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View Full Version : Crisis in Men's tennis! What can the ATP do about it?


laurie
11-02-2004, 09:47 AM
With all the withdrawals from Paris and Madrid through injuries, what can the ATP do to ensure the best players play in the best events? They are having crisis talks and as you know the ATP has come in for a lot of stick over the years and this time is bloody well warranted. So, what suggestions can YOU come up with here to improve the state of men's participation in the top events?

tykrum
11-02-2004, 10:01 AM
Get rid of some lower tier events and replace them with these indoor masters. Have the US Open be the last event of the year before the year end masters, and then play the entire davis cup after that over the course of four weeks. Of course this is all completely unrealistic, but that is my suggestion.

roundiesee
11-02-2004, 10:08 AM
Same old story really. Too many matches, too many tournaments, no off season, lots of injuries to players towards the year end.....No sense talking about the same things over and over again if there are no changes made.

Max G.
11-02-2004, 10:18 AM
Reduce the number of tournaments the players have to play, make a longer off-season.

Rpp
11-02-2004, 12:33 PM
Anyone can decide how many tournaments they participate. If few players are not attending Paris Masters it doesn't make crisis. Season is long which is only good for the fans. Most of the players have some time during the year to concentrate on taking a bit more easy and training instead of heavy travelling.

Nalbandian should have been on final to qualify to Houston. Maybe that was not just realistic. Agassi were defenitely not injured on Sunday playing a tough match. I assume he is sure that Coria will pull out anyway.

Fee
11-02-2004, 12:56 PM
I agree that the season should be shorter. The Masters Cup should be decided by October 31st each year. I like the idea of moving the Davis Cup to the month of November and playing it all at once. The players might prefer that idea too. Wouldn't hurt to trim some of the excess employees at the ATP offices and bring back the bonus pool either.

HookEmJeff
11-02-2004, 01:04 PM
Sorry for the long post, but, I thought a lot about this today and wanted to share some of my thoughts. This is my first post to this newsgroup, and I assure you they won't ALL be this long!

