LONDON (Reuters) - Significant reductions in prize money will be the new reality for tennis players when the ATP and WTA Tours resume, according to Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez.
"We have to understand that tennis is not going to be the same, at least for one, two, three years. I don't know how long," Lopez, who should have been preparing to defend his Queen's Club title next week, said on Sunday.
No professional tournaments have been held since March because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdown will continue until August.
Wimbledon was cancelled altogether while the French Open has been moved to September. A decision over whether the U.S. Open can go ahead in late August is expected next week.
Lopez, who is also tournament director of the Madrid Open, says that even when things return to some kind of normal, prizemoney will be reduced as sponsors try to navigate the economic fallout of the virus.
"The companies and the sponsors, they might have to fire employees," the 38-year-old Lopez was quoted as saying by the BBC.
"This is happening everywhere in the world so the first thing they cut is sponsorship, and this is going to be affecting tennis massively.
"We need to survive this moment and we need to be united. "The players need to understand that it's going to be a significant reduction in the prize money.
"I see now the scenario where tournaments will survive with a significant reduction in prize money -- not only for this year, but also for (the) 2021 season."
Lopez believes the U.S. Open will go ahead despite the reservations of his compatriot Rafa Nadal, the defending champion, who says he would not be happy to travel to New York in the current circumstances.
World number one Novak Djokovic has also expressed his doubts about the tournament going ahead.
"I think the U.S. Open know there might be many players that don't want to go and play there," he said.
"But I think the U.S. Open is not depending on only the top players playing. My personal opinion is that they are planning to have the event thinking that some of the top players -- I don't know how many -- might not play."
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)