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So what would you do?

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Jonathan Overend | 17:21 UK time, Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Your shoulder hurts after a long year and probably needs further rest to let it fully recover ahead of the World Tour Finals, yet one match here in Paris can earn you $1.6m.

This has been playing on Novak Djokovic's mind ever since the world number one lost to Kei Nishikori in Basel last week.

I'm talking about the ATP "bonus pool", the incentive scheme to make sure all the top players compete in the mandatory Masters 1000 tournaments.

Djokovic is clearly nowhere near full fitness. The shoulder problem which has bugged him since the American hard court summer still persists and forced him to lose a final set 6-0 to Nishikori, yet there is enormous financial pressure for him to appear in the French capital.

He may have won more than $10m in prize money this season but the dangling bonus-pool cheque is almost impossible to ignore.

The ATP rule book is very clear on this.

As world number one, Djokovic is entitled to a bonus of $2m if he plays all eight of the Masters 1000 events during a season, with that bonus reducing to $1.6m if he plays seven of the eight.

So far, he has played six out of seven having withdrawn from Shanghai last month. If he pulls out of another - meaning only six of the eight played - then that bonus is wiped out, injury or no injury.

According to the rule book, the only exceptions are made for players who reach a certain age or a certain of number of tour matches played. As things stand, there is leeway for Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal but not the man who has dominated them this year.

Djokovic has lost just four matches in 2011. Photo: Getty

The organisers here at Paris Bercy run a terrific tournament. They may have taken a strange decision to slow the court considerably this year but they have good crowds, even for the dull matches, a brilliant on-court sound and light show and innovative player facilities.

And while they desperately want Djokovic to appear, they have been fearing the worst for the past few days.

The incentive scheme is a decent concept but at this moment in time it is unhelpful. Djokovic needs only play one match to earn a million quid and that could bring trouble.

If Djokovic, who is scheduled to practice here on Tuesday evening, is advised by medics not to play, what is he to do? Yes he's rich beyond belief, but as one former pro told me: "He'll play. It's a million dollars plus."

Common sense should prevail and the ATP should take the pressure off the Serb, winner of three of the four majors this year, by giving him a bonus anyway. Not the full amount but something as a compromise.

He has hardly shirked his duties this year.

It would set a precedent, and Djokovic has won quite enough money this year to sort his family and his friends up for life, so maybe put it to a vote of the other players. The result would be interesting.

As Federer said: "Normal common sense can solve so many problems in our sport". It is not common sense for tennis to effectively penalise its star of the season.


  • Comment number 1.

    This is blackmail. Djokovic has made so much money this year, as you said, that he really should let the shoulder heal instead of risking excessive injury to it. It's not right.

  • Comment number 2.

    Health is wealth.

  • Comment number 3.

    Nole should remember all the hungry years of his childhood, training under bombing, queuing for visas to travel for tournaments, turn up, take the cash and say: thank you very much!
    Only if he's fit enough to play one match at least, though.

  • Comment number 4.

    If he has a 'genuine sick note' then it seems crazy.

    Or he could turn up?? Serve the first ball. Retire through injury immediately. But then who loses out?? The fans firstly.

  • Comment number 5.

    Does he need to actually complete the match or indeed give any attempt to win?? Surely pitch up, play a couple of games, retire injured & be $1.6mill richer!

  • Comment number 6.

    Its not as difficult as it looks actually. if he is injured, then he should not turn up. If he is injured, and still comes for the 1.6 million, plays the first round and retires/loses, he will either aggravate the injury, and end up looking like a money-grabber. he has managed to get 10m+[and we havent even counted the endorsement income]. whats another 1.6m? hell, if he didn't turn up, it would send a very strong signal to the ATP, that the schedule has to be such that players don't burn out and miss the big events, and that players can't be bought by the prize-money to put their bodies on the line.

  • Comment number 7.

    he should play....left handed....

  • Comment number 8.

    Surely it depends where the money is coming from?

    If it's coming from a pot that otherwise goes to other players, or is re-invested in the game, or will ensure ticket prices stay low next season, stay at home.

    If it's coming from a corporate deal or sponsorship pot then tell fans not to buy tickets for your match, turn up, retire at 0-15 in game one and give the money to charity.

  • Comment number 9.

    No other sportsmen have to play for so long so often, so I agree with many above that he should not play and make a statement. Also missed above is if he turns up and pulls out after the first point he not only lets down his fans, the tournament and his own stats, but he also denies someone a place in the event.

    I seem to remember a similar situation a few years ago when an injured golfer just had to tee up and hit his first shot to achieve something similar (probably retain his card, but someone with more grey matter than me will remember the details). What was the outcome there? Rule changes?

