TENNIS ATP BUSINESS AND LEGENDS ADVISORY BOARDS – Chris Kermode, David Hill, Matthew Freud, Tommy Hilfiger, Robert Senior, John Mcenroe, Boris Becker, Mats Wilander and Carlos Moya
CHRIS KERMODE: Welcome, everybody.
Just on the Legends Board, we’re missing one player who couldn’t be here today, which is Lleyton Hewitt. He’s on this Great Board as well. We’ll talk about the Advisory Board in a minute.
But really just to sort of say thank you all for being here. It’s very brief. It’s not going to be a death by PowerPoint press conference or anything like that.
Just a sort of brief overview of the year, I took the job up in January. I’ve traveled extensively around the world at all the events, all the Masters 1000s, the 500s and the 250s. It’s given me a great opportunity to speak to as many players as I can from the top down. The same with all the promoters and tournament directors to get a feel for all their markets, how their businesses are doing.
We have a very diverse tour with over 60 tournaments in 31 countries. Each are quite unique in their markets, their settings, indoors, outdoors, combined, men’s only, everything.
The sport is in probably the best place it’s ever been. That’s the great sort of positive starting point when I took over. Revenues are the best they’ve ever been for the ATP. Fans on‑site, record attendances. TV numbers are growing. It’s in a very healthy position.
But what’s come about from talking to players and tournaments is that we need to take a really good look at our business. No one has a right to stay in business, and no sport has a right to remain at the top.
You look at various sports over the years. I grew up as a kid watching boxing as my thing. All those great middleweight fights, Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, all those sort of fighters. The big fight night was something massive. It’s just died a death over the years where it doesn’t mean anything.
For me, sport is an incredibly simple business model. It’s about caring who wins over somebody else. That’s all it’s about. It’s got to be accessible. We’ve got to present it in a dynamic way. Kids now are taking in information and absorbing content in a completely different way to when I was growing up as a kid, and we need to adapt to that.
We just need to do this review of our business from the top down, or from the bottom up. I don’t want to treat issues in isolation. I want to treat it as a whole.
Through these discussions I thought tennis in the past sometimes has talked so insular and only amongst tennis people. I think you can lose perspective of what maybe light tennis fans or sportsfans are actually interested in now.
Sometimes other sports go, You know what, we’re not going to listen to the people in the sport, we’re going to go completely outside and get people who don’t really buy into the sport, but look at it from a different perspective.
I think the importance of today is that we need the two. We’ve had our first advisory business panel meeting this morning. It was genuinely fascinating. We have guys here from completely different walks of businesses, PR, marketing, brands, TV. Ideas were flying around of what we can do. It was just so inspirational because we have this great opportunity.
I think tennis is one of the greatest sports on the planet, but I want to take it even further to be the number one sport. To be creative, to be innovative is something we want to do with a fresh look from people who aren’t bogged down in sort of tennis politics or anything like that and can see it in a very fresh way.
These guys have been incredible. Past champions, their weight of knowledge, it’s inspirational when you speak to any of these guys. The history of the game, how it’s evolved. They’ve got such strong views of what the issues are and what we need to do to take this game forward, but can keep me very steady that I don’t go completely over the top and do strange things with the game.
What is so pleasing when I speak to these guys, sometimes when sportsmen finish, they go, I don’t care about the future of the game. These guys feel and know they have a responsibility to keep this game in the forefront of the public’s mind.
Really today was the launch of these boards. They are going to help me form a vision next year that I want to spend a whole year working on to where we can take this game forward.
The World Tour Finals here, we will have record‑breaking attendance. It’s really taken roots here. The crowds have been phenomenal. We have this great product that we want really to continue to make better.
I’d like to open it up to anyone, if anyone has any questions for me about tennis, the advisory guys, the legends.
Q. John and Boris, as two players who played the game in quite a different way to the way it’s played now. Will one of the things you think you’ll be talking to Chris and others about is, does the game need to change a little bit to bring more variety to the game?
JOHN McENROE: Well, in a word, yes. I think as a fan, just watching, it is exciting to see contrasting styles. I mean, obviously these players are playing at a level that we haven’t seen before.
But for the most part styles are pretty similar because of the technology, because of the racquets, the strings. Although Roger is starting to play more of a game than I would have anticipated sooner, but he’s playing it incredibly well. Shortening points, moving forward more, showing some great volleying skills.
There’s ways to do that, to change the game. An easy way for me, I haven’t hit on the court, I’ve called one match, I’ve only been here a couple days, the court looks to be pretty slow. If you made this court quick, it would obviously favor someone who had excellent skills at net.
