McEnroe: Players must band together
Seven-time grand slam champion John McEnroe has urged players to band together amid growing speculation about a revolt against tennis authorities over the length of the season or an increase in prize money that would be in line with higher tournament revenues.
The prospect of a player strike was again raised on the eve of the Australian Open, with world No. 2 Rafael Nadal publicly criticizing Roger Federer for his reluctance to voice his concerns about scheduling and revenue distribution.
In interviews with Spanish media at Melbourne Park, Nadal lashed his longtime rival for worrying too much about his public image while other players "burn themselves" by speaking out against the sport's governing bodies.
McEnroe believes the strike threat is justified, saying players should not have to put up with the farcical scenes at last year's US Open, where rain delays meant Nadal was forced to play on three consecutive days, culminating in his loss to Novak Djokovic in the final.
"That's been an issue since I was playing, but so far the players haven't banded together enough to say, 'We're not going to do that,'" McEnroe told FOX Sports Australia.
"I'm sure if they decided not to do it, it wouldn't happen.
"A lot of things wouldn't happen if the players stuck together."
Federer weighed in on the debate after dismantling Russian qualifier Alexander Kudryavtsev (7-5, 6-2, 6-2) in the first round of the Australian Open on Monday night, but refrained from using the word "strike," The Wall Street Journal reported.
"You know, it's such a dangerous word to use. That's why I always say, 'Let's try to avoid it as much as we can,' right?" said Federer, the president of the ATP Player Council.
"It's not good for anyone really — we've seen it in other sports happening in the States," he said.
But the world No. 3 said that although he is confident a good solution can be reached in the near future, he will support the majority of the players if there is no agreement.
"I just think we have to think it through how we do it, if we do it, can we do it, whatever it is, instead of just going out and screaming about it . . . that's not how I think you're going to get results," he said.
The 30-year-old was also quick to quash suggestions of tension between himself and longtime friend and rival Nadal, who told Spanish press, "For him (Federer) it's good to say nothing. Everything positive. 'It's all well and good for me, I look like a gentleman,' and the rest can burn themselves."
"Things are fine between us . . . I have no hard feelings towards him," Federer said. "For me, obviously nothing changes in terms of our relationship. I'm completely cool and relaxed about it."