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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.

ATP

Hubert Hurkacz Aims To Build On Delray Beach Triumph

The best way to start the season for the world No.35.

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Hubert Hurkacz (image via https://twitter.com/DelrayBeachOpen)

Poland’s Herbert Hurkacz says he hopes to play at an even higher level over the coming weeks after winning the Delray Beach Open title on Wednesday.

 

The world No.35 eased to a 6-3, 6-3, win over Sebastian Korda in the final to claim only the second title in his career after Winston Salem back in 2018. Hurkacz, who was the fourth seed in the tournament, didn’t drop a set all week en route to becoming the first Polish player in history to win the title. In the final he won 68% of his service points and broke Korda four times overall.

“It feels great. It is great to win the title and I am so happy about that. This Is a great start to the season,” Hurkacz said afterwards.
“I am happy that I am improving and we (my team) are doing good stuff with C.B (coach Craig Boynton), and things are working. So I am really pleased with this result.”

The 23-year-old is hoping to improve on what was a challenging 2020 season for him. After reaching the semi-finals of the Auckland Open in January last year, he could only win back-to-back matches in two out of his next 12 tournaments prior to Delray Beach. His best Grand Slam result was reaching the third round of the 2019 Wimbledon Championships.

Seeking to break new territory in 2021, Hurkacz will today start his 24-hour journey to Australia which begins with a 5am departure from America this morning. His coach Craig Boynton also currently worked with Steve Johnson and previously mentored Jim Courier.

“It’s the beginning of the season and I still need to work on a couple of things, but I hope I can play even better in Australia,” Hurkacz stated.

Hurkacz is only the second Polish player to have won an ATP Tour title in the Open Era after Wojciech Fibak. At present he is the only player from his country ranked inside the top 100 on the Tour.

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Cristian Garin Out Of Australian Open Following Fall

The South American tennis star will not travel to Melbourne due to both injury and the travel restrictions implemented.

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Chile’s Cristian Garin has become the third top 30 player to pull out of the men’s draw at next month’s Australian Open.

 

The world No.22 has confirmed that he will not be travelling to the Grand Slam after suffering a fall in which he hurt his wrist a week ago. Announcing his decision on Instagram, Garin said the limitations in place at the tournament which wouldn’t allow him to travel with his physio played a factor. This year’s Australian Open is taking place amid strict COVID-19 rules which requires players to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival and limits the number of team members they can bring. The majority of players will be spending their quarantine in Melbourne but the top names will be in Adelaide following a recent deal secured by Tennis Australia.

I am very sad to report that a week ago I suffered a fall, which left me with a lot of pain in my left wrist (sprain),” Garin wrote on his Instagram story. “It has been very difficult for me to play the last days and given the restrictions of the tour, they do not allow me to travel with my physiotherapist, which makes it impossible to find a good recovery. Unfortunately I will not be able to play this year in Australia, which is something very difficult for me to accept. I hope to return in good condition and with the best energy for the tour in South America.”

photo via – https://www.instagram.com/garincris/

Garin kicked-off his season on Saturday at the Delray Beach Open where he was the top seed. However, he lost his opening match in straight sets to Christian Harrison who went on to reach the semi-finals. It is only the second tournament he has played since the French Open in October.

The setback comes after the 24-year-old confirmed that he has started working with Franco Davin back in November. A tennis coach known best for his work with Juan Martin del Potro. Davin has also previously worked with Grigor Dimitrov and Kyle Edmund.

The withdrawal of Garin follows that of Roger Federer and John Isner. Former champion Federer has pulled out due to his ongoing recovery from a right knee injury. Although one Australian Open official believes his decision was due to another factor. Meanwhile, Isner has opted not to travel to Australia because he didn’t want to spend an extended time away from his family.

The Australian Open will start on February 8th.

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Christian Harrison Speaks Out After ATP Fines Him For Not Wearing A Mask

The American says he is against ‘masking people for the sake of it for TV.’

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Christian Harrison (image via https://twitter.com/DelrayBeachOpen)

American tennis player Christian Harrison has said he will appeal a fine issued to him at the Delray Beach Open after he refused to do an on-court interview because he was required to wear a mask.

 

The ATP has slammed the 789th ranked player with a fine of $3000 for refusing to do the mandatory interview. However, Harrison is arguing his case by saying he believed that wearing a mask was optional and has been told by the tournament supervisor he can appeal against the fine. He has previously spoken out against wearing masks after writing last week ‘Healthy enough to play 3 hour matches. But I’m an absolute safety hazard walking maskless through a restaurant.’ On Twitter he also liked a Tweet last month by Political commentator Liz Wheeler who wrote ‘Wear a mask until EVERY person is vaccinated?! Are you insane?’

“Christian Harrison was fined $3,000 for declining the mandatory post-match on-court interview following his second round win over Cristian Garin on Saturday,” the ATP said in a statement.

Arguing his defence Harrison wrote on social media that it is ‘not healthy’ to wear a mask in the sun for longer than necessary after a match. The rule implemented is one of a series that has been taken in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In America, where Harrison is playing at the Delray Beach Open, the country has recorded more deaths from the virus than any other.

“After my second round match I chose not to do my post match interview due to wearing a mask. It’s not healthy to wear a mask in the hot sun for more time than absolutely necessary after a tough match,” he wrote on Instagram.
“I was given the impression it was optional. I wasn’t told I would be fined. That night I was told it is a requirement for T.V. matches and I would be fined. When I spoke to the supervisor the following morning, I was told since I wasn’t notified that it was mandatory I could appeal the fine and it would be taken away. Unless something changes now I still believe that to be true.”

Refusing to admit any wrongdoing, the 26-year-old says he ‘doesn’t agree’ with masking people for the sake of TV. Although he has stated that he will follow the rules in the future.

“I was required to do a sit down interview after the match with the same person which I agreed to and I did not have to wear a mask for it,” he continues.
“It’s not about safety to wear mask for TV to talk to a microphone with no one around . Playing the tournaments I’ll follow whatever is required even if I don’t agree with it. I don’t support masking people for the sake of it for TV.”

The controversy coincides with Harrison’s fairytale run at the Delray Beach Open this week. On Monday he defeated Gianluca Mager 7-6(2), 6-4, to reach the semi-finals of an ATP tournament for the first time in his career. He did wear a mask during his on-court interview following that win. The breakthrough comes after more than a decade of setbacks for Harrison who has undergone a total of eight surgeries on both legs, both hips, his right wrist, and both adductors.

Harrison will play fourth seed Hubert Hurkacz in the semi-finals.

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