Known as the “king of clay” it might not seem that surprising that Nadal won’t be attending the 2012 AEGON Championships held at the Queen’s Club in London. Grass is certainly not the Spaniards favorite surface, even though he does have a magnificent duo of Wimbledon titles. Clay suits his defensive game much better and it’s true that the Queen’s club tournament follows right on the heels of his most successful event, Roland Garros. Perhaps if it were for any of these reasons then, it would not be so surprising. Instead, Nadal has openly admitted that his decision for skipping the tournament didn’t involve the surface or the scheduling
Nadal’s appearance at the 2011 AEGON Championships was far from successful considering his normal standards. He lost in the quarterfinals to Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The match was somewhat one sided and Nadal simply looked like he was out of gas. Players have been letting tournament directors know that they don’t appreciate the tight schedule that the ATP is enforcing. Especially for top players like Nadal, who make the finals in nearly every event they play, there is just not enough time to rest in between events. The Queen’s Club tournament immediately follows the French Open, where Nadal has only failed once to win the title in seven tries.
Despite all of these things, Nadal has been clear that his main motivation to skip the event is the outrageous tax laws in the United Kingdom. It is the only place that takes a generous cut from every part of a player’s income, including the money they receive from their sponsors. When all of these different costs are added up Nadal has done some simple math. His appearance at Halle will get him 750,000, a figure that is probably eclipsed by what he could gross at the Queen’s Club. Once taxes on his appearance, winnings, and sponsors are factored in though, the 750,000 starts to look a lot better. Taking a cut from what Nike provides is likely to be a big blow. The best tennis shoes don’t cost hundreds of thousand, but Nadal’s contract with Nike is undoubtedly a tremendous part of his income. Players in Nadal’s position may even feel ripped off, which is just one more incentive to take their business elsewhere.
Over taxation of athletes is an ongoing problem in the United Kingdom. Nadal isn’t the first player to pass up an event because of the taxes, and he won’t be the last. What the United Kingdom should be worried about is pushing away players like Nadal. If other tennis stars follow the example that Nadal has set, they will soon find that they are losing tremendous talent and potential sales at their smaller events. They still have Wimbledon of course, which no one is going to boycott, but other smaller events might begin to see problems in top player attendance.
With almost half a year before the next Wimbledon tournament it is possible we will see more players pulling out of the AEGON tournament. Nadal has set an example for famous tennis players everywhere. Large appearance fees can be obtained from other big tournaments as well, not just the main ones held in the United Kingdom.