There’s ways of doing this. I mean, just what Wimbledon did back in 2002. I mean, I sat there and watched Ivanisevic beat Rafter in a classic serve‑and‑volley match. I’ve watched Boris play many, many times. To me, one of the three greatest servers in the history of our sport, along with Pete and Goran. The next match I sat there calling the Wimbledon final, and Nalbandian played Hewitt. Not one point did they serve and volley.
So if you had told me that that would happen, I would have told you it was impossible. So I think clearly, as Chris has said, moving forward in the next 10 years, 15 years, it’s going to be difficult to predict. But I think we should be excited and try to embrace change.
I think in the past too often we’ve been reluctant to try different things and change. I hope that what you see up here with these two boards is a more serious attempt by the ATP and the powers that be in the sport to realize that we have an incredible product that we should be continuing to try to improve.
Sometimes we’ll try things and won’t succeed. But I think it’s better to try sometimes and fail than not try at all. So I think you’re going to see, my prediction, more of that in the next five to ten years.
Q. David, with your TV hat on, this morning when you were talking, did the subject of the amount of dead time in matches come up, the long warmups, physios coming on, toilet breaks, players toweling down all the time. Given the sort of changing viewing habits, particularly of younger people, do you think the whole thing needs to speed up a bit to keep people’s attention?
DAVID HILL: Absolutely. I think one of the great things about what Chris has done is, I think if any business doesn’t stop and take a look at itself very critically, you’re going to find that business goes out of business pretty soon.
I do know in television that as your audience changes week by week, I was just saying at lunch that our kids, 12, 14, 16, whatever they are, have gotten more things to do, more diversions, than at any time in the history of mankind.
I think that what Chris has initiated here with all of us, we’re all absolutely thrilled to be having a look at this, and the time is one of the key things.
We’ve seen what’s happened with cricket for starters. It’s kind of like that. As the world has more and more diversions available, that you have to look at ways of contracting or distilling what you’re putting out and offer.
So the answer to your question is yes.
Q. Chris, you touched on the future of this tournament. Can you just say how far along in the process you are, how it’s going to work from here on? The one‑year extension in London, is that something you’re considering?
CHRIS KERMODE: At the moment we’re looking at every single option. We’re here obviously in ’15. We do have a one‑year option to stay in ’16, which we have to kick in by think I about March or April next year.
It’s been hugely successful here, there’s no doubt about it. I think it shows the demand for tennis here in the UK. The two sessions has worked, which people were severely questioning when we first started.
But I also have sort of due diligence to look at where the other options are, see what offers are on the table. I think it’s a testament to the strength of what we built up here that there is huge interest from four other regions.
We’re currently in discussions and we’ll hopefully make that call around March, April next year.
Q. I know that businessmen don’t like to talk too much about numbers. Just to clarify from all around the world. Can you say some numbers what this tournament needs in terms of spectators, revenues? If I would like to come to you and ask, How much would this tournament cost to take in Italy, how much would it cost?
CHRIS KERMODE: It’s a good question, in terms of if it went somewhere else.
In the past, the business model for this specific event has been the ATP palming it off to the promoter, we take a fee and the promoter runs it. What we did differently here is we actually took ownership of it and ran it ourselves, which means that we’ve invested much more in it, things like the Fan Experience, the Fan Zone, the show production.
If you only have the event for two or three years, as a promoter, you don’t have that incentive to invest in it. If we stay here or we go somewhere else, I’d like to do at least a five year somewhere just for that reason.
In terms of numbers, this is sort of a $30 million business here. Last year over 260,000 people, we’ll do that again this year.
Q. You said you are considering other options for the ATP World Tour Finals. Between those options, there are options of surfaces. It’s always played on a hard surface that some players like Rafael Nadal don’t like it.
CHRIS KERMODE: Rafa I speak to regularly about this. I mean, it’s a good question. There is a school of thought that you could change the surface each year to be the season ending thing. There’s some logic in that. I’m not saying we’re going to do that in case anyone writes that. There is some logic in that.
The other side is it does end the swing of indoor events. So what we try to do, there’s hard court swings, clay court swings. This just happens to be at the end of the season that is the indoor swing.
I personally think it makes sense to do that. Again, open to looking at anything.
Q. I congratulate this fresh look, because maybe it’s needed. I’d like to know if you are thinking anything about the betting problems, the fixing matches, especially the minor events, the challengers and so on, especially because we all know it’s very difficult nowadays with the small points that you can get through the challengers for a young player to come up, to become a top 100 player. It’s almost impossible, very difficult. It takes years and years. Before, Mats was able to play Roland Garros at 17 years old. Today, it’s not possible. You don’t have almost one teenager in the top 100.
