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-   -   Q&A with Weller Evans, ATP Tour manager (http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=46829)

TW Staff 08-31-2005 02:04 PM

Q&A with Weller Evans, ATP Tour manager
 
Weller: I want to thank DEUCE and all the other TW readers for their patience during this busy US Open Series Summer of Tennis. By the way, if DEUCE wants to discuss the "contributions" of a certain Lou Noritz to the men's tennis circuit, I would be happy to do that off-line, as I would not want to waste the other readers' time.

Posted by NoBadMojo:
Q: Has the ATP Tour given any thought to incorporating any HarTru events into the mix? With players taking a beating and the ball flying so fast out there, wouldnít harTru be a solution to slow things down a bit and to keep the players healthier and the tour more marketable? Players must be tired coming into the summer US hardcourt season, and then get beaten up pretty badly with the hardcourts, the heat, and the humidity. I think a faster HarTru setup would showcase the playerís skills better and extend their careers, etc. Kinda like the NFL has gone more back to the natural turf.?


Weller
A: The simplest answer to this question is that the surfaces of the Grand Slams dictate the composition of the rest of the tennis calendar as they are its cornerstones. Through 1974 when the US Open was held on grass, there was a flourishing summer grass court circuit in the Northeast at such traditional venues as The Meadow Club, Merion, Longwood, Orange Lawn, Seabright and others. Likewise, in Australia before the Australian Open moved to Melbourne Park from its grass court home at Kooyong in 1988. When the US Open moved to Har-tru from 1975-77, the summer in the
States became almost exclusively clay as my friend Ed (NoBadMojo) will remember (as do I) the Monday night finals of Longwood, Washington, etc. on PBS. Despite the US Open moving to the hard courts of Flushing in 1978, this clay circuit lingered until the mid-80's when the summer promoters finally switched to hard courts, hoping that more recognizable American names might prevail on the hard courts over the clay savvy Europeans and South Americans. Finally, in the early 1990's, the USTA pushed for a mini clay court swing in the US during the spring which had as one of its stated goals, to help develop more American players with all-around games. The events were consistently overshadowed by the European clay events (Monte Carlo, Hamburg, Rome to name just the ATP Masters Series events in that time of year) and so now only the US Clay Court Championships in Houston and the Bermuda challenger remain. So, as you can see, in a calendar full of events (and we will address NORTH's off season question shortly), there is little room for events to be played on surfaces other than those on which the majors are held.

TW Staff 08-31-2005 02:07 PM

What is the ATP opinion on the International Men's Tennis Association?
 
Posted By equinox:
Q: What is the ATP opinion on the International Men's Tennis Association? Will the ATP consider and implement the proposals brought forth by the IMTA?


Weller:
A: In response to EQUINOX's question, let me address the IMTA in general and then maybe you can enlighten me as to what specific initiatives of theirs you are referring. At first, when I heard that some players were taking steps to become better informed about their sport and become more involved in the game outside of the white lines, I was encouraged. Not since the evolution of the ATP into the very unique partnership (more later) called the ATP Tour in 1990 had the players, on the surface, looked to take such responsibility. However, it became apparent very quickly that the motives of the few behind the movement were less than pure. Those involved were either looking to "grandstand" (the lawyers) or had a personal vendetta. Their tactics were misrepresentation and their limited yet often exaggerated support came from preying upon the habitually oblivious or exploiting the determinedly disgruntled segment of the playing population (ie. some doubles players who felt increasingly disenfranchised or those players who the Tour had unfortunately been forced to sanction or penalize). Their interest in establishing a "player union" was not only unnecessary but demonstrated a fundamental lack of understanding of the partnership which is the ATP, a unique entity in professional sport. Instead of going into detail in this forum, let me just say that other professional athletes can only dream about having as much input into the way their sport is conducted.

TW Staff 08-31-2005 02:17 PM

Player accessibility
 
Posted by jaap deboeck
Q: Will star players be somewhat visible during the 2 weeks per year that NYC gets to see a top 100 pro player, or will they wave to the fans briefly on their way off ythe court disappearing into the void that the pros inhabit? Mr. VP, you can't have a sport prosper where pros are rarely encountered in the flesh by fans in major sports centers. Think about it!