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    @ #9
    It was Robert Allenby that turned up at the end of season tournament in Valderama in 1996, needing just to tee off to get a big bonus for 3rd on that year's money list.

    He'd been in a car accident (iirc) though not long beforehand, and was no where near fit enuogh to play. so he turned up, bunted a ball off the 1st tee, and promptly withdrew from the tournament.

    Oh yeah, he then gave every penny of that bonus to charity. A class act.

    Bet Djoko doesn't do the same if the situation arises, although I'd love to be proved wrong!

  • Comment number 12.

    Another example of how money ruins sport.

  • Comment number 13.

    As Kevin Kline said, in his best French accent, in that excellent film French Kiss - "Tough decision"

  • Comment number 14.

    Imagine if your company had a bonus pool for attendance and going to work for one more day would make you elligible for £1,000, what would stop you attending? And I pretty sure none of you would be giving it to charity!!

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    I don't see what the problem is?? The rules are the rules. Can Nadal claim that injury stopped him from winning Wimbledon 2009, and claim the prize money he missed out on?

  • Comment number 18.

    "Common sense should prevail and the ATP should take the pressure off the Serb, winner of three of the four majors this year, by giving him a bonus anyway."

    What?! Why?

    That extra money comes from the extra demand generated by the fact that the world number one is playing in the tournament. It doesn't matter what the reason is, but his not being there means less demand and therefore less revenue for the tournament. There is a reason it's called a BONUS. No one owes him that money, and his not getting it does not constitute a loss to him. It is simply how economics works.

    Common sense should prevail, and he should NOT get that money. Anything else would undermine the very effective process in place to stop players from withdrawing from tournaments left and right.

    (PS: Last time I checked, we're talking about the guy notorious for giving in to injury too easily. Maybe that's a "painkiller" that could actually work.)

  • Comment number 19.

    "No other sportsmen have to play for so long so often..."

    Baseball players play 162 games a year (not counting playoff games), each 3 hours on average, and many careers go well beyond 15 years. Granted, not as much physical effort, but still, it's safe to say your statement is nowhere near accurate.

  • Comment number 20.

    waldovski how exactly have u really proved him wrong baseball mite last 3 hours but 90% of the team they jus standin in 1 place or sittin down n not to menion u dont even have to be in ny decent shape mostly their fat

    frankly thats not even a sport so u cant even compare it to a tough sport like tennis

  • Comment number 21.

    Trivia: Baseball players occupy positions 1 to 9 in terms of richest contracts in any team sport (only F1 drivers are paid better in any sport). I'm not a fan of baseball really, but to say it's not a sport is as ridiculous as saying cricket is not a sport.

    But hey, the hell with that. This is a tennis blog, and the conversation shall not be hijacked.

  • Comment number 22.

    Pacquiao earns more per hour. He does 3 hours a year and earns +£30m. Is boxing a sport? Maybe. Maybe not. It likely transcends sport.

  • Comment number 23.

    It is ridiculous to expect ATP to give him the bonus without earning it. On the other hand it will be degrading for him to willy nilly make an appearance in just one match to be eligible. There is more at stake here for a legend than just money.

  • Comment number 24.

    Tennis players in recent years have moaned about how how hard their lives are, and how the schedule makes it impossible. As far as I know they are under no obligation to enter any tournaments - the Williams sisters choices over their careers is just one example. They do so because they are greedy and play for the money, they chase the prize money and these ridiculously big bonuses. That is not to say that the ATP are innocent - their greed is at least as great as the players, so the schedule IS ridiculous and does cause injuries. However, the players act like they don't have a choice and I get a little bit sick of ridiculously wealthy, over-paid athletes moaning about how hard it is to earn their salaries. Yes, those salaries that run into several million a year, and that doesn't include sponsorship. Djokovic, Nadal and the rest - why not concentrate on becoming great tennis players and not just look for a paycheck, or at least stop moaning about it when you do.

  • Comment number 25.

    It's hard to understand how you can call it 'penalising' Djokovic by not paying him a million pounds for doing nothing.

  • Comment number 26.

    so he made 10m this year and 1 match can get him another 1.6m this season, how much will he lose from missing 1 or 4 seasons if he does major or irrepairable damage because of the pressure to play the one match? tennis is as bad as football for risking career threatening injuries

  • Comment number 27.

    Prolong the career not the year. I think he should rest up and conduct a proper rehab and then take all the glory... Grand slam 2012.

  • Comment number 28.

    What would I do? I would show up and cash in.