CHRIS KERMODE: One.
Q. That is one problem. Another thing I would like to ask is about, tennis is an individual sport, but even from a TV point of view, there are some sports like soccer with the World Cup, golf with the Ryder Cup, who have some major events, team events. Davis Cup is suffering. This year could be the last great final in Davis Cup because of Federer, not because of anybody else. If next year we have Croatia versus Czech Republic, it is an ITF problem, but the ATP could think, Why aren’t we able to put up a team competition in order to have maybe two weeks of great tennis on TV.
CHRIS KERMODE: Quite a few questions there. Where should I start?
JOHN McENROE: You’ve got to shorten these questions (laughter). There’s a match at 2:00.
CHRIS KERMODE: The gambling and the doping issues, any sport has to be vigilant. We are taking a huge hard line stance on this. I haven’t got long enough to go into the detail of it.
I mean, sport fundamentally is about being real. As soon as it isn’t, then it’s a problem. I think overall, I will stand here quite honestly and say, will there be examples? I’d be foolish to say there aren’t. But is it sort of endemic in our sport? No, I don’t. But we are on it very, very seriously.
In terms of the team cup and all that sort of stuff, you’re right about the Davis Cup. This will be part of all this vision going forward. Can we do team events? How? When?
The interesting one you said about the juniors, it would be interesting. When I grew up, I was a really bad player hacking around. Juniors would play till under 18, then at 19, they’re on the tour. That hasn’t happened. I’m not sure it’s a points structure thing. I think it’s the physicality of the game. These guys are now breaking through when they’re about 23, 24.
One of the things through that thinking, I’m just talking out loud here, maybe we look at sort of under 21s replacing the under 18s through that delay. Imagine if we had a top 8 under 21 event, with the guys we have now, Kyrgios, Kokkinakis, all these guys. Unbelievable athletes, have a story behind them, have done well in the slams.
Thinking about team cups, that’s going to go in the mix.
With the challenger one, again, we formed a challenger committee. We’re having a review of this. It’s the steppingstone onto the World Tour. I made a comment in Shanghai about how I don’t want someone making a living on the challenger tour. What I meant by that was I don’t want someone playing the challenger tour for 10 years. It is your university steppingstone onto the World Tour.
Clearly we’ve got to be able to provide that tour where someone isn’t losing money and it’s sustainable, but I want to incentivize them to go up. If you throw huge money at it, again you have a question of where is that coming from, but even if you did that, people get a bit comfortable.
You see it in domestic association, players from the rich Federations tend to feel way too comfortable. There isn’t that desire to get up to the top. You see it here in the UK and in the States as well.
Q. Chris, on the future of these Finals, would you consider going to any venue where you weren’t guaranteed selling out?
CHRIS KERMODE: No.
Q. John, what do you think about whether the Finals should stay in London or move around?
JOHN McENROE: You’re asking someone who grew up in New York, who used to play what I considered one of the great events in Madison Square Garden. It was a great history there.
It was very unfortunate to me to see the ATP, others mistakenly, in my opinion, leave there. They should never, ever have left there.
Having said that, this has been clearly the most successful of all the six or seven locations that have been since we left Madison Square Garden.
It would be hard pressed for me to imagine not having it either here or there. I suppose there’s going to be other people in the mix. I think that a number of you that I’ve known for many, many years, many of you know how I feel about changes in sport, things that we need to do.
Someone asked a minute ago about what our relationships would be with the other entities, specifically the ITF and the people that run the Grand Slams.
Mats was at the meeting. It was a little before Carlos’ time. We sat in a room when Hamilton Jordan was the ATP CEO. We were sort of in a somewhat similar position. How are we going to deal with the future of tennis?
All of us felt at that time that we needed to go, for example and I don’t want to get Chris in hot water too quickly, but that’s what I’m here for we wanted to go into partnership with the slams, the players. We wanted to be involved in the success, financial as well as the overall success of the sport, be partners with the slams.
Hamilton Jordan was the chief of staff for Jimmy Carter. The people that hired him in the ATP thought this was some brilliant move. It ended up that he was saying, No, let’s go start our own sort of Masters Series tour. Let’s not worry about that right now. We all disagreed with that.
A number of changes were made. I’m thankful that Chris is open to taking seriously some of the things that we’ve been saying for the past 35 years. Someone mentioned Davis Cup. I mean, we’ve been saying this for 35 years.
I think you asked me, Ubaldo, in 1979 about the Davis Cup final, Do you think tennis should have a World Cup format, something like Ryder Cup (laughter)?
