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The ATP plans larger draws, extended schedules for Madrid, Rome, Shanghai in 2022

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The players’ association CEO, Andrea Gaudenzi, has devised a project of 92 pages to drive the sport forward, including plans for a Masters 1000 event on grass, increased prize money, and investments to appeal to a younger audience.

 

The powers-that-be of the ATP are planning a revised scheduled for the men’s tour, starting in 2022, when Madrid, Rome, and Shanghai should receive more days (11, possibly 12) for their tournaments, while extending their main draws from 56 to 64 players. The top players would have to play one more match, but with more resting days in-between – as of now, most seeds have to play five straight matches from Wednesday to Sunday. As for a further increase to 96 players, that appears to be off the table at the moment, since the tournaments don’t have as many courts as Indian Wells and Miami do. Rome and Madrid could only do it by shelving the women’s event, and that’s not a realistic option.

The project is still in the early stages, and it is very possible that it has “leaked” as an endearment to the players who are still choosing between the ATP and the new union founded by Djokovic and Pospisil, the PTPA. The message feels a little ambiguous, something like: “It will only happen without further internal turmoil.” The aspect that should captivate the players is mainly the increase in the prize money, initially set at 2.5 percent.

MORE TRANSPARENCY BY THE MASTERS 1000

This increment could be a lot more significant if a deal could be reached with the tournament owners vis-à-vis letting a neutral firm access their financial records. In this way, it would be possible, with massive costs and after some time, to ascertain once and for all the actual revenues of an ATP event on a bi-annual basis. The aim is to achieve more financial transparency in order to increase the players’ earnings. If the ATP could pull it off, the PTPA would virtually lose most of its arguments – however, it may take a while to do it.   

The prime objective, as a matter of fact, would be to have a 50-50 split between the players and the organisers after expenses and taxes are paid. It wouldn’t be easy to convince the owners of the events, though, since they are the entrepreneurs actually endangering their finances, and this is why it’s never been done before. Moreover, such examination could end up uncovering greater combined financial losses than expected between the nine Masters 1000 tournaments, and that would drive the prize money into the ground, also an unprecedented instance. The new plan would include some sort of “financial solidarity” between them, which does not sound realistic. 

The real goal of the players, anyway, is to access a bigger slice of the Slams’ revenues, of which they now get about 15% on average. However, the ATP has no jurisdiction over these events, which make up 58% of the sport’s net revenue. Gaudenzi’s dream can only come true if the seven stakeholders in the game (the Slams, the ATP, the WTA, and the ITF) reach an agreement – will they? History would point to the negative.

THE WAY FORWARD

In a past interview, Gaudenzi stressed the fact that tennis is the fourth most popular sport in the world (behind football, basketball, and cricket), but it only generates 1.3% of global sports revenues. The game’s earnings (about 2.2 trillion dollars) are divided, more or less equally, between ticket sales, advertising, and TV rights. However, among major sports, tennis draws by far the highest percentage of its income from the box office, and by far the lowest from TV rights.

I will add a few points to these data, points that would probably require a separate article by themselves:

  • Just 55% of the fans watch live tennis. 30% watch highlights (probably because the matches take too long), and 12% follow the off-court activities of the players (rumours, private lives, pictures). It follows that digital content will only increase in amount, and this is why the ATP is thinking about creating its own media production center, rife with short and not necessarily match-related content. Of course, this would only work if the most marketable players would cooperate. 
  • Just like it’s happening this week with the US Open and Kitzbuhel, more ATP events would take place during the second week of a Slam, and several tournaments (the ones listed at the beginning of the article) would last 11/12 days instead of 7 or 8.
  • After years spent planning a reduction of the Masters 1000 tournaments from nine to seven, now there’s a plan to add a tenth tournament on grass. Both Queen’s and Halle are pretty successful, so…
  • The Masters 1000 would contribute some money to facilitate the expansion of TV coverage, and also to support some sickly ATP 250 events. In exchange for that, their status would be untouchable for 30 years. The same goes for the ATP 500 tournaments, which would contribute a lesser amount and would thus have a guaranteed license of “just” 15 years.
  • As Gaudenzi has repeatedly underlined, tennis needs to appeal to the younger generations and to expand the fanbase. How? By developing a social media policy inspired by streaming giants like Netflix, Spotify, Facebook, Amazon, and Instagram.
  • Betting data would need some consideration, particularly with regards to the streaming services that work within their domain – the idea would be to unify them. The ATP owns some of them, while the ITF has a 70-million-dollar deal with Sportsradar – so far, every association has fended for itself. Gaudenzi has created a committee involving executives from Apple Music, BWin, Facebook, and Amazon, and believes that it will take from three to five years to collect the necessary data, but only if the seven stakeholders will cooperate. Will that happen? 
  • Unlike Djokovic and Pospisil, Gaudenzi thinks that the money pool (currently set at 270 million dollars) needs to increase before there can be any talk regarding better redistribution of revenues. This is quite the ideological struggle, because, in the Italian manager’s view, the lower-ranked players would need to be patient for a few more years before seeing their bottomlines flourish. The ATP doesn’t have a claim to the Slams’ money, and its only big earners are the Masters 1000 (and not even all of them). Their income is usually similar to the prize money figure, which is not a lot, especially if some want a bigger and bigger slice of it.