  • Comment number 29.

    i cant believe nole has won ONLY $10.5m ,winning 3 slams/majors,a record 5 masters series 1000 titles in 1 season, won 10 titles,43 match winning streak,lost only 4 times,beaten fed,nadal,murray a combined 12-2 losses(fed-nadal counts for 10 wins 1 loss)

    while major less no1 golfer donald has won 4 titles(1 big one ,definatly not a major though) and more money on the european/us tours,it isnt even a sport a mere hobby for the upper middle class,why does golf have more money than tennis,it is the 2nd most played and popular sport in the world.i just dont get it!

    they should give him a break,it isnt quite blackmail but it is a very tempting lure,not fair imo.i hope murray is fit for paris,but he has his eyes firmly fixed on london and 2012,good luck andy and nole

  • Comment number 30.

    I love the way it's claimed that Djokovic was 'forced' to lose his final set against Nishikori 6-0.

    People seem to forget that this is Novak Djokovic, a man famous for retiring from matches when the going starts to get really rough, and if he was even remotely injured he'd have done precisely the same thing in Basel.

    You are nevert 'forced' to lose a set 6-0. You are just outclassed on the day. Perhaps if I were to lose 6-0 to Djokovic in a set, could I say was injured too, and therefore the result is negliglable?

    Djokovic will attend Paris, and he will almost certainly wallop the majority of players in his way just like he did in Basel until he met the in-form Nishikori. There's little reason for him not to, it's not like his serving is off, so I can't see how he could possibly have any issues with his shoulder other than the need to make an excuse for defeat.

  • Comment number 31.


    yes nishikori played well,but djokovic has eaten players like him for a breakfast snack this year,he has given players like nishikori(actually ranked higher than him)over 10 bagels this year only few ahead of murray,at their respective levels djokovic wins easily,murray only gave kei 3 games including a bagel in the shanghai semis

    i agree injury is the biggest load of bull,if they are fit enough to step onto the court then they are fine imo,but djokovic looked uneasy and wasnt hitting or serving as hard as his standard,take the del potro match in DC nole only lost 1 set in 4 matches to del potro and he was losing,he was definatly injured there.i have made given out about djokovic and his retirements(retirement grand slam for djokovic,the us open is needed)

    but he has played at a unreal level this year so i think he should pack it up for the year

  • Comment number 32.

    Poor Djokovic having to face such a hard decision, especially after having earned a mere $10m this year... my heart bleeds.

  • Comment number 33.

    It's the fans and the tournament as a whole that will suffer - and surely that's partly the reason for the bonus in the first place - to get the big guns playing in these tournaments regularly?

    If he plays there's 3 possibilities: He retires part way through, he loses because he's trying not to push his shoulder, or he wins and retires - all are pointless for the tournament, and pointless for the fans

  • Comment number 34.

    Agree with the comments about the fact we're talking about a man who...yes is a brilliant player...but has a somewhat questionable 'injury' record. There have been a number of times where djokovic has been on the receiving end of the 'turning of the tide' in matches...but just goes for an injury time out to stop his opponent's 'flow'. This even happens when he's ahead and still palying well (US open with Nadal was the icing on the cake for me). Since djokovic is such a good player, this tactic often works...but if it doesn't and he's still not getting the better of his opponent...then he can either point back to the injury as the 'turning point' of just retire from the match.

    If he's injured...he shouldn't get the money. He will know by now that his ability alone is more than enough to earn him a living.

  • Comment number 35.

    What or who is this "nole" people on this blog keep referring to? Ditto "kei"?
    Stuff the bonus and get healthy, or else you will ruin your body and not be able to play again, thus not winning a lot more future money than this bonus.

  • Comment number 36.

    Personally it's all about greed! 1.6m for what? All he has to do is turn up and play for a few minuets, hit a few balls around and cash in! People who say " but he need to look to the future and what this could do to his long term career" Well i am pretty sure 1.6m will help towards his future! after all sports atheltes get paid for doing pretty much what they love! So i say turn up, play, retire inured or lose then go and have a cup of tea and a peice of cake and think what he can buy with the extra 1.6m! Pow!

  • Comment number 37.

    I agree in a sense, but I hope that Djokovic sees sense even if the tour doesn't budge. If he has an injury, he shouldn't play. Simple as. On a personal, selfish note, I would like to see him rest the injury so he is fresh for what looks set to be an exciting WTF.

  • Comment number 38.

    What would you do?
    Well, if I were the BBC Sport's Tennis Correspondent, I would feel that my employer has little interest in my sport and is partly responsible – along with, of course, the LTA – for the low and declining profile of tennis in the UK.

