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Where playing for peanuts never enters the equation<br />Source: The Daily Telegraph <br />Publication date: 2001-10-31

<br />JUST across the road from the Palais Omnisports de Paris is a small bar called the Cafe Peanuts, a slightly incongruous name for an establishment dispensing beer at pounds 6 per pint, but nonetheless existing on the kind of profit margins a leading tennis player would scarcely consider worth getting out of bed for. <br />This week's Masters tournament may be hidden away in an obscure corner of Sky television's sports schedules, but one of the 48 players taking part will walk away with pounds 310,000 on Sunday for five days' work.

This kind of swag is on offer most weeks of the year, and anyone inside the world's top 30 would make a Premiership footballer look like a candidate for social security benefit.

This is the ninth and last of the qualifying tournaments for next month's eight-man Masters Cup in Sydney, where the money actually starts to get a bit more serious, and there is no sign at all of the gravy train running out of track.

While tennis fever in Britain is confined to a couple of weeks in midsummer, in mainland Europe people turn out in droves -13,000 on the opening day here - to watch an 11.30 am match on an indoor carpet between Albert Costa and Michael Llodra.

Tennis is also big in South America, where Marcelo Rios, of Chile, is comfortably his country's most famous sportsman, and where Gustavo Kuerten has a popularity rating in Brazil akin to Pele in his pomp.

Kuerten has a permanent personal press secretary, whose sole duty is to release daily bulletins on her employer's activities, feeding essential titbits to the media along the lines of what Gustavo had for breakfast, or whether his sore toe was the result of dropping his wallet on it.

Mind you, it is hard to begrudge tennis players the money they earn when you consider all the travelling they have to do - without, it has to be said, any serious evidence of it broadening the mind.

When Jennifer Capriati first came to Paris as a 14-year-old, she was driven around on a sightseeing tour and taken to the Napoleon- built hospital, Les Invalides. "Have you heard of Napoleon?" Jennifer was asked. "Sure," she replied. "He's that little dead dude."

It is also one of sport's essential truisms that the more money you earn, the less easy it is to spend any of it. Here, the tournament organisers lay on social evenings for players and "their entourages", provide medical care, physiotherapists, relaxation lounges, kiddies' nurseries, gymnasiums, pool tables, video games, and a "special area reserved for guitar playing and strumming".

Courtesy cars (Mercedes, naturally) are available to take them anywhere other than the barber's. All-male tournament or not, there is a special hair salon on site adjoining the changing rooms.

Andre Agassi would presumably not have been a customer had he been here, but despite the tournament regulation stipulating "mandatory" attendance, doctors' notes are not hard to come by. In Andre's case, it reads something like: "Sorry, Steffi's just had a baby."

Compulsory attendance is, however, taken pretty seriously in tennis, particularly when it comes to media duties. If you search through the tournament fines file at, say, Wimbledon, you will come across this kind of anomaly. "Trashing lemon barley water container, abusing line-judge, and embedding racket in umpire's head . . . $1,000. Declining to attend post-match press conference . . . $10,000."

Goran Ivanisevic, who has already qualified for the Sydney finals as a Grand Slam winner ranked in the top 20, played yesterday as though his appearance had not only been compulsory, but the product of an ATP hi-jack squad.

He ambled through the first set against the 20-year-old Swede Andreas Vinciguerra (he has an Italian father) barely querying a single line call, or indeed, on one occasion, an umpire's overrule.

He picked up his game enough to hold two match points in the final set tie-break, but still managed to lose from the same position he found himself in during the previous Masters' round in Stuttgart. In that match, by contrast, Goran got so wound up that he climbed the umpire's chair for a frank exchange of views.

He did not have his collar felt for that, but he did get fined for refusing to attend the press conference. Which is where we came in. When you have as much money as Ivanisevic, and you don't feel like talking to the media, what's a piffling $10,000?

Premium Member
182,765 Posts
Martin Johnson who wrote this article isn't a tennis writer but he does alot of feature stuff for the Daily Telegraph.

He's done an article each day this week from Paris.
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