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Dan Evans On The Look Out For New Coach

The 30-year-old has come to a surprise decision to end his current coaching agreement despite achieving a career ranking high earlier this year.

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British No.1 Dan Evans is making a big change to his team after confirming that he will part ways with coach Mark Hilton at the end of the season.

 

The world No.35 reunited with Hilton just last year after also previously working with him prior to his drugs ban in 2017. Under his guidance Evans has achieved several wins over top 10 players, reached his first ever semi-final of an ATP 500 event in Dubai and peaked at a ranking best of 28th in March.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank Mark for his work and efforts over the past 12 months and we are both excited for what is next for each of our respective careers,” Evans said.

Evans’ announcement came on the same day he ended his five-match losing streak on the Tour. In the first round of the European Open on Tuesday he defeated Italy’s Salvatore Caruso in three sets. Making it his first win since the US Open when he defeated Brazil’s Thiago Seyboth Wild.

Hilton will now return to working for the British LTA. A former player himself he reached the semi-finals of the 2009 Wimbledon boys doubles championships and peaked at a ranking high of 202 on the ATP Tour in singles. His best performance at a Grand Slam occurred at Wimbledon when as a wild card he stunned Spain’s Albert Costa in the first round of the 2004 tournament. Besides Evans, he has also previously worked with the likes of Liam Broady and Kyle Edmund.

“After discussing our plans for 2021, Dan and I have made the mutual decision to part ways at the end of November,” Hilton said in a statement.
“Both of us are very proud of our collaboration this year, helping Dan achieve a career-high ranking of number 28, seven wins over top-20 players and reaching his first ATP 500 semi-final.
“I’m looking forward to taking the experience I have gained over the last three years at the highest levels of the ATP Tour and re-investing that back into the LTA’s Performance Team for the benefit of our British players and coaches.”

It is unclear as to who may step in as Evans’ next coach. The Brit will return to action on Wednesday when he plays Frances Tiafoe in the second round.

Evans’ win-loss for 2020 currently stands at 14-11 on the ATP Tour.

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Borna Coric Admits He Was Difficult To Work With As He Targets Top 10 Milestone

The Croatian No.1 believes ‘controlled aggression’ is key to rising back up the rankings.

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Croatian tennis star Borna Coric says he has become more ‘easy-going’ in recent years after working under a variety of different coaches.

 

The 23-year-old has been guided on the Tour by no fewer than eight coaches since 2014 which includes the likes of Thomas Johansson (2015) and Riccardo Piatti (2017-2019). At present, he is now working with Martin Stepanek. A former Czech player who has worked with the likes of Thomas Berdych and Ivan Dodig.

“I am not going to deny it, I was difficult to work with before, high-maintenance if you like, and now I am more easy-going. But I really have never been the type of guy that fires a coach after two first-round losses,” Coric told tennismajors.com.
“Actually, looking back at all my coaches, only with one it was entirely up to me, where I felt we weren’t working well and I decided to end it. With everyone else there were different issues – personal problems on their side, or inability to reach an agreement in regard to finances, or that the coach wasn’t able to travel enough weeks with me, things like that.”

Coric’s various changes in his team can be partly attributed to his roller-coaster journey. Growing up he was portrayed as the next big thing in the sport following a series of high-profile wins during his teenage years. At the age of 17 he defeated Rafael Nadal at the Swiss Indoors followed by Andy Murray in Dubai the year after.

