Djokovic said players had resigned themselves to lockdown stringencies at the Australian Open because it was a grand slam, with near-normal prize money.
“But that’s not going to be the case on the ATP events, especially 250, 500,” he said. “It’s huge prize money reductions. So for the lower-ranked players, I have heard a lot of complaints. Challenger players, a lot of complaints.”
Djokovic suggested as an alternative to the regular tour a hub somewhere. “Maybe it’s something like an NBA bubble, because I heard some players talk about that, and I don’t mind to discuss about that kind of idea,” he said.
“Select one place and we play all the tournaments on that surface and that place. You know, three, four weeks in, rest, then back again. Something like that.
“But we just have to discuss options, because I don’t know honestly if this is going to work.”
Djokovic said that as hard as Australia had been for some, it was nothing compared to what awaited the tennis circuit elsewhere in the world. Players already have been told they will be allowed only two companions, and no family.
“Regardless of the fact where you are playing, whether in that specific country you have better conditions maybe than in some other country, you still are obliged to take only two people with you,” he said.
“So we are basically going to be in a bubble every tournament all year regardless where we are.
“I don’t know how we’re gonna handle with that, honestly. But we have to address this very quickly, I mean, because the season has already started. The physical well-being of players is a big question mark, and I think it needs addressing.”
Djokovic was backed strongly by Germany’s Alex Zverev, who he beat in a tough quarter-final on Tuesday night.
“I do agree that we can’t have a travelling circuit right now. It’s just as simple as that,” Zverev said.
“Injuries will keep on happening.
“You know, there is restrictions to countries. Depends on what passport you might not even be able to go to some of the countries. I know South American players will be struggling a lot.
“We can’t have a travelling circuit right now. I think what the ATP should do and should look into is, you know, maybe having a venue like here and play multiple weeks at one place. Multiple tournaments, multiple weeks.
“Because at the end of the day in Europe right now we can’t have spectators anyways, so what difference does it really make where we play the tournament? We can change the background, we can change the, you know, city name on the court or whatever, and then play it at one venue.”
Greg Baum is chief sports columnist and associate editor with The Age.