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$6M virus relief fund for about 800 tennis players announced

FILE - In this Feb. 28, 2020, file photo, John Isner of the U.S., front, returns a ball in his semifinal match against Taylor Fritz of the U.S. at the Mexican Tennis Open in Acapulco, Mexico. According to an email obtained by The Associated Press on Monday, May 4, the WTA and ATP professional tours, the groups that run the four Grand Slam tournaments and the International Tennis Federation are expected to establish eligibility rules that will factor in the players’ rankings and past prize money earnings. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

More than $6 million has been raised by the governing bodies of tennis for a relief fund aimed at helping 800 players deal with the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The WTA and ATP tours, the International Tennis Federation and the groups that run the four Grand Slam tournaments announced Tuesday that they have formed the “Player Relief Programme.”

The Associated Press reported details of the plan Monday.

The seven groups said the money will be divided evenly among women and men, and will go to singles and doubles players. They also said the WTA and ATP will oversee the distribution of the money, based on eligibility requirements that “will take into account a player’s ranking as well as previous prize money earnings, according to criteria agreed by all stakeholders.”

Those criteria were not announced.

A total of $6 million distributed to 800 players works out to an average of $7,500 per recipient.

“Tennis has united in a time of crisis,” tweeted Billie Jean King, a 12-time Grand Slam singles champion who led the push to form a professional tour for women in the 1970s.

Tuesday’s statement referred to “opportunities for additional contributions to follow,” adding that “funds raised through initiatives such as auctions, player donations, virtual tennis games and more … are welcomed.”

Most professional tennis players rely on playing in tournaments for income, and all sanctioned events — more than 30 — have been scrapped since early March until at least mid-July because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Wimbledon, for example, was canceled for the first time in 75 years, while the start of the French Open has been postponed from May until September.

The organizers of the U.S. Open, scheduled to begin in New York in late August, have said they are exploring various options and expect to make a determination sometime in June as to whether that tournament will be held at all.