Lee & Hesh better learn to settle for less
Chennai organisers now feel that since the two won’t get any money elsewhere to just show up, they had better learn to settle for the smaller amount or take a hike.india Updated: Jan 07, 2010 01:10 IST
A half-empty stadium watched Robin Soderling exit the Chennai Open. His appearance money is speculated to be in the vicinity of $150,000 (Rs 69 lakh). Sure, a world number eight needs to be paid that kind of money to get him to Chennai instead of heading for Qatar or Brisbane — the two other Tour events running this week. Mahesh Bhupathi is world number seven in doubles. Chennai is paying him only $10,000 (Rs 4.6 lakh) as appearance money this year. Paes was offered the same.
There’s a bit of a mismatch here. Bhupathi and Leander Paes have far more attraction for an Indian crowd than perhaps even what Soderling has. After all, they too are two of the best proponents of their craft in the world.
This was not the case till this year. Our star doubles players got in the vicinity of $30,000 for showing up at Chennai last year. That’s because IMG was handling all the appearance money related deals till last year. From the 2010 edition, Tamil Nadu Tennis Association is looking to deal with the Indians directly.
The body has drastically cut back on the money that India’s doubles stars were getting. On the flip side, a novel initiative has been launched with even wildcards like Rohan Bopanna, Somdev Devvarman and Yuki Bhambri getting an amount of $5,000 (Rs 2.3 lakh) each for coming to Chennai.
It is indeed laudable to help the younger players by giving them something that they can plough back into their games. But this defies commercial logic. As of now, the younger lot just does not have the drawing power of India’s veteran doubles stars. The stadium comes alive when Paes or Bhupathi step out. Bopanna and Bhambri hardly excite similar fervour. Also, an incentive appearance fee to wildcards who are looking to break into the big league is an unheard-of situation.
To put things in perspective, Paes and Bhupathi get small amounts to play for the country in Davis Cup, Asian Games and Olympics. In fact the national federation is extremely tardy in clearing Davis Cup related expenses of our players. Payments, if and when they are made at all, can take close to a year to come through. It’s the Tour which provides our professional players with their bread and butter. And let’s not forget that they have invested crores to reach the level that they have.
Chennai organisers now feel that since the two won’t get any money elsewhere to just show up, they had better learn to settle for the smaller amount or take a hike. It will be interesting to see how this issue pans out in the future if Devvarman, Bhambri or Sanam Singh turns into a top-notch player. But for now, appearance money in Chennai for Indian players is turning into a charity dole regardless of their commercial value to the tournament.