Monday 19 March 2018

Tennis: Players round on Federer

Simon Briggs

Nikolay Davydenko became the second man to object to Roger Federer's non-interventionist stance over players' grievances in his role as president of the Player Council yesterday.

Earlier yesterday, Rafael Nadal attempted to defuse the controversy that he triggered on Sunday when he accused the Swiss of ignoring the complaints of the majority of tennis professionals.

But Davydenko -- the Russian who was formerly ranked No 3 in the world -- became the second man to object to Federer's approach.

"I don't know why Roger is not supporting the players," Davydenko said. "Because he don't want... any problems. He doesn't want to do anything, just try to be an outsider on this one."

Davydenko's take on the issue was similar to the one Nadal delivered on Sunday, when he said: "It is very easy (for Federer) to say, 'I am not going to say anything, everything is positive' and come off as a gentleman and burn the rest."

Nadal, however, made an attempt at a rapprochement at his post-match press conference yesterday, where he explained that "I feel sorry for what I said" and promised that he would not talk about anything but tennis over the rest of the Australian Open fortnight.

But even if Nadal -- who had his right knee heavily taped during his 6-4 6-1 6-1 win over Alex Kuznetsov, although an MRI scan later showed no damage -- has really said his last word on the matter, he is not the only man to feel irritated by Federer's refusal to consider change. His outburst has started a debate that could roll on through the rest of this tournament.

Tennis politics are notoriously hard to get a grip on but the key issues being debated are twofold: prize money for lower-ranked players at Grand Slams and the number of tournaments the leading players have to appear in.

When asked to discuss these subjects yesterday, Federer declined. "I choose not to talk about those issues because unfortunately it can create negative stories," he said.

And yet, as the conversation went on, his natural instinct was to support the status quo. "I thought the game was healthy. We're in a golden era right now. Everybody is happy."

This last comment seems an odd thing to say when the ATP players' meeting held on Saturday was full of angst and anger. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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