Tennis player Mitchell Krueger - ranked 195th in the world - seeks unemployment benefits

Players and coaches in lower levels of the game face uncertain future

FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2019, file photo, United States' Mitchell Krueger reaches for a backhand return to Serbia's Novak Djokovic during their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia. Some professional tennis players and coaches are having a hard time financially right now because of the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike their counterparts in team sports, they do not have regular salaries.(AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)

Loss of income due the coronavirus pandemic has already had a big impact on tennis player Mitchell Krueger, who has started to look for unemployment benefits.

The 26-year-old American wants to sign up for assistance but has failed so far; over the last two weeks the Dallas resident has tried, unsuccessfully, to contact the Texas Workforce Commission.

While Krueger is a professional athlete, ranked 195th in the world, he doesn’t receive a salary. He, like hundreds of players and coaches like him, need tournaments to happen so they can earn money.

While superstars like Roger Federer and Serena Williams have millions of dollars in the bank, players like Krueger face an uncertain future.

“You’re going to have a lot of players who feel they can’t survive, not making any money," Krueger told the Associated Press.

"After a while, they might get into something else, for what they think will be the meantime. Then maybe they realise, ‘Hey, this is actually better.’ If this goes on for the next nine months, who’s to say that they’re even going to bother trying to come back and play again?” said Krueger, who earned a little under $40,000 (Dh146,000) in prize money in 2020 before expenses.

“I would be lying if I said this whole situation hasn’t made me give a little bit of consideration to what I would do.”

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Djokovic against vaccinations

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David Haggerty, the International Tennis Federation president, had earlier said the game's governing bodies are “collaborating on a tennis solidarity fund that will assist some lower-ranked players.”

The men’s and women’s tours declined to offer specifics, other than to say they will administer the fund, which is expected to top $6 million. Separately, WTA CEO Steve Simon said his tour “delivered over $3 million in benefits since the suspension of play began,” without saying exactly where that money came from or where it went.

Novak Djokovic, who leads the ATP player council, has talked about using donations from other players to help those ranked outside the top 200. But that might not go far enough.

The 125th-ranked woman, Katarzyna Kawa of Poland, earned $22,944 in prize money in 2020; the 175th-ranked man, Carlos Taberner of Spain, $34,114.

“We are such a global sport, with people traveling all over from everywhere and to everywhere, so I don’t see how it’s going to be easy for us to resume,” said 111th-ranked Denis Kudla, a 27-year-old based in Virginia, with about $45,000 in 2020 earnings. “I could be wrong. I hope I’m wrong.”

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