Weller
A: As a fan of other sports, I hear you JAAP DEBONECK about wanting more accessibility to the players, especially our marquee attractions. With the introduction of the player initiated STARS Program in the mid-1990's, the ATP has attempted to bring the players together with fans and sponsors more than ever was done in the past (and as far as
Jimmy or Mac talking about all they gave back to the game while they were playing...as one who was there, they are either suffering from selective amnesia or revisionist history syndrome). Yes, Jimmy energized the crowd while on the court but it wasn't until he had a piece of the action on the senior tour that he became a "corporate animal" in addition to a "competitive animal". Along with the Tennis Channel and others, the ATP is also breaking new ground by producing behind the scenes DVDs like "Tennis Masters Cup, Uncovered" and "Facing Federer" and our players are much more comfortable than ever before sharing their thoughts minutes before televised matches. Plus, none of the other sports I follow allow me to mingle around the grounds as close to and even bump into world-class athletes as tennis does, even at the ATP Masters Series level. Admittedly, given the magnitude, hectic ness and pressures of the majors like in Flushing, this potential interaction on the grounds is limited but pick any other spot, even the Masters Series, and rubbing elbows with a top tennis professional is not uncommon, as I am sure other TW regulars can attest and have even documented in this forum.

NoBadMojo 09-01-2005 03:17 PM

thank you for the reply Weller. Ed

tangies08 09-01-2005 09:59 PM

thanks for taking the time to listen

TW Staff 09-05-2005 08:38 AM

Electronic line calling
 
Posted By joesixtoe:
Q: If shot spot is going to happen,, what about the low level courts at arena's? like courts other than the center court,, how can shot spot be done for those courts?

Posted By nedmo
Q: Mr. Evans,
Do most of the players on tour feel that some sort of computerized line-calling system would be appropriate at the present time, and, if so, has the ATP acted on their volitions by taking steps to implement some sort of system?

Weller
A: Perhaps JOESIXTOE and NEDMO heard Mary Carillo briefly address electronic line calling during the third set of Agassi vs. Berdych on Saturday. In 2002, the ATP, along with the WTA and the ITF (who are responsible for the rules of tennis) formed a joint technical committee to evaluate and certify electronic line calling systems. Many of you are familiar with "SpotShot" and the "IBM Tracker" which are used for television enhancement and your entertainment without being "officiating quality" accurate. However, for any electronic line calling system to be certified, it must be accurate (obviously), objective (determining whether the ball is in or out with no chair umpire judgment involved) and virtually instantaneous with the result delivered quickly and conveniently. Beginning with the 2004 US Open there have been several testing sessions and believe me, had any of the systems come close to meeting the criteria above, the US Open would have put it in place on the show courts (Ashe, Armstrong and Grandstand) for this year's event. They were very anxious to do it but we are just not there yet. The computer generated graphics may be very slick and colorful and Brad
Gilbert may elect to put his faith in the systems as they currently operate but the bottom line is that they are just not ready...close, but as all you players out there know, close is not good enough. Once deemed accurate, several issues still need consideration. One is the fact that these systems which utilize many cameras and computers are not cheap and therefore, especially initially, will not be used on all the match courts. Is this fair you might ask? Well, having used "Cyclops" (the electronic service line calling system) on only show courts for years without any backlash would seem to answer that question, although I am sure some players will raise an objection. The second issue to resolve is whether to allow unlimited challenges by the players, as is allowed currently in clay court matches with ball mark inspections, or limit the number of challenges. Even as the technology is being refined and enhanced, the debate continues with both players and even tournaments (Australian Open vs. US Open) taking different approaches. Stay tuned!

StraightSets 09-06-2005 01:10 AM

Thanks for the clear and informative answer, regarding the electronic line calling!

JRoss 09-06-2005 07:59 AM

Although itís a bit late to post a question, Iíll try. How are doubles partners matched up in the USO? Of course some play together regularly, but particularly in the mixed, thatís not true. Is it all up to the players and coaches, or do the ATP/WTA play matchmaker?

TW Staff 09-06-2005 03:20 PM

Doubles Part IV
 
Posted by JRoss
Q: Although itís a bit late to post a question, Iíll try. How are doubles partners matched up in the USO? Of course some play together regularly, but particularly in the mixed, thatís not true. Is it all up to the players and coaches, or do the ATP/WTA play matchmaker?

Weller
A: While the ATP Player Relations staff gets very involved in the pairings and entries for the Men's Doubles, it does not have the same enthusiasm for, or devote the same attention to the Mixed Doubles.


(TW Staff note: Seems to still be plenty of interest in doubles!)

JRoss 09-07-2005 09:29 AM

Weller:
If the USO men's, women's and mixed (?) doubles were moved to NH (in place of the singles), would more top players be willing to play? Good, less demanding tune-up; no singles conflict; TV coverage.

Mark Oakley 09-08-2005 04:08 PM

I know it's late, but I would like to ask a question....

I will be graduating in the Summer of 2006 with a BBA in Marketing. I would like to continue on to work with tennis. I am curious what kind of jobs might potentially exsist with the ATP, and any other random information regarding such positions. I love tennis, and would like to make a career of it. Since I am not good enough to play pro tennis....working around it would be great.