I think our biggest problem is we’re not looking at a big enough picture and are not willing to make changes. I’m hopeful that now we will do some, if not all, of that because I think that ultimately our sport would be much better off if we had a say in all these events.
What’s happened is the majors are bigger than ever. If you want my honest opinion, we’ve been somewhat marginalized. That’s not fair for the ATP or the players themselves and the people that blazed the trail to that point. We want to all share in the success and hopefully build it to a better place in the future.
DAVID HILL: Could I make one addition to that?
The fact that the three of us are on the advisory board is logical: television, marketing, PR, terrific. This guy is the secret weapon (indicating Tommy Hilfiger). This guy representing style to the world. He’s come from nothing and he’s created a vision that is viable in every country of the world. He’s passionate about the sport.
The fact that Tommy Hilfiger is on everyone’s lips, he’s flying from New York, flying back, he’s absolutely nuts, mad as a hat full of snakes, nevertheless he’s giving his time.
I think when you’re writing your stories about this, three of us kind of like average, over there anything but, but he is the little trick box.
Q. Give him a chance to talk and say something.
DAVID HILL: Ask him a question.
TOMMY HILFIGER: He just put me on the spot (smiling).
But, look, I am passionate about tennis. I grew up watching John and Boris, wishing I could even swing a racquet nearly the way they did.
But I’ve built a brand over 30 years. The brand resonates in most every country in the world. We have almost 2,000 stores in the world. This is almost all I know, is how to build a brand. I really believe we should build a brand out of ATP.
When I go to the Super Bowl and I see them selling billions of dollars worth of merchandise, I say to Chris and the gang, Where’s the merchandise? There should be incredible tennis merchandise from Nike, from adidas, from Wilson, from all of the companies, to sell to the fans, so we could have fans all over the world wearing clothes like their heroes are wearing on the courts.
I really believe that’s a tremendous opportunity. But I also love the inspiration of this group. We had an incredible meeting this morning. The ideas were flying around about everything from evolving the rules.
DAVID HILL: A lot about doubles.
TOMMY HILFIGER: A lot about doubles.
I think the world has to get to know the players better. I think the players themselves are stars, but they need to be more exposed to the world as real stars. Then the fan bases grow and become more fanatical about the stars and the sport.
Thank you for putting me on the spot, David (laughter).
CHRIS KERMODE: Thank you very much. I just hope that in four, five years’ time, I’m not sitting here and John says, Yeah, actually that guy didn’t deliver what he promised. So hopefully with the two of us, we’re going to have some really exciting times.
I would like to hear from you guys, as well. I know some of you really, really well. But to help us to hear from your point of view of how we can help you to tell our story much better.
Thank you very much.
Fabio Fognini Hits Out At ‘Inexplicable’ Disqualification From Barcelona Open
The world No.27 has protested his innocence after losing his temper over a call made by an official.
Italy’s Fabio Fognini describes the decision to kick him out of the Barcelona Open on Wednesday as a ‘shock’ and has vowed to look further into the matter.
The 33-year-old was taking on Spanish qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles in the second round of the tournament where he was trailing the match 0-6, 4-4. After losing his temper, the world No.27 is said to have been verbally abusive towards a lines official and was subsequently defaulted from the match for his behaviour. The incident occurred over a line call decision which Fognini didn’t agree with.
On court, he tried to protest his innocence by telling the umpire ‘I didn’t say anything’ but it failed to overturn the decision. Leaving Fognini fuming as he broke his racket on purpose.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, the Italian continued to protest his innocence in the match and said he would ‘investigate’ the matter. It is unclear what he is referring to but players are allowed to make an appeal against any fine if they feel it is unjust.
“I’m really surprised with the ATP, especially the chair umpire and the supervisor, because I was here to play tennis, I was here to fight in the match, and even if I was losing, doesn’t matter,” he said. “But what they did to me was something inexplicable, so I’m going to investigate it, but nothing more, I paid for something that I didn’t do, that’s the first and clearest thing that everybody has to know.”
Zapata Miralles said he was initially unaware of what was going on in his clash with Fognini as he was focusing on closing out the match. Barcelona is only the seventh ATP main draw he has played in so far in his career.
“I was on the other side of the court, I wasn’t listening to be honest,” Tennis Majors quoted the 24-year-old as saying afterwards. “When I saw the referee on the court, I asked the umpire what’s going on. But I was focused on my work on the court, I was thinking on the next point, the next game, on things I had to focus on.”
Fognini has never previously been defaulted from a tennis match but he is no stranger to controversy. At the 2017 US Open he was fined $24,000 for insulting a female chair umpire and at the 2019 Wimbledon Championships he was heard saying ‘I wish a bomb would explode on this club.’ He later apologised for his remarks.
