VIDEO: ATP CEO Chris Kermode Protects The Future Of Tennis Through Innovation

Chris Kermode (zimbio.com)

When the head of the ATP, Chris Kermode, came up with the idea of creating the Next Gen Finals, he expected to face resistance and criticism from traditionalists of the sport. Yet, he refused to give up on his vision.

That vision turned into reality this week in Milan when the inaugural season-ending tournament for players under the age of 21 got underway. It is an event unlike any other on the men’s tour. After a shaky start with the draw ceremony, the event has provided glimpses of what men’s tennis could be like in the future with a series of innovative new rules. Matches are the best-of-five sets with each set being the first to four games. Net cords are played, sudden deuces decide games and players can communicate with their coaches via headset.

“At the moment men’s tennis is in the best place it has ever been, but we want to make sure that when the next generation of fans come, that they will be able to look at a product that we (the ATP) think will be even better.” Kermode explained during an interview with Tomasz Tomaszewski from Polsat Sport.

With the help of the ‘big four’ men’s tennis has blossomed. According to a 2016 report by the Sports Sponsorship Insider, the ATP Finals generates €21.43m in central sponsorship revenue. Almost four times more than that of the women’s equivalent in Singapore (€ 5.32m).

The new rules has been met with optimism from players in Milan. Some have even called for certain parts to be implemented on the tour. Croatia’s Borna Coric believes allowing players to play net cords will reduce confrontation in matches. A net cord occurs when the ball touches the top of the net before landing on the other side of the court.

“I liked the let rule, because it did help me a lot on the match point. It was really lucky,” Coric recently told the ATP website. “I think it should also be in the other tournaments, because I think we are having many arguments about what is it a let.”

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On the other hand, there is scepticism expressed by some of Coric’s rivals. World No.3 Alexander Zverev, who has skipped Milan to focus on the ATP Finals, believes the majority of the rules will not come to fruition in the future. Singling out the clock on the court and Hawk-Eye system as the only two he likes.

Kermode doesn’t express disappointment in Zverev’s comments. In fact, it is the opposite. Milan is all about trial and error for the ATP with the governing body openly admitting that these rules may or may not be used again.

“We’re not going to rush and make these changes because we think it’s funny. We’re doing because we think we need to look to the future.” Said Kermode.

Although, if it was up to the head of the ATP, he would like to implement one particular rule in the future. The format of matches which aims to make them appeal more to both fans and broadcasters.

”I personally like the best-of-five sets, first to four (games). Do I think that’s going to happen in tennis in the next five years, no. But I think it is something that we should be looking at in ten years from now.” The 52-year-old believes.
“I think the shot clock should happen.” He later added.

It is still unclear as what the future of the ATP Tour will look like. The landscape could be the same or the Milan tournament could be the first of many. Either way, Kermode is not fearing the retirement of icons such as Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. His faith in the next generation of players is both refreshing and admirable. A recipe for future success in men’s tennis.

“The talent of this next generation of players is so tough and it is ingrained in their DNA that they’re going to be champions. I think it is going to be an exciting time for men’s tennis. I think it’s going to be the most exciting next generation.”

Full interview with Chris Kermode

Note: Ubitennis has been given permission for the publication and use of this video

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