Tennis stars could go on strike warns Andy Murray

Sep 20, 2011
Bill Mann

British No 1 says hectic schedule is too much for the top players and they need more time off

FIRST it was the Trade Union Congress warning of a 'winter of discontent' over public sector pension reform, and now it's the world's top tennis players threatening industrial action.

Union leaders Len McCluskey and Bob Crow might not appear at first glance to have much in common with Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal, but the pair of tennis aces are talking of going on strike if their working conditions aren't improved.

At the heart of their dispute with the International Tennis Federation [ITF] is the calendar, a schedule so packed with tournaments that the players complain they have little time for rest and recuperation. Britain's No 1 Andy Murray seems to be positioning himself as the sport's shop steward and in an interview with BBC Sport explained why he and his fellow professionals are thinking of taking to the picket lines. "We just want things to change, really small things," said Murray, whose career earnings are approximately £11m. "Two or three weeks during the year, a few less tournaments each year, which I don't think is unreasonable."

Asked whether the top players might refuse to play if their demands are not met, Murray replied: "It's a possibility. I know from speaking to some players they're not afraid of doing that. Let's hope it doesn't come to that but I'm sure the players will consider it."

The BBC says that the players will meet to discuss their course of action next month in Shanghai. In recent years the tennis calendar has become ever more crowded, and the players believe their welfare is being endangered by the sport's governing body. Murray told the BBC that he'll sit down and talk to the ITF as well as the  Association of Tennis Professionals in the hope of reaching "a compromise".

However, the ITF believe the players have little cause to complain. Not only are they handsomely rewarded for their hard work but as the organisation's president Francesco Ricci Bitti pointed out last week they voted for certain changes in the schedule as recently as 2009.

"The players should and do have a major say in how the game is run," said the ITF in a press statement. "We remain committed to working with the players and other governing bodies to continue to address their issues."

It's not the first time that Murray has threatened to take to the barricades over working conditions. Earlier this month he and Rafa Nadal savaged the organisers of the US Open for sending them out to play in the rain. "The fans want to see tennis but the health of the players is the most important and we do not feel protected," fumed Nadal at the time, adding: "Grand Slams are about a lot of money. We're part of the show. They're just working for that, not for us."

For his part in the 'show' Nadal earned £573,000 after losing in the final to Novak Djokovic, a figure for which most of Britain's public sector workers wouldn't mind getting wet.

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