I don't know if there is any one thing that can be done to save tennis with regards to this ATP situation, at least not without some drastic compromises. I certainly don't know if trimming the schedule so drastically (Like knocking two months off) is a good thing).
The sport needs weekly competition to keep it mainstream and is vital to building interest at this point. It simply doesn't have the fan base or financial wherewithal to survive NOT making money hand-in-fist like an NBA or NFL, which can stay afloat when games don't run because so much of its money is made from other properties and sources (huge tv and sponsorship deals, apparel and licensing deals).
The ATP has some pretty solid relationships with companies and sponsors, but really has no such thing as an apparel deal to fall back on in hard times, their agreement with Lotto notwithstanding. I don't see people out wearing ATP shirts and such like I do see them wearing Michael Vick jerseys, and that's just the nature of an individual sport.
Tennis has some other inherent "problems", not that I see them as that, but things that make it difficult to govern and run smoothly. Of course the things that make it so wonderfully unique (one-on-one competition, cosmopolitan nature of the game) create difficulties.
Tennis is a WORLD sport, and that creates all sorts of logistical and governing difficulties from running events across the world and giving them the same credibility, attention, importance, etc. It's also what makes it so beautiful, that you can have a girl practicing in Compton become No. 1 and be a major sell in a place like Dubai and the same time have a boy in freezing Moscow become a major star on the scene in the US. Whereas the big three sports in the US can survive in their US vacuum, tennis could never do that, and it shouldn't. It can make money (World Team Tennis), but, it could never be big-time or mainstream on just that stage. There's just a lot of people who want in on it, and a limited calendar and number of top-notch players to accommodate that.
It's also an individual NOT and not a team game. Boxing has to sell itself in much the same way, like a crack ***** when it's the sport's turn in the limelinght. And, when its few stars stink, get old, start sucking or have black-eye incidents that tarnish the sport (Roy Jones getting KO'd two times unexpectedly, Tyson's ongoing probs), the entire sport suffers. Tennis is much the same way, and this injury debate/schedule debate is the cause du jour.
When Ricky Williams, a MAJOR star in the NFL retires because he wants to scale the Matterhorn while smoking dope, the NFL says "SEE YA," and they can stick by their guns. Golf can be an "individual" sport and they can demand that their players show up because 1) Golf doesn't kill the body like tennis does, 2) The money is disgusting. Vijay Singh just became the sport's first $10 million dollar man PER YEAR. He also played 31 events! Why, because he could MAKE 10 million playing golf!
The ATP could never do such a thing, say adios to someone like Guillermo Coria (who had a drug scandal). They have to pander and cater like Mr. Belvedere to their few stars because tennis as a prime=time sport could never survive without its rather small supply of bona fide stars. THE TEAMS are the thing in the other sports, even if there are major stars on them. People are devoted to their Dallas Cowboys or Boston Red Sox because of the geographical ties that bind them, and that allows for a certain leeway or ability to rule with an iron fist. ATP can't do that. Luckily, for the US's sake, most of the men's and women's tennis stars are all pretty upstanding citizens (unlike Ricky Williams), many speak English and most recognize the need to give the sport a positive glow by playing as much as they can, maybe to their detriment
But, they're going to go where they get paid. The ATP might be better off by trimming the schedule back a bit if only to ensure players playing at Masters Series events and showing up fresh. Load the Masters Series events with INCREDIBLE financial incentives to play.
You can already hear a tournament promoter in Washington or Barcelona screaming if their event was cut out. Maybe a rotating basis of tournaments over two years is an idea? Is that really an option? The reason the ATP won't trim the schedule is there's no guarantee that Roddick would or COULD show up if he gets hurt at their new limited number of events anyway, so might as well hold one every week! The ATP already AUTOMATICALLY enters its top players in the Masters Series events and they penalize them heavily. But, what can they do if they get injured? They can apologize to the promoters, that's about it. You don't see the NBA apologizing if Karl Malone goes down in the Finals. They don't have to.
Since ALL the non-Grand Slam tournaments are run by the ATP (minus the Davis Cup), it's hard for them to tell the players NOT to play this smaller ATP event or that event (and someone like Federer is going to take $400,000 guaranteed every time). They're all ATP events! The ATP needs the players at as many events as they can possibly get them at to sell and promote the game, line their pocket books and make well for everyone. The players are trying to play as few as they can, and they'll take their one-night stands over the ATP any day, because A) their name's are made in the Slams, and B) it's not a drain to their pocketbooks.
It's such a push-pull situation, and, it's hard to see a compromise being reached or bridged somewhere.
That will probably never happen, either. It's been a problem since the ATP was formed. They tweak and they tweak and they do a better job marketing every year, they really do. They've made tennis even more of a world sport and they've made even more of their players millionaires and famous worldwide. Players just want more and more, like free agents. The more they realize they have the power, they wield it. It's been that way across ALL sports.
Something has to be done, though, clearly. The spiraling cost of tennis events (Masters Series tickets in Houston this year are running 95 bux for the CHEAPEST seats PER TICKET) will price them out of most people's pocket books. The tournaments have to be making gobs of money with bottom-figure ticket prices like that. But, they'll never reach casual fans because they are married to their football, baseball, basketball lifestyle.
That doesn't mean tennis can't be added to the fold, but, for most Americans, tennis is and will forever remain a niche sport.
Plus, you very rarely see a $10 ticket to anything tennis-related. I don't know many casual fans who will pony up $100 PER ticket to go see anything. Obviously, they have found an audience. The Masters Series Cup in Houston is SOLD OUT. But, Mattress Mac has been running that MSC commercial all year touting Federer and Roddick. You know he wants Agassi there somehow.
I really like the Masters Series concept, but the number of injuries at this time of year is really alarming. That's another problem. If a player gets injured in tennis, the show stops, it does not go on. There will be no Roddick-Agassi or Agassi-Federer final if one of them gets hurt. Baseball games go on whether Curt Schilling can pitch or not, and that's a huge advantage for those sports. It creates a star in his absence. Tennis can do that, too, like this week (Monfils' performance), but the parity that makes it so interesting it what kills the public perception.
The NFL and NBA have a similar parity with few dominant teams and a bunch of middle of the road teams, and it's discussed all the time. Some actually see it as a good thing. You never hear it viewed that way in tennis, because most people don't understand how a Gaston Gaudio-Guillermo Coria French Open final can happen and they get turned off because they have no idea who these guys are. And, that kills the box office, it kills the appeal, it kills everything...certainly the bottom line.
What is and where is the balance between organizers and ATP Players? It's going to be hard to find the answer there. One's going East, the other West.
I think the Tours really need to work together to create as unified a calendar as possible, and keep it consistent. I think that's half of the problem, is that most casual fans have no conception about the importance of Masters Series and Tier I events on the WTA. Most hardcore tennis fans know the prestige of the Nasdaq or Italian Open, but not the overwhelming percentage. They just want to see good tennis.
Roddick was very defensive this week about players' withdrawals and having the right to back out when necessary and not take the heat.
The ATP asks him to play NINE Masters events per year (roughly 11 weeks). Throw in Four Grand Slams (8 weeks) and a Masters CUp and that is 14 tournaments that encompass 20 weeks of his yearly schedule, assuming he plays into the second weeks of most of the Slams and the Pacific Life and Nasdaq-100. Players like Roddick will probably play another event or two before each Slam as preparation, so, that's 24 weeks and 18 events. That hardly seems like that's asking a lot from the ATP. That's not even HALF his year.
But everyone knows that Roddick and players like him have their own things going, and he's a lot more in demand for ancillary things from media events to charities, sponsor functions, exhibitions and such..and that certainly eats up the other 28 weeks of his year. Those things take up an awful lot of time. But they make him a rich boy, too.
The ATP must find a way to both butter the player's bread and bring the players to the table to understand that it's better for them to play their events than exo's and such. Don't know how that's going to happen without major amounts of cash, cash promoters will be reluctant to give when you get all these last-minute pullouts like this week in Paris.
The problem isn't in not the ATP's plan, I don't think. They could probably space out the Masters-Series events a tad bit better (never have back-to-back Masters-Series events), and that would require some playing with the calendar, something they seem loathe to do. It's hard to make something that is as inconsistent as a tennis player's schedule.
This isn't a tennis survival issue, that's a whole 'nother argument. This is about the ATP and what it needs to do to fix the problems that ail. It's such a convoluted issue. Wish I had the answer!