Thanks.

JRoss 09-09-2005 07:06 PM

Weller:
(Prompted by Steve Tignor's TM blog today)
Cyclops has never been tested, and we know it frequently malfunctions, and is eventually turned off. No human being is ever tested, but we know they frequently malfunction, without being turned off. But somehow we know that ELC is not accurate within X millimeters, 100% of the time, so it is not turned on. What is wrong with this picture?

TW Staff 09-13-2005 02:17 PM

A game for the seasons
 
Posted by North
Q: I have heard a number of players in interviews speak of wishing the season was shorter to decrease the number of injuries. Would this even be feasible? Has it ever been considered?

Weller
A: This is an issue which usually arises either at the end of the season or at the beginning of the new year as players return to the circuit and the first Grand Slam of the year all too soon from the holidays. It is also one of those debates where it is difficult to satisfy all players. For those who regularly play deep into tournaments and qualify for the Tennis Masters Cup or Davis Cup final, playing into December makes it tough to be ready mentally and physically for the Australian Open a month later. For lower ranked players who may not have played as many matches throughout the year, they are still looking for playing opportunities in November and December.
From a calendar perspective, the fall schedule is already compressed as much as possible. The Asian swing is limited to 3 weeks and six very high level indoor events have been squeezed into two weeks (Moscow, Stockholm and Vienna in one; Basel, St. Petersburg and Lyon in the other). These are tournaments which deserve, at the very least, to share their week with only one other event.
We also need to be careful not to fall into the trap of comparing tennis' off-season to those of other sports. While in team sports you play your team's schedule, tennis players can, to some extent, pick and chose what events to play and when to take time off. The individual nature of the sport allows them the freedom to follow their own schedule and create their own personal "mini off-seasons" or breaks throughout the year.

TW Staff 09-13-2005 02:20 PM

He ain't heavy, he's my schedule
 
12. Posted By Andy Hewitt:
Q: What is being done to lighten the load on the ATP players? I am very disappointed with some turnout for tournaments this year. There are too many injuries which to me anyway, makes the year end masters the only event that I like because all the top players take part. I hope there is going to be a way to keep the players healthy so all the top players can compete in top tier events.

Weller
A: User Andy Hewitt, this postscript to the previous answer should address your concern. While the tennis calendar is far from perfectly arranged and the international aspect and different surfaces make coming up with the ideal playing schedule challenging, players are their own worst enemy when it comes to playing too much. I have to chuckle when a player goes from a long summer in the US to Asia for one week, to a Davis Cup tie on a different surface and then to Europe the following week and then, as a response to losing early or being injured, claims the ATP is forcing him to play too much. The player has only himself to blame if he plays a schedule which, while making his agent happy, makes his coach and doctor cringe.

TW Staff 09-13-2005 02:25 PM

Shorter sets
 
Posted by Aykhan Mammadov:
Q: Any plans to shorten sets by decreasing number of games ?

Weller
A: There was some experimentation five years ago with playing best of five sets to 4 games ("short sets") at the minor league levels (futures and satellites) of the game. The concept was that you create more critical, and therefore more exciting moments in a match. Predictably, as players are extremely resistive to change, this did not go beyond the experimental stage.
As you read in this feature earlier, there have been discussions about no-ad scoring and shorter sets in doubles. As I write I am watching one such doubles match in Beijing. However, the current experiment would not seem to go far enough in accomplishing the stated goal of making the length of a doubles match more predictable.

TW Staff 09-19-2005 02:48 PM

Working with the ATP
 
Posted By Exile:
Q: My question is how does one get into your sort of career pathway?
I know I'd want to be whatever it is you are....


Weller
A; I don't blame you. This job has been a tremendous opportunity for me to travel the world and work in a fun environment like professional tennis, a sport I enjoy both playing and watching. The handful of guys who have been tour managers (the most challenging yet exciting position in the ATP) over the past 25 years have all had a tennis background ...not necessarily great players but involved in the sport in some way, as a journalist or manufacturers representative, in tournament management or even coaching or teaching. Also, these days, an additional language to English is essential; Spanish would be helpful out on the circuit today, perhaps Russian or Chinese in the future. Had I been applying for the tour manager position today, there is no way I would have landed the job with ATP with my limited language skills.
So my suggestion would be that, in addition to all the normal tennis activities in which you are involved, try to become associated with any professional tennis event which comes to a city near you. Even as a volunteer, it allows you to network with those who are involved in the sport, an opportunity to showcase your energy, enthusiasm, people skills and passion for the sport.