    Why do I say this? 5Live sports news (and remember, 5Live is supposed to be a specialist sports broadcaster): no mention whatsoever of results at the Paris Masters, although it is a second tier tournament, just one below grand slam status. Of course there is any amount of news stories about football managers who have said this, done that, kept their job for x many years etc. no results at all given today! Yesterday at least you were displaying the result of Sunday’s final in Basel! And no live scores either.
    It is difficult to imagine say the result of a Championship football match not being displayed until 3 days after it ended, yet this is how the BBC treats tennis.

    And all this on a day when 2 rather unsung British sportsmen (Murray/Fleming) achieved an unlikely and impressive win over the current Spanish Davis cup team in the doubles. How do I know? I was there! No way of finding out about it from the BBC.

    Far be it from me, Mr. Overend, to tell you how to do your job, but I would conclude from the above that your output and that of the BBC tennis team is held in little regard by the corporation.

  • Comment number 39.

    for love of money, or for love of sport?

    To toss the ball and retire, he should forfeit his earnings from ths tournament.

  • Comment number 40.

    Why is everyone apparently attacking Nole here?

    He did not make the rule that he gets a bonus for turning up and playing, even if he loses in the first round.

    Djokovic was injured throughout the entire Cincinnati tournament and the only time he packed it in was when he went down that first set against Murray in the final.

    Against everyone else, you could see he was uncomfortable, yet he pushed through and won all those matches - he was there for the taking throughout that entire tournament.

    And for people to suggest he gives up when the going gets tough - you don't get to world number 1 and win 3 slams by giving up whe the going gets tough - that's ridiculous.

    The tournaments and the tour set the prize money to entice players to enter it and for all those who call the players greedy, if you were offered $1.6 million to turn up and play for about 2 hours, would you really turn it down?! I, for one, would jump at the chance!

    And don't forget the hard work he has put in to be in that position in the first place!

    Nole can do whatever he wants, as far as I am concerned, I do not believe he would have any real mal-intention.

    I suspect the tournament would rather he turned up for 1 match and loose, then none at all.

  • Comment number 41.

    The real issue is whether the ATP wants to be seen as even more blind to the difficulties of the schedule than they already are. Surely this is a financial dilemma for Djokovic – it's a rare person who can turn their back on $1.6m – but is it worth jeopardizing his fitness for London? Surely not from the perspective of his career record, and that's what should be motivating both him and the ATP to find a solution that benefits all and offends no one. (Of course, as I write this it's probably too late to do anything, but in that case the ATP has sadly dropped the ball.)

  • Comment number 42.

    They should not overturn the bonus decision. The bonus is there for a reason, to encourage players to play in all events, rather than just the ones that suit their schedule.

    Sponsors and TV companies pay big monies to associate themselves with the tournaments and the bonus system is a result of those monies and to ensure as many people play as possible.

    If Novak is injured, he shouldn't play. Just because he has had a great year should not make him exempt from the rules. Longevity is a factor in greatness too, and it's clear Novak has had problems with this in the past.

    If he was encouraged to pull out by being given a fee, then gets himself fit for London? How is that fair on the guys slogging their guts out for perhaps less or similar money?

  • Comment number 43.

    If the ATP does not take action on this then Djokovic should make a statement that he intends to play, pull out after hitting one ball, pocket x amount (pro-rata to the respective $2m for 8 tournaments & $1.6m for 7 tournaments) then give the remaining amount to charity.

    The ATP need to make the call here and avoid the situation, pardon the pun, but the ball is firmly in their court.

  • Comment number 44.

    $1.6m for a game? Play a game and donate the money to charity if you have too much

  • Comment number 45.

    Oh dear... poor djokovic. I'm so glad i'm not in that immpossible situation... 1.6m or all his other thousands of pounds for playing a game he loves ! Poor him! i say lucky everyone else, us lucky folk that only have to worry about the silly idea of earning enough to get through each day and working our butts off everyday to do so!

    That sum of money is ridiculous and please can people stop making out its such a tough life for him! i'm pretty sure he'll get over it, which ever way he goes....

    rant over.

  • Comment number 46.

    So since August, we've witnessed a withdrawal because of his shoulder, an MTO because of his back, a very dramatic and tearful withdrawal in the DC because of his back/shoulder, non participation in the Asian swing because of these injuries and a constant reference to the shoulder in Basel.