BigboyDan
11-02-2004, 08:19 PM
HookEmJeff,

Hook'em back atcha'.

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You said:

"The ATP asks him to play NINE Masters events per year (roughly 11 weeks). Throw in Four Grand Slams (8 weeks) and a Masters Cup and that is 14 tournaments that encompass 20 weeks of his yearly schedule."

There are an additional five non-Masters tournies that the ATP demands their players to enter per year; additionally there is Davis Cup.

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I think that the the two Fall TMS events should be scheduled prior to the US Open; the Masters Cup should be held two weeks after the US Open and end the calendar year. There is no reason that TMS Miami and TMS Indian Wells should be two-week tournies; their prize money is no greater than TMS Madrid or TMS Paris. Also, many of the present smaller tournies should be demoted to exhibition status and be played after the Master Cup, they'll get players. A forty week season total should be enough, with manditory play of 16 ATP weeks, 8 Slam weeks and the Davis Cup. But the main thing is to end the official year at the middle of September.

Vlad
11-03-2004, 12:01 AM
I think that they need to free up some space between big tournaments like Grand Slams and Masters. for example: Cincy should not follow right after Canada Open, Miami and Indian Wells should be one big masters series. Clay season is one big mess since there are like 20 tournaments in 6 weeks.. Wimbledon should not be right after French that is just stupid.
European indoor season should be shortened or eliminated at all.
Us Open should conclude the year..
So, palyers needs at least 2.5 month of free time (between seasons) to rest and properly train for a new season.. Playing 11 months out of 12 is crazy.

Max G.
11-03-2004, 12:17 AM
Yep. It all comes down to reorganizing the schedule.