TW Staff 09-19-2005 03:00 PM

Suggested improvements
 
Posted By GotGame?
Q: I would like to know if you are contemplating about putting any of these following suggested improvements for the game into effect:

- Permanently using models as ball girls, like was done at the Masters event in Madrid last year
- Bigger balls
- Smaller courts
- Adorning the backs of players' shirts with their names
- Sanctioned on-court coaching
- Elimination of best-of-five format - except in Grand Slam finals
- No let serves


Weller
A: MODELS AS BALLGIRLS: If they can throw and catch, why not? I'm sure you can find tons of aspiring models who want to run around in the heat and humidity of Indianapolis for a tournament t-shirt and some mac and cheese.

BIGGER BALLS: A fiasco several years ago when somehow the ITF convinced ball manufacturers, much to their chagrin, to invest millions in the production of a bigger ball. Never made it past the experimentation stage at satellite events and the premise that it made the game easier to learn was ridiculous (the lighter, oversized racket did way more to further that goal).

SMALLER COURTS: Please. Guys like Hewitt or Coria (who I am watching right this moment in Beijing) already make the court seem small. You want a smaller court? Play paddle tennis at Venice Beach or platform tennis at some country club in the northeast.

NAMES ON THE BACKS OF SHIRTS: If the clothing manufacturers think this would sell more apparel, then I am all for it. If, however, it is just to aid in identifying the players, anybody who cannot use the scoreboard to assist in this regard probably also needs that seat belt demonstration on the airplane.

ON-COURT COACHING: This was experimented with at a half dozen ATP events several years ago. Coaching was allowed at the set breaks. It was not adopted as the players expressed two reservations:
1) Not every player could afford a coach. A specious argument at best because there are a multitude of goods and services which enhance performance that some players can afford and others cannot.
2) Tennis is unique as it is one of the few sports where the athlete must think for himself as well as physically perform. Yet, while most players opposed implementing coaching, many accept it surreptitiously during their matches.

ELIMINATE BEST OF FIVE SET MATCHES: I believe sometime down the road (maybe not anytime soon, however) Grand Slams will have to face this issue. In today's climate of short attention spans and hundreds of choices at the click of your remote control, who but the hard-core tennis fan(atic) sits and watches an ENTIRE five set match. Come on now, as compelling as it was, who out there saw every point of the Blake-Agassi match, an instant classic?

ELIMINATE THE LET: A logical move. Why is it acceptable to have a lucky let cord during a point but not on a serve one shot before? In addition, it would add excitement to the game, especially if both players could return the let serve in doubles (as in World Team Tennis). More players are open minded to this change than 10 years ago.

As great as the game of professional tennis is, it needs to constantly evolve to keep pace with other professional sports which do. Since the tie-break was introduced over 35 years ago, what other innovations have been made? Yellow balls? Modifying the first changeover in each set? Is that it?

We need to continue to enhance tennis WITHOUT changing the essence of the game.

GotGame? 09-20-2005 07:48 AM

Thanks for taking the time to answer my question Mr. Evans. I thought I was going to get a response with those 'big, serious' words, but you really broke it down for me in simple terms. Our sport has so much tradition that I agree that we should dare not change the essence of it, but as players evolve, the tour should do all they can to aid to keep this sport flourishing.

Exile 09-21-2005 05:07 PM

TY Mister 'E', for being such a good sport.

Marius_Hancu 09-21-2005 08:05 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TW Staff
ELIMINATE BEST OF FIVE SET MATCHES: I believe sometime down the road (maybe not anytime soon, however) Grand Slams will have to face this issue. In today's climate of short attention spans and hundreds of choices at the click of your remote control, who but the hard-core tennis fan(atic) sits and watches an ENTIRE five set match. Come on now, as compelling as it was, who out there saw every point of the Blake-Agassi match, an instant classic?

Sorry, you're totally wrong on this subject, Mr. Evans. Have you heard of being present, in advertising terms?

Golf is staying from 11am to 19.00 on TV, and no one is complaining of short attention span there. One goes in the kitchen, goes on a walk, comes back, the golf is still there and watched. Even intermitently, that is a PRESENCE, not an ABSENCE.

Try to stay more in the general view, offer more product, not less.

Same about all changes (no ad scoring), etc, which are supposed to make the matches shorter. And that includes tie-breaks. I want to have Pasarell vs Gonzalez for two days out there, in full view of the nation. Not by running away are you going to attract attention.

BTW, it might really help to limit the size and stiffnesses of the rackets. Think baseball, the pros are still using wood, not aluminum bats. I am not suggesting wood, but I am suggesting limits which would help the S-V game and the spectacle.

Now it's too one-sided and people are turning away from tennis for this reason. Don't you people in positions of power see this?


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