A 14th straight victory over the world No. 5, David Ferrer, was enough to ensure that Roger Federer, the defending champion in these ATP World Tour Finals, will reach the knockout semifinal stage on Sunday.
But that was not the only thing on Federer’s mind after his 6-4, 7-6 (5) victory Thursday. Like most other people gathering in what is known as the Tennis Family Room here at the vast 02 Arena, Federer sounded surprised that the ATP Board had turned down an offer of an $800,000 prize money increase at next year’s ATP Masters 1000 tournament at Indian Wells.
“I heard about it as well,” he said. “I wasn’t in the room when everything went down because it’s at the board level, the CEO level. But, as long as I am president of the Players Council, I won’t discuss (issues) with you guys in the media," Federer said. "What I can tell you is I will investigate and make sure the decision they have taken is, indeed, the right one. If it’s not, then obviously we need to talk about it. It’s important for me to get all the information and speak to fellow Council members, because it is an important issue here.”
It’s important as well as politically sensitive because the ATP, at the behest of Federer and other top players, has been urging the four Grand Slams, which are not run by the ATP, to increase their prize money in the early rounds. All four Grand Slam events have listened and have made significant increases.
But, the ATP has every intention of going back for more — a task that seems to have been compromised by the fact the Grand Slam chairman can reasonably ask why they should come up with more money when the tour itself is turning away $800,000.
The problem seems to have arisen over the actual prize money structure, round by round, as set in the ATP rules and regulations. In an effort to be fair, there are limits set on how much each round should receive out of the total pot.
Apparently, the extra money has not been distributed in accordance with those rules on the basis of what Indian Wells CEO Ray Moore has passed through to the ATP. First-round losers stand to have a big increase, but there will be no extra money for second- and third-round losers. Increases will pick up at the quarterfinal stage.
That, apparently, was the sticking point, but it seems strange that something could not have been worked out behind closed doors.
Oracle’s Larry Ellison, who owns the Indian Wells tournament, must be more than a little bewildered that his generosity is not being appreciated. It was last year when, in another development that might come back to haunt the ATP, a concession was made so that the Indian Wells men’s and women’s winners could receive $1 million each — easily the biggest winners’ pot on the ATP and WTA tours.
So, in other words, the rules have already been tweaked. That leaves the unanswered question: Why not again?
The ATP Board is made up of three player reps and three tournament directors. No surprise, it was the tournament directors who voted against the offer, leaving the Board locked at 3-3 with ATP CEO Brad Drewett electing not to cast a deciding vote.
But now that Inspector Federer is on the case, things could change. If logic is allowed to rear its head, which is not always the case in this game, it will have to.
As for the tennis, Ferrer did his best and pushed Federer quite hard as the tempo of the match picked up in the second set, but the gulf in class between these two men who are so closely ranked was apparent in the 10th game of the first set.
Having dropped his own serve earlier and regained the break, the Swiss unleashed a series of devastating returns that blew away Ferrer’s serve to love and gave him the set.
It was never as easy after that.
“In the second set, we started to have tougher rallies,” Federer said. “Again, I think Ferrer showed why he’s so tough to beat. He makes you hit the extra shot; he makes it physical. You know that mentally he’s not going to go anywhere. That’s why he has so much respect from his fellow competitors.”
Works both ways. The little Spaniard consoled himself with a thought he has expressed before: “Roger, he is the best player of history," Federer said.
After losing their opening match, Mike and Bob Bryan — America’s only representatives here in the ATP Finals — kept alive their chances of reaching the semifinals with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Aisam Qureshi and Jean-Julien Rojer.
The Bryans, who have won this title three times in their long careers, were meeting Qureshi and Rojer for the seventh time this year. The Bryans extended their win-loss record over them to 6-1 without being seriously troubled. For a record eighth time, the twins will finish the year as the No 1 doubles team in the world no matter what happens here.