Novak Djokovic has voiced his fears for lower-ranked players as the coronavirus-ravaged 2020 season draws to a close.
The world number one, in London for the elite eight-man ATP Finals, said players ranked outside the world’s top 500 were struggling to make ends meet.
Djokovic said the biggest concern was the unpredictability of the 2021 calendar, with decisions taken out of the hands of the sport’s administrators as a result of COVID-19.
The Serbian welcomed the return of top-level tennis after a virus-forced hiatus earlier this year but said there were “a lot of unhappy lower-ranked players that don’t really have a chance to compete”.
“I think for tennis it’s great that we actually have an opportunity to compete at the biggest tournaments in the world or at least most of them since the restart of the season,” he said.
“But it is troubling to hear and to see that on the Futures level, on the first level of the professional tour, there are really very few tournaments and the biggest group of professional players on the rankings is actually there.”
Djokovic, who is bidding for a record-equalling sixth title at the ATP Finals, said players who could not participate in second-tier Challenger-level tournaments were struggling badly.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of players that are ranked 500 and lower and they are asking for any help to provide tournaments for them,” he said.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion said it was crucial for all the game’s stakeholders to communicate better to help the whole sport to prosper.
Djokovic is behind the creation of the new Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA), which is independent of the ATP — the body that runs the top men’s circuits.
He said the aim was to allow the voices of players at all levels to be heard.
“PTPA’s goal will be trying to work with all governing bodies and sides involved in men’s and women’s tennis to understand how players can be benefiting more from this system and having more opportunities and jobs and extending that list of players who are actually living from tennis, because right now we have only about 200 players that actually can make a living from tennis.”