Denis Shapovalov on low prize money and ‘depressing’ bubbles as he warns of more high-profile withdrawals

Denis Shapovalov

He still plays regularly on the ATP Tour as enjoys competing, but Denis Shapovalov has warned that the bubbles and low prize money are starting to take its toll as many players “don’t want to play at all” at the moment.

With the coronavirus pandemic having a widespread financial impact, most tournaments have reduced prize money since the Tour resumed in August last year.

Shapovalov, who booked a place in the semi-final of the Dubai Tennis Championships on Thursday, will only walk away with a cheque of $149,490 if he lifts the trophy on Sunday, which is some way off the $565,705 Novak Djokovic received last year for winning the title last year.

The world No 12 admits players are not very motivated to play because of the prize money, but many are obligated to compete by their sponsors.

“I definitely think there’s going to be a lot of withdrawals and a lot of people not going to tournaments because the prize money is low,” he said.

“In a way it’s not motivating to play every week and play all the big tournaments because there’s not really a lot in it for us other than the Slams at this point that are paying just as much or better, like in Australia this year.

“For sure, it is difficult for the players, but we’re in this situation and hopefully the ATP or someone can do something to improve the prize money and bring it back to what it was. We have other obligations from sponsors, contracts that obligate us to play as well.

“So for sure, that’s definitely one reason why a lot of players are still playing, because otherwise, I feel like a lot of players just don’t want to play at all.”

Another demoralising issue is the bubbles that players have to stay in at tournaments with Shapovalov admitting it is “very draining”.

Next week’s Miami Open has been hit by high-profile withdrawals with Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem both skipping the event.

Although the 21-year-old Shapovalov is finding new ways to stay motivated, he admits it is easy to see why big-name players are not keen entering ATP 500 and Masters events.

“I’m just playing because I enjoy it, I enjoy playing the big tournaments,” he said. “But I am also finding other ways to get motivated. I went to Doha and Dubai this year, which are new tournaments for me, so it’s exciting, it’s something new.

“And I am trying not to play a lot, just to stay out of the bubbles too because it is very mentally draining. And I felt that last year, by the end of it. It was depressing to be out there.

“There are ways that I’m trying to cope with it and for sure I think the reason why I’m playing, again, are contractual obligations but also I’m playing the big tournaments because I do love to play the big events and I do want to still achieve certain things.

“I want to win big tournaments, I want to go up the rankings but I think for the bigger guys it’s not really motivating. They’ve been there, they’ve won Masters, they’ve won Slams, so they don’t have a reason to go and play.”

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