Giving players an off-season.

Spacing the majors - so the Aus isn't the first week of the season for most players, and so that Wimby and RG have some time between them.

Simply requiring fewer tournaments of the players - then, though they won't be playing as much, they at least won't be withdrawing all the time from events they were supposed to be able to enter, and will be able to actually make a schedule that they FOLLOW.

bigserving
11-03-2004, 07:47 AM
I am not sure that I agree that there is a "crisis" at all.

A shorter season means less money for players. A more condensed season means more play during the hot summer months. A shorter season means that if a player gets injured, they have less of an opportunity to make up money and points.

It is not like there is a finite amount of money that spread over the season and that by shortening the season, the same total amount of money will be available. Each tourney has it's own group of sponsors and it's own financial resources.

More events pushed closer together will mean that even more players will skip more events.

Fewer events will mean less opportunity for people like me to see live tennis. I do believe that live tennis is the backbone of our sport at the professional level.

The only possible solution that I can see is if the ATP and the Player's Association work together and come up with a formula where all of the top players are expected to play maybe sixty or seventy percent of all the tourneys for the season. The points for the top players would be based on such a level of participation. If players play more than that, they would get the prize money but would not be helped significantly with ranking points. This would help with players who play lots but don't win much to be ranked artificially high.

Another piece would be ensuring expected participation of some of the top players at every event in order to keep fans and sponsors happy at all events for the entire season. This would mean working with the sponsors and event directors to provide guarantees as incentives for top players to play late in the season.

Another thought that I had as incentive to play would be a system where there might be a maximum points based on yada, yada,yada. Any points earned above that could stored and only used in the event that the players missed events the next season due to injury. It may not be the most fair solution but it might be something to give players incentive and initiative to play.

Don't ask for details or additional info because I realize that none of these things will be implemented and we are all just blowing smoke.

Marius_Hancu
11-03-2004, 07:58 AM
Look at golf, their scheduling and TV contracts and advertising.
There's a lot to be learn from.
They have a much shorter season for the majors, but many events in the offseason for those pros needing to earn more money or sharp their games.

Smashlob
11-03-2004, 12:11 PM
Look at golf, their scheduling and TV contracts and advertising.
There's a lot to be learn from.
They have a much shorter season for the majors, but many events in the offseason for those pros needing to earn more money or sharp their games.

Oh yes, they need the off-season for all of the tough physical exercise they do.

I am not trying to put down golf, but tennis players NEED a longer off-season, their bodies can only go so far, and unfortunately, they go further than they should.

Marius_Hancu
11-03-2004, 02:05 PM
Oh yes, they need the off-season for all of the tough physical exercise they do.

Tiger Woods and others from the newer generations do. And anyway , the point is about refreshing your body and mind.

Marius_Hancu
11-03-2004, 02:06 PM
Oh yes, they need the off-season for all of the tough physical exercise they do.

Tiger Woods and others from the newer generations do. And anyway , the point is about refreshing your body and mind in a longer off-season.

HookEmJeff
11-03-2004, 02:23 PM
The problem as far as the player's see it, is that they need an off-season to refresh and recuperate. The problem from a promoters, tournament director and ATP Tour standpoint is that they NEED those guys to play as much as possible to keep and drive interest in the game.
When mass 11th hour withdrawals like this week in Paris happen, the promoters are ****ed (negative $$$), tournament directors have to scramble, and the ATP Tour people are left with egg on their face because they essentially PROMISE that their players are going to be there.
I don't really see much more that the ATP can do. They've already penalized players with Zero's for not playing in Masters Series events. Apparently, it doesn't hurt their rankings THAT much, or you'd certainly see some people playing hurt otherwise. But, do they want them to show up, tank and bolt? It's hard to fine people for legitimate injuries, so, really, what option do they have, but to sit there and just go "Damn!"?
I think this week had a lot to do with the timing of the event. Agassi and Nalbandian's injuries were both pre-Paris and, with little opportunity to make the MC in Houston, why should they even bother playing even one more event when they both reside across the Atlantic? Let the off-season begin!

Jeff