ATP Business And Legends Advisory Boards Press Conference - 14th of November 2014 - UBITENNIS
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ATP Business And Legends Advisory Boards Press Conference – 14th of November 2014

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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.

ATP

Australian Tennis Great Passes Away Aged 83

Ashley Cooper is one of only 11 men in history to have won three grand slam titles within the same year.

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Women’s world No.1 Ash Barty has led tributes to multiple grand slam champion Ashley Cooper, who passed away on Friday.

 

Cooper was one of the sports best players in the years leading up to the birth of the Open Era. He was declared the world’s best amateur player in 1957 and 1958. It was during 1958 where he really stood out by winning three out of the four major tournaments within the same season. Something only 10 other players in the history of men’s tennis have been able to achieve. Cooper also achieved success in the doubles by winning another four grand slam titles. In the Davis Cup he led Australia to a 3-2 victory over America in the 1957 final.

Whilst his achievements occurred during the 1950s, Cooper did sort of have a taste of what it was like to place in a major event during the Open Era after featuring in the main draw of the 1968 French Open. He progressed to the second round after his opponent retired before withdrawing from the tournament without playing a single point.

After retiring from the sport, he maintained his links with tennis. Working alongside Tennis Queensland with their player development and was on the Board of Directors for Tennis Australia.

“Ashley was a giant of the game both as a brilliant player and an astute administrator and he will be greatly missed,” said Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley.
“His contribution to the sport went far beyond his exploits on the tennis court. His rich legacy includes the magnificent Queensland Tennis Centre, a project he was passionate about, nurturing the development from the very beginning, and resulting in the return of world-class international tennis to Brisbane.”
“Ashley was also the most humble of champions and a great family man. Our hearts go out to his wife Helen and his family, along with his wide and international circle of friends, including so many of our tennis family.”

Paying her own tribute, French Open champion Barty took to Twitter to send her sympathy to Cooper’s family. Last year she was presented with the Ashley Cooper Medal at the Queensland Tennis Awards. The highest individual honour that can be issued by the organisation named in after the tennis great.

Rod Laver, who is one of Australia’s greatest tennis players of all time, described Cooper as a ‘wonderful champion’ in his tribute.

“So sad to hear of Ashley’s passing. He was a wonderful champion, on and off the court. And what a backhand! So many cherished memories. Farewell my friend. My thoughts are with Ashley’s wife, Helen, and his family.” Laver wrote on Twitter.

The have been no details released on the exact cause of Cooper’s death, but it has been reported that he has been battling ‘a long illness.’ He was 83-years-old.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas Hails Laver Cup Participation Days After Jibe From Nick Kyrgios

The Greek tennis sensation said he was left feeling ‘emotional’ when selected to play in the three-day event last year.

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Reigning ATP Finals champion Stefanos Tsitsipas has labelled the Laver Cup as his favourite tournament due to the ‘magical’ feeling of playing alongside some of the sports greatest ever players.

 

The 21-year-old has praised the team competition less than a week after he and his European team mates was criticised by Nick Kyrgios. Who has played in all three editions of the event since its birth that sees Europe take on the rest of the world over three days. During an Instagram Live chat with Andy Murray, a slightly intoxicated Kyrgios said his rivals had ‘no banter’ before going on to take a swipe at the friendship between Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev.

“I am there with my best buds, trying to beat some European guys who have no banter, don’t give one-eff about each other and act like they care for one week which p*sses me off,” the Australian ranted.
“Let’s be honest, (Stefanos) Tsitsipas and (Alexander) Zverev hate each other, then they are besties all of a sudden…p*ss off.”

Tsitsipas, who has lost both of his matches against Kyrgios on the ATP Tour, didn’t directly address his rivals comment during a recent interview with Eurosport. However, he did speak about his enthusiasm for the event which has been scrapped from this year’s calendar due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tsitsipas made his Laver Cup debut last year in Geneva, where he won two out of three matches played. He played in two doubles matches alongside Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

“My favourite tournament is the Laver Cup. I love the vibes at the Laver Cup, we were all so connected, we came into the tournament as a union, trying to represent our continent and it just felt magical to be on the same team as Roger [Federer] and Rafa [Nadal],” he told Eurosport’s Hanging out with Babsi.
“I got to play doubles with both of them and it was a great experience for me. It was a dream come true for sure. As a child, I would never have dreamed the Laver Cup would ever happen – a competition between Europe and the Rest of the World – I would never think that would be possible but it happened and I got to be part of it. I got invited which was such an honour.”

Elaborating further the world No.6 said he felt ‘emotional’ when he was selected to play. Team Europe won the 2019 event for the third year in a row with a score of 13-11.

“Playing for your country is one thing, but playing for Team Europe – if you just sit down and think about it – you are among the best European tennis players. You get to be chosen as one of the top tennis players to play for your continent. That makes you feel very emotional.” He added.

After being postponed this year, The Laver Cup is set to return in 2020 in the American city of Boston.

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‘Money Talks’ – John Millman Issues Stark Warning Over Resumption Of Tour

The world No.43 has said the coming weeks will show if tennis bosses are willing to put money ahead of health.

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Australian tennis star John Millman has said the decision to start professional tennis at some stage will be an indicator as to if tennis’ governing bodies are willing to put money ahead of players’ health.

 

The WTA, ATP and ITF Tour’s have all been suspended since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic with officials hoping they will be able to resume the sport during August in North America. Meanwhile, the United States Tennis Association (USTA) are still hoping to stage the US Open later this year with a final decision expected to be made during June.

However world No.43 Millman believes the idea of starting the sport again in August is too soon given the global reach of tennis which requires players from all over the world to gather in one place. It is also unclear how the various travel restrictions would impact the Tour. Despite his concerns, Millman fears that money will be the decisive factor.

“I feel as if it is probably way too early to get back into it or even thinking about returning in August,” he told the AAP.
“Indian Wells, the last tournament we were meant to play, was cancelled because there was one case in the region. It is a bit of a contradiction if they say come August ‘there are cases around but you guys can travel and play some tennis’.
“But money talks at times and our hand could be forced, unfortunately.
“What is more important – money or the health of not just yourself but the community?” he added. “We will see what is tennis’s priority.”

Despite his own reservations, the former grand slam quarter-finalist feels that his fellow competitors may have no choice about returning should the Tour get a green light. Unlike team sports with contracts, tennis players are essentially self-employed. Therefore the majority of them, especially those outside the top 100, solely earn money from prize money generated from tennis tournaments.

“Unfortunately, when the tour says we are back playing your hand is forced a bit because it is your career at stake.

As to when the 30-year-old would be happy to return to the Tour himself, he said that he will need to be certain that it is safe to do so first. America, which is where tennis officials are hoping to start the sport, has more infections of COVID-19 than any other country in the world. An estimated 1.5 million Americans have tested positive for the virus which has resulted in 91,000 deaths.

“Players would have to be coming from places where the virus isn’t there any more and going to tournaments where the virus isn’t there any more,” he said. “For that to happen on a global stage, I think we are a fair way off that.”

Millman has reached two ATP Finals so far in his career and earned more than $3.6 million in prize money.

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