yourself this is not normal! It means we are not working together.”
No anticipation, no unity
Wawrinka says two hot-button issues from 2023 are likely to remain unresolved due to the Tour’s complex structure or governing body. With so many entities and so many interests, it’s hard to imagine the Tour being subject to constant player requests for better scheduling and fewer ball changes from one tournament to the next.
Players’ frustration with late-night finishes and health issues due to ball switching have been constantly voiced at almost every tournament, but have been largely ignored by the powers that be.
“The real problem in tennis is that most things are done in reaction,” says Wawrinka. “Nobody expects anything. We have to involve the players in the discussions and also explain to them the reasons for these discussions and such.
“When it comes to balls, the leagues don’t like to agree because they all have a different sponsor, and at the same time we still have to struggle to have enough to train with. We (go around) in circles. I’ve been in the ring for twenty years and we talk about The same problems over and over again. The problem with tennis is that there are too many referees, too many different entities (International Tennis Federation, Grand Slam tournaments, ATP, WTA) who are only looking out for their own interests. Today, the real problem is In tennis it’s the Grand Slam.”