    But because $1.6M is involved, he'll drag his poor, beleagured body over to Paris to play and pick up his "bonus" pay cheque. Well good for him, and I expect there will be not a word mentioned about his injuries in either Paris or the WTF in London, huh? He's already earned $31M in prize money alone, he lives in tax free splendour in Monaco rather than pay his taxes in his country of birth that he's so fond of publicly beating his chest about and proclaiming to love, so yes, I agree Jonathan that common sense should prevail. And common sense to an injured sportsman is to take appropriate time to let it heal, and put your body and career first over money ... which Djokovic already has plenty of.

  • Comment number 47.

    The risk of earning for just today is proportional to loosing all for tomorrow. Is it worth the stress? NO.

  • Comment number 48.

    No Pain, No gain. If Djoko wants the bonus, let him play. In fact he has played already as he won his 2nd round match in the paris masters. What is the cry about the tennis season been strenous? Just a reminder to all that Federer in his prime won more than 80 matches each in 3 seasons with a combined loss of 15 matches. what is Djoko complaining about? Fed played at least 85 matches each in his best seasons. Djoko cant get up to that as he will play a potential 9 matches till the season ends. Please and please let them all stop complaining and play tennis effortlessly like the Great Fed did and still does.

  • Comment number 49.

    Love this article and it's good having those rules. + Great response to Bodo's silly idea. I'm a Novak fan but I hate word 'injury' in his/this case coz it's not. Hurting shoulder, whatever, name it but Novak is not injured by any means. As for dear boy you're professional, right?

  • Comment number 50.

    How about he plays the tournament because he enjoys playing tennis and does it for a living? Even a Djokovic with a hurting shoulder could beat most opponents, and this is one of the most prestigious tournaments in tennis (After the Slams and the Tour Finals).

  • Comment number 51.

    mglinert - Could not agree more with your comment, the tennis section of the BBC website is a joke, probably the most erratically updated part of the whole website, which by the way, is a great place to come if you want to know what Tevez had for lunch or how Wayne Rooney's new hair is looking. Who is in charge of updating the website? Is it ol' Jonny Overend or does he just write a couple of paragraphs once a month? I shudder to think how much he gets paid!

    It's not just the BBC's fault, it's the whole country that is to blame. Here's a little anecdote for you's good. I walked into whsmith the other day in search of a tennis magazine, I however, was unable to find one. There were numerous football magazines, golf magazines, cycling magazines and even 4 different types of fishing magazine! But, there was not one tennis magazine. Who cares about magazines I hear you all cry; I care little for magazines but the fact that you can't even read about tennis nowadays in Britain is a stark reflection of British attitudes towards tennis. Anecdote número dos coming up...I was in Spain last year and guess what!? I walked into a tiny little newspaper and magazine shop and was bombarded by a vast selection of glossy tennis magazines, there were at least 3. Getting the picture?

    Basically, tennis is pretty much at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to sport in the UK. The examples of this are too numerous to name, I could try, but I fear it would very boring for more importantly, I do not believe that many people care! All I can say is, thank God for Andy Murray! What sort of state would British tennis be in without him? British tennis would cease to exist if it were not for Murray!

  • Comment number 52.

    and more importantly*

  • Comment number 53.

    Well Novak's played and won his first match and is on court for his second as I write this so I guess that issue's been resolved. What does concern me is this article's statement that there are 8 master's series tournaments.

    Indian Wells
    Monte Carlo

    I count nine. Novak could have missed one of these without penalty (and he did, the Monte Carlo masters) but the second absence in Shanghai cost him $400,000.

  • Comment number 54.

    Yeah, I agree with Kieranm there are 9 masters events in the year, Djoko missed Monte Carlo? Andy should be up for some reward - he's played all nine!

  • Comment number 55.

    There are 9 Masters 1000 series which carry the 1000 points, but Monte Carlo is optional and therefore does not count towards the mandatory number a player has to play. Participation at Monte Carlo counts towards the mandatory 500 events. Hence, there are only 8 mandatory 1000s of which Djokovic had played 6, so he showed up at Paris to claim his 7th and his big fat pay-cheque.

    Along with Djokovic's many references to the shoulder in his interviews and pressers, along with the MTO and persistent rubbing/moving/rotating of the shoulder in Basel was enough to try and display he had an issue with it, so don't try and convince me he turned up in Paris just for the love of tennis and to play.

    It was the money ... end of, and we wouldn't have seen sight nor sound of him otherwise ... didn't have any qualms about not showing up in Asia, did he? There should have been some honesty about it, but then a man rolling in millions wouldn't publicly want to admit he went to a tournament to get some more to add to it, would he?

  • Comment number 56.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 57.

    I guess money talks but it leaves a bad taste in the mouth if he is just manipulating the system and does not give it his all.


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