New ATP president hears out 'vocal' players over schedule at first meeting

Brad Dewett acknowledges there are issues, including prize money, that need addressing.

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MELBOURNE // The new head of men's tennis attempted to calm the waters after rumours of a player strike bubbled up again at the start of the Australian Open.

A player meeting ahead of the first major of the year reignited talk of a strike over conditions on the tour. The main issues revolve around an overcrowded schedule and prize money at Grand Slams.

Brad Drewett, the new president of the ATP and a former tour player, said the meeting - the first since he took over his new position on January 1 - was no more heated than any other, but acknowledged there were issues that needed addressing.

"Certainly the other day, just like we've had any number of times, the players are very vocal about what's on their mind," he said at a news conference at Melbourne Park on day three of the Australian Open. "There is some frustration on certain points within the game.

"I heard the players loud and clear the other night about their issues. My plan is to represent their opinions wherever it needs to be represented and make sure they're heard."

Talk of a strike first cropped up after the US Open last year. Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Andy Roddick all voiced concerns over the length of the season and the number of events the players were required to compete in. However, Roger Federer has refused to join the debate, to the dismay of fellow players.

The subject re-emerged on the eve of the Australian Open when Alex Bogomolov Jr tweeted following Saturday's meeting: "A players strike here at the Australian Open?? YES SIR!!"

Drewett sidestepped the strike topic Wednesday, and instead focused on his plans to resolve the players' problems.

"A lot of the issues that are around now have been around for a while. They're not new issues," he said.

Part of Drewett's task may be to negotiate with the Grand Slam committees over prize money, which the players argue has not increased proportionately in line with profits.

Speaking after his first-round win, Roddick agreed that the issues were not new,but he said the players were now more united than ever before in the drive to force change.

"There was the exact same conversations in '02. Then there was a divide," Roddick said. "Unity is a hard thing to attain. While I think we have probably the majority, it's easy to talk about it, but it's another thing to go through the process and the work and the hours to try to get an angle."