Despite his early promise, Coric is yet to scale the top of men’s tennis with his best ranking being 12th which was first achieved back in 2018. He looked on course to rise further last season but another coaching split combined with back injury problems resulted in him falling down the rankings again.

Given that the average age of professional tennis players peaking is on the rise, there is still time for Coric to get the breakthrough many have predicted for him. He is once again showing signs of a resurgence during what has been a limited 2020 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the US Open, which was his 22nd appearance in a main draw of a Grand Slam, he reached the quarter-finals of a major for the first time in his career. More recently at the St. Petersburg Open the Croat reached the final before losing to the in-form Andrey Rublev.

As to what the key has been to Coric’s recent resurgence, he explains that it is due to what he describes as ‘controlled aggression.’

“It depends on numerous factors (whether he’ll be aggressive). The surface, my gut feeling, am I confident or not, if I am moving well and feeling fresh, have I got the right feel for the ball, the opponent’s style of play… A lot comes into it, but generally speaking, I am a far better player when I am being aggressive, not just retrieving, even though I am perhaps making a bit more errors,” he explains.
“You could see that on display in New York and me being aggressive, along with further improvement of my serve, are two of the biggest emphasis of my work with Martin. I am not there yet, but if I am healthy and able to maintain the level I had at the US Open, then I can get close to Top 10. But it’s still a long way to go.”

Coric is currently ranked 24th in what is his best ranking so far this season and has achieved a win-loss of 14-10. Out of those 14 wins, two were over top 10 players Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Coric’s 2020 season summary

  • ATP Cup – one win and two losses
  • Australian Open – lost in first round to Sam Querrey
  • Buenos Aires – granted a bye in the first round, lost in the second to Thiago Monterio
  • Rio de Janeiro – reached the semi-finals before losing to Christian Garin
  • Western and Souther Open – in first ATP tournament following a five-month break due to COVID-19, Coric reached the second round before going out to David Goffin
  • US Open: Achieved his best ever Grand Slam result by reaching the quarter-finals. He was knocked out of the tournament by Alexander Zverev
  • Rome – lost in round two to Stefano Travaglia
  • French Open – upset in the first round by Norbert Gombos
  • St. Petersburg – achieved best result of the season so far by reaching the final.

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Alexander Zverev Confident ATP Finals Will Be Safe To Attend

The US Open finalist speaks out about travelling to the British capital during the pandemic.

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Alexander Zverev at the US Open 2020 (photo Twitter @usopen)

Germany’s Alexander Zverev believes the ATP Finals will be one of the safest places to be amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The world No.7 will head to London next month to play in the season-ending event which features the eight best players in the world of men’s tennis. London has recently been moved from level one to level two on the British Government’s COVID-19 tier system following a rise in cases of the virus towards 100 per 100,000. People from different households are now no longer allowed to mix inside under the new rules. The health secretary, Matt Hancock, recently said that the number of infection cases is doubling every 10 days.

Despite the ongoing pandemic, Zverev says he is confident that the event will be safe to attend. For the first time this year it is taking place behind closed doors in accordance with government rules. In 2019 242,883 fans attended the tournament over an eight-day period.

“We will stay in a hotel next to the stadium, which will be bolted. I think this will be the last place, where people are vulnerable to the coronavirus disease,” Zverev told reporters on Sunday.

US Open runner-up Zverev is hoping for a strong end to what has been a testing season for the sport which was halted for five months due to the pandemic. On Sunday he added to his title collection by defeating Felix Auger-Aliassime in straight sets to win the bett1HULKS Indoors in Cologne. The tournament was also held without fans due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“Although we didn’t have any fans inside the arena, I felt the support from home. I had the feeling playing on home soil and I hope that many fans watched the final on TV,” Zverev commented.
“It is different and more difficult this year, as we played less tournaments than usual. I hope that I can keep it up like this.” He added.

At present six players have already qualified for the ATP Finals. Besides Zverev, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev are all set to play. World No.4 Roger Federer has also qualified but will not be playing after deciding to pull the plug on his season due to a knee injury.

The O2 Arena has been home to The ATP Finals since 2009 and has welcomed more than 2.8 million fans to the event over that period. However, the event will be moved to Italy from next year.

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