Tennis News: ‘How can they get away with this?’ – Djoker vax stance costs him millions, Rafa’s coach admits to ‘big fear’
For the first time, four ATP players have earned $US10 million ($A14.8m) in a year – and Novak Djokovic did it it despite missing out on a bonus that has left his fan boys riled up.
Djokovic topped the ATP prize money chart for 2023, earning $US15,952,044, and he did so despite banking zero from the bonus pool.
He missed out due to his absence from at least three ATP Masters 1000 tournaments this year. The COVID-19 vaccine mandate in the United States stopped him from playing in the Indian Wells and Miami Masters, while he missed the Madrid Open thorugh inury and opted against playing the Canadian Open.
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The bonus pool is allocated to the top 30 players, based on the points earned in Masters 1000 and ATP Finals, and helped two of his rivals go past the $10 million mark.
Djokovic was followed by Carlos Alcaraz in second place, with $15,196,504, Daniil Medvedev was third with $11,548,023 and Jannik Sinner fourth with $10,456,264. Andrey Rublev was fifth on $6,571,890.
Alcaraz claimed $4.5 million from the bonus pool, Medvedev $2.3m and Sinner $2.1m.
The rules preventing Djokovic from sharing in the pool were panned by supporters.
Rafa comeback questions
Leading coach Patrick Mouratoglou has questioned whether the next generation of stars has the fitness to match the achievements of the ‘Big Three’ – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
Mouratoglou told Eurosport that Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz, Italy’s Jannik Sinner and Denmark’s Holger Rune will only be able to achieve similar achievements if they focus on their fitness.
“One of the main questions is physically, the three guys are very young and have been injured already,” he said. “When you get injured, you leave space, you let space for others to shine and start to build their confidence.
“When you occupy the field, when you’re here, when you’re winning, there’s no space for others. That’s why Novak [Djokovic], Rafa [Nadal], and Roger [Federer], they cut the grass from under the feet of many generations of guys who would’ve been on the top.
“Jannik Sinner, Carlos Alcaraz, and Holger Rune are the only three young players of that generation who have the complete package and that’s why they are the three best and the potential Top 3 in the future.
“They’re incredibly ambitious, they’ve won a lot at a very young age, and they have a very complete game. The real question is ‘How are they going to prepare their bodies to be able to reign constantly for a long time?’.”
Meanwhile, Mouratoglou has predicted Nadal will be a ‘danger’ to anyone at the Australian Open despite being on the comeback after injury.
Nadal missed almost all of 2023 due to hip and abdomen problems, and he is set to make his long-awaited comeback at the Brisbane International before the Australian Open.
“Rafa has been out of action for a long time and therefore everyone thinks that physically, given his age and the major injuries in his career, he is not in good shape,“ Mouratoglou said.
“But, let’s be clear, if Rafa is physically well, he is dangerous for anyone.
“It will be interesting to see Nadal on the court, because many young players have improved while he was out and therefore everyone can’t wait to see him on the court.
“Then without a doubt the Roland Garros will be the most important tournament of his season.
“No one knows how Nadal really feels, only he can know his physical condition. This will be fundamental to see his real level in 2024.”
Nadal’s coach Carlos Moya admits he’s concerned how the Spaniard will cope with the rigours of grand slam tennis.
Nadal suffered a muscle issue at the 2023 Australian Open that wiped out his season and he had surgery in June.He is aiming to comeback to finish his career on the court, rather than on the sidelines.
“Rafa’s going to go from training, which he’s doing very well, to competing. It’s impossible to have the same conditions in training as in a match,” Moya said in an interview with the ATP Tour.
“Playing the best of five sets, win, rest, return to court two days later … That’s the doubt I have right now, especially for a grand slam. But we have time. If the Australian Open started tomorrow, it would be a real fear.
“There’s still a month left, a tournament before in Brisbane, demanding training … I think all of this will put him in a position to be able to endure it. But now that’s my fear.”
Nadal dropped out of the top 100 for the first time in 20 years earlier this year and is ranked 668th in the world.
He is eligible for a “protected ranking” having been injured and not competing for at least six months, so therefore will avoid qualifying.