Top British players may be forced to play abroad rather than at domestic pre-Wimbledon tournaments if threats materialise to reduce or abolish ranking points at UK events this summer.
The likes of Andy Murray may try to play on the grass in Germany instead of at home, should the likes of Queen’s be devalued in response to the banning of Russians and Belarussians.
The board of the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) was meeting again on Wednesday to decide how to act in the face of some members being barred from competing in England.
Andy Murray may opt to play in grass court tournaments in Germany instead of UK events
That came after its Player Council voted to recommend stripping Wimbledon of ranking points, a decision that needs ratifying by the seven-man ATP Board.
Another idea that has been discussed at length is halving the points on offer at events prior to SW19, thus making the concurrent tournaments on grass in Europe more attractive.
In the case of Murray, for example, he is already going to be playing in Stuttgart in the week prior to Queen’s, and might be tempted to head north to Halle afterwards instead of back to London.
The field for Wimbledon itself would likely be unaffected, points or not, given that prize money will likely be approaching £40 million in total.
Ranking points at the Cinch Championships at Queen’s could be reduced or abolished
While the Player Council – which Murray has left but which still includes Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer – are in favour of taking a tough line there are potential future complications.
One underestimated factor is that its ranking points agreement with the Grand Slams (which operate independently of the tours) comes to an end this year.
Should Wimbledon be excluded this summer then the tone of negotiations for any new deal is likely to shift, with the possibility that the four Majors might be inclined to set up an alternative system. This came close to happening in the Nineties, when the Slams instituted their own season-end competition, the Grand Slam Cup.
Another complication is the desire of the ATP to act in concert with its female counterpart, the WTA Tour. They have been meeting, too, with some individual players also investigating the possibility of bringing legal action against British tournaments.
Field for Wimbledon this summer is likely be unaffected with prize money approaching £40m
Aside from anything, many ordinary fans outside the tennis bubble will wonder why the players would appear to be siding with the Russians when the situation in Ukraine shows no sign of improving.
More parochially, the Lawn Tennis Association faced embarrassment yesterday when it announced the closure of its elite academy in Stirling less than three years after opening. It will now be consolidated with its counterpart in Loughborough.
The Stirling centre, attended mainly by English youngsters, was beset with problems from the start, with coaches quitting and the school it was attached to closing down.
The brainchild of former LTA Performance Director Simon Timson – who then left to work for Manchester City – it has turned out to be yet another colossal waste of money for the governing body, waved through by a main LTA board completely lacking professional tennis experience.
Player representatives on the ATP Tour are said to be in favour of taking a hard line over the banning of Russians like Daniil Medvedev (above)