Lopez expects smaller prize pools ‘for a while’

Lopez expects smaller prize pools ‘for a while’

PARIS • Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez has said that the vastly reduced prize money on offer for tennis players is the “best we can have” after setting up a Paris Masters second-round tie against Rafael Nadal.

The final ATP Masters event of the season started at Bercy Arena on Monday behind closed doors, just days after France began a second coronavirus lockdown.

The winner of this tournament will pocket just over 20 percent of the €995,720 (S$1.58 million) winner’s cheque that 2019 champion Novak Djokovic took home.

“I want to be clear. I think this is… the best we can have right now,” Lopez said after his 7-6 (13-11), 6-1 first-round win over Filip Krajinovic on Monday.

“We have to be aware of the situation that the world is living and how everyone is facing these challenging times around the world.

“For now, I don’t see any hope on prize money. I think it will stay the same for a while.”

Paris Masters tournament director Guy Forget has said that the event had been helped financially by the other Masters series events and the ATP Tour.

Organisers were expecting to welcome 1,000 fans each day to Bercy Arena, but instead had to refund the tickets after French President Emmanuel Macron’s decree.

But Lopez, the tournament director of the Madrid Open, which was axed earlier this year due to the crisis, admitted that players should count themselves lucky to be able to play. The ATP and WTA Tours were suspended between March and August this year.

Lopez, 39, will face Nadal today in his compatriot’s first match since winning a record-extending 13th French Open title and record-equalling 20th Grand Slam crown last month. The world No. 64 has beaten second-ranked Nadal on four occasions, including in each of their last two meetings.

In yesterday’s first-round matches, 2018 champion Karen Khachanov, the only former winner in the draw with Djokovic absent, lost 6-3, 2-6, 6-2 to qualifier Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Three-time Slam winner Stan Wawrinka beat Britain’s Dan Evans 6-3, 7-6 (7-3), while 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic defeated Felix Auger Aliassime 6-0, 3-6, 6-3.