Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou says coronavirus has given tennis the opportunity to examine a “revolting” truth and has urged the sport at a professional level to change for the better.

The mentor for the 23-time grand slam singles champion said the global pandemic has highlighted how “dysfunctional” tennis is because of the huge discrepancy in earnings between the biggest stars and those below them.

Mouratoglou believes the lack of support for lower-ranked players who don’t enjoy anywhere near the same financial benefits as the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal is a blight on the game and needs to be fixed.

With coronavirus putting a stop to the ATP and WTA tours and forcing majors to be cancelled and postponed, the renowned coach is fearful players who need to fund their own careers will be lost to the game entirely.

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In an open letter posted on social media today, Mouratoglou wrote: “Players ranked outside the top 100 are barely breaking even and most of them are forced to fund their careers to keep playing professionally. Their lives are a financial struggle.

“Unlike basketball or football players, tennis players aren’t covered by fixed annual salaries. They’re independent contractors. They’re paying for their travels. They’re paying fixed salaries to their coaching staff, while their own salaries depend on the number of matches they win.

“I find it revolting that the 100th-best player of one of the most popular sports in the world – followed by an estimated one billion fans – is barely able to make a living out of it.”

Mouratoglou cited comments by former star Tim Mayotte and world No. 225 Noah Rubin explaining the financial hardships faced by lower-ranked players who need to play to survive.

Roger Federer earns millions, but not everyone is in the same position as the Swiss legend.

“So, what happens when players are forced out of work for an undefined period of time? Well, they don’t get paid,” Mouratoglou wrote. “Some of them are giving up on their dreams and are calling it a career.

“It’s been the case for too long. Although we have done away with the long-established male supremacy in the financial field, tennis retains one of the most extreme levels of inequality in any sport.

“The thing is, tennis crucially needs them to survive. Tennis can’t live only off its elites. The tours would atrophy.

“Because the tour is on pause for the reasons we all know, these players do not get any income, and unlike most top-100 players, they do not have any money on the side or sponsorship deals to live on.

“It is time to think about those players and help them, first in the immediate future, then in the long-term.”

Mouratoglou’s remarks come after world No. 371 Sofia Shapatava was so worried about the situation for lower-ranked stars she set up a petition on change.org calling for support from the International Tennis Federation, ATP and WTA.

Shapatava told the PA news agency: “I had many conversations with my colleagues and friends about their plans for the upcoming months. Lower- ranked tennis players have no savings and it is a very hard topic.

“Usually everyone makes money on the side by coaching or club matches or prize- money tournaments but, in this situation, countries are on lockdown so there is no way to get additional income. We have no security, nor does anyone take care of us.

“I am worried indeed. I am sure I can put food on the table. But nobody stopped bills and we still have to pay for everything every month, and it is very hard to do when you stay without income completely for a couple of months.

“And, even if I have some money, I know many others who don’t know how to support themselves more than a week or two. Also many people will quit to play as, after spending all the last cents on surviving, not many will be able to just go and travel again.”