Zapata Miralles will play compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta in the third round.
Matteo Berrettini beats Marco Cecchinato in all-Italian match in Belgrade
Number 2 seed Matteo Berrettini beat Marco Cecchinato 6-4 6-3 after 1 hour and 21 minutes in an all-Italian match to advance to the quarter finals at the Serbia Open in Belgrade.
Berrettini broke serve three times and saved all three break points he faced showing that he is returning to his best form after an abdominal injury, which forced him ahead of his fourth-round match at the Australian Open.
Berrettini saved three break points in the fourth game before earning his first break at 30 in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. Berrettini dropped just five points in his final three service games to win the first set 6-4.
Berrettini went up a set and a break at 15 and never looked back in his next service games. He sealed the match 6-3 with his third break in the ninth game.
This year Berrettini earned three top 15 wins to lead Italy to the ATP Cup in Melbourne. Last week he lost his opening match against Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters.
“Confidence is something that goes away, it comes back. For sure I know that is my level. I know that I can play that kind of tennis. I work hard to be there, to be in good shape. It was obviously a shame. I work hard to be there, to be in good shape. It obviously was a shame. I was sad about my injury, but I know that I can play well on clay, on grass and on hard-court”, said Berrettini.
Berrettini set up a match against Serbia’s Filip Krajnovic, who eased past Nikola Milojevic 6-1 6-1. Berretini defeated Krajinovic in their only previous head-to-head match in the Budapest final in 2019.
“It’s going to be very tough. He is top 10, he is a huge champion. He is very tough to play against. I played him once in the final of an ATP Tour event and he beat me, so I know how to play. It’s going to be very tricky, very tough, but I will give my best playing on my court. We see how it goes”, said Krajinovic.
Felix Auger Aliassime battles back to beat Lorenzo Musetti in Barcelona
Felix Auger-Aliassime reached the third round in Barcelona, where he will meet Denis Shapovalov.
The Canadian needed three sets and over two hours to get the win and set up a third round encounter with his good friend Denis Shapovalov.
Felix Auger Aliassime needed two hours and five minutes to beat the Italian Lorenzo Musetti 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 hitting nine aces in the win and setting up his next match with fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov.
“It’s not always easy, to be honest, now I’m sitting here, I am happy that I won but things were difficult at some point in the match, I was facing breakpoints in the second set again and things got tight so trying to stay calm, trying to find solutions that was the main goal, I mean there was some ups and downs but in the end, I’m happy with the way the match ended, sometimes your not playing your best tennis but you gotta believe and have courage and fight through”.
The Italian got off to a great start earning a breakpoint in the opening game of the match but the Montreal native was able to save it and hold serve. At 1-1, the world number 20 was under pressure once again but hung in to save the breakpoint.
The Canadian got his first breakpoint of the match at 2-1 but this time it was the Italian who would do a good job of saving it. The very next game the world number 87 went back to work trying to get the early break and this time he was able to pull it off with a superb lob to take a 3-2 lead.
He would serve out the first set to take it 6-4 and a comeback was required if the Canadian didn’t want to be upset at the hands of the Italian.
The world number 87 kept it going in the beginning of the second set earning more breakpoints in the opening game but the Canadian would save both and hold serve.
The very next game the number 10 seed would set up two breakpoints with a stunning forehand winner and would break for the first time in the match to take a 2-0 lead.
The next game the Canadian struggled on serve and the Italian earned two more breakpoints and broke right back to go back on serve. At 3-2 the Montreal native would have another chance to break but the world number 87 would save it again.
At 4-3 the Italian started to get tight and the world number 20 earned three more chances to break and this time would break through to take a 5-3 lead and serve out the second set to send it into a decider.
Clearly the momentum was with the Canadian and he would earn three more breakpoints in the opening service game of the third set and broke to take a 1-0 lead.
After consolidating the break he would earn three more breakpoints and break once more to go up a double break. At the changeover Musetti called for the trainer and took a medical timeout to have work on his lower back.
The Canadian didn’t give in and after holding serve once again he would earn more breakpoints and break one more time and would serve out the match to win the decider with a 6-0 bagel.
As mentioned this win sets up a match with Denis Shapovalov on Thursday with both players meeting a total of four times and each player has two wins.
After the match Auger Aliassime spoke about the matchup and gave Ubitennis his thoughts.
“I feel like we played quite a lot lately and the past year so It’s always a challenge to play him, hopefully, I can play a good match, we can have a great battle but it’s always a tough task so I’ll try to rest and get ready as good as I can for the match tomorrow”.
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