ATP Chief Andrea Gaudenzi On Strategic Plan, Wimbledon, Events In China And More - UBITENNIS
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ATP Chief Andrea Gaudenzi On Strategic Plan, Wimbledon, Events In China And More

In a wide ranging press conference the head of men’s tennis spoke extensively about a wide range of topics. Including his claim that Russian and Belarussian players were willing to sign a document condemning the Ukraine war in order to play at Wimbledon.

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Andrea Gaudenzi (photo ATP Tour 2019)

The president of the ATP, Andrea Gaudenzi, held a video conference with the Italian press on Thursday concerning the presentation of the calendar reform. Madrid and Rome are expected to upgrade to 96 player draws over two weeks from 2023. The same pattern will be extended from 2025 to the Canada Open and Cincinnati… Here is the transcript of the press conference.

Gaudenzi: “I wish to express my satisfaction for achieving an important milestone which is the promotion of this calendar reform plan. Upon our arrival, two and a half years ago, we went through a series of serious issues: the fires in Australia, Covid, the war in Ukraine and more… We have been committed to making tennis survive in general. The fact that we have managed to pass such an ambitious plan makes us proud. We hope that this can be the first step towards a great future. But after two and a half years of negotiations and struggle, we perhaps deserve a pat on the back. I particularly like the upgrade of the Masters 1000 in Rome, as an Italian”.

Ubaldo Scanagatta, Ubitennis: “Will any tournament disappear?”

“No. There is a reorganization. Looking at the calendar you can see that there are two weeks that impact the 2025 calendar; The ATP 250 are moved. The idea is to enhance the Masters 1000 so as to reduce the gap that exists with the Slams, which of course is still very large. What everyone wants to see are the strongest players in the most important events. We want to give viewers a continuous story, from the beginning of the year to the end. We want to strengthen a model that already works, the one of Indian Wells and Miami, which have had this format for almost thirty years”.

Paolo Rossi, Repubblica: “Which was the greatest obstacle”?

“One could write a book about it. When we talk about general principles, we all agree, difficulties arise when we go into detail. There is a bit of fear on everyone’s side. And it was not easy to make compromises. All parties have compromised to focus on the long-term goal of enhancing our sport by putting selfishness and retaliation aside. Above all, there is a total lack of trust between players and tournaments. I believe it is partly justified because we are talking about a partnership in which players have never had the opportunity to access the economic accounts of the tournaments and are paid with prize money without knowing whether it is fair or not. This has always led to crazy quarrels. So the most difficult thing was removing individual egoisms, which are understandable, because it is an individual sport, and every player and every tournament thinks of itself; but there must be someone who thinks of the collective good, that is sport. It is difficult to find someone who does this and who has the trust and delegations from everyone.”

Riccardo Crivelli, La Gazzetta dello Sport: “Have you asked for guarantees for the enlargement of Rome? Have you seen plans for the roof? And then: has the idea of a Master 1000 on grass before Wimbledon been ruled out?”

AG: “Indian Wells is the only tournament that has had category protection for 50 years in 2003. And it was also the tournament that invested the most; it would be difficult to ask a tournament to invest millions if it could still be downgraded the following year. Hence a theme of accountability from standards point of view. There will be a committee made up of a representative of the players, a representative of the tournaments, and a third independent representative who will define – considering the unique peculiarities of each tournament, the reason why you cannot ask Monte Carlo to add four courts – standards aimed at raising the level, with larger stadiums, covered, more space for media and players. This is the direction. 

Ubaldo Scanagatta: “ATP points at Wimbledon. Is the decision taken definitive? The risk is that a false ranking will come out and without great value after Wimbledon… Maybe a compromise solution would have been better, is it still being studied?”

AG: “The reason why we removed the points at Wimbledon is known; it is a matter of fairness and discrimination in response to a unilateral decision of the tournament that we do not consider right. Such a decision should have been taken collectively involving all seven components of tennis. This story proves once more that we need a unique governance in tennis. Having said this, we would be very happy to return the points to Wimbledon if the ban on Russians and Belarusians, who have said they are willing to make written statements because none of them is in favour of war were lifted. From a ranking point of view, we want to have a ranking in 2022 where each player had access to the same number of points. This is the only way to have a fair ranking at the end of the year. If we gave protection to those who played well at Wimbledon in 2021 it would be even more unfair to those who play well in 2022, because the points would still expire after 52 weeks as always happens. We can’t protect seven or eight players by creating even more damage to everyone else. Unfortunately, Wimbledon points will be missing in the year-end ranking, but from our point of view it is the fairest choice and WTA agrees with us.”

Vincenzo Martucci, Supertennis: “In the calendar system there are two critical issues: the overcrowded red clay season between the tournaments before Roland Garros with Madrid and Rome killing each other and then the one concerning Bercy, which has lost much of its significance”.

AG: “Madrid and Roma will become 96-draw tournaments over four weeks. Winning back-to-back Madrid and Roma today means winning ten matches in twelve days, an incredible and risky effort in terms of injuries. The 96-player draws instead allow for a longer rest. It is true there is an extra match, but there is a better scheduling and the players’ engagement is managed better. The other tournaments will be rearranged around these two events. In the future, keeping in mind the limit of 16 500 ATP events, we will try to join a couple of ATP 250. Even these tournaments would be glad if there were fewer tournaments of this category. We would also like to schedule 125 Challengers in the second week of the Masters 1000 for those player who lose in the first rounds. As for Monte Carlo and Bercy, the long-term idea is to have nine combined Masters 1000. They are two tournaments that have some problems in terms of infrastructure, but the idea is to make them grow too. As for Bercy, it is natural that at the end of the year the players will come to terms with fatigue and injuries, especially those who have already qualified for the Finals”.

Ubaldo Scanagatta: “Will there be tournaments in China this year? Doesn’t the WTA decision to cancel events from China create problems?

AG: “The first most important topic concerning tournaments in China is Covid. As for the WTA, the choice was made in relation to the case of Peng Shuai, and we took a different stance on this. However, there is probably a need to reorganize the calendar to find alternative solutions, as we did in the last two years. A miracle is required, because it is not easy to change dates when deadlines are so tight. We are trying to push the Chinese government to make a decision, and then we will make a decision.”

Piero Guerrini, Tuttosport: “When do you imagine a single governance in tennis? And about Turin, what do you expect in terms of growth this season?”

AG: “I hoped to close the matter in a year and a half, but there is an impressive number of details which need sorting out. There will certainly be a progressive solution, while in the meantime we have already started to collaborate in some details such as format, competition, rules, etc. … The unification of the tie-break format of the final set is also a result of this convergence. We will not go at a supersonic speed, despite being highly motivated to do so. You have to decide on the voting system, establish a starting point, etc… It is difficult to set timelines, even if it’s hard to imagine less than a couple of years. We hope to succeed, although it is not obvious that this process will be finalized. The first edition in Turin for me was extraordinary, also considering that we were still in the middle of COVID, which involved several ticket selling uncertainties. Then we hope to have an Italian at the Finals, who would certainly boost ticket sales.”

Riccardo Crivelli, Gazzetta dello Sport: “I saw that in the 2023 calendar the NextGen Finals will follow the ATP Finals. This year will be the last Italian edition. I was wondering if the call has been reopened and also if the scheduling after the Finals is not a bit demeaning for this event. Do you have any other plans for this event?”


AG: “The call has not yet been launched; we are still in reflection mode for NextGen. Since the event does not award points, it is not a big problem for the calendar, and scheduling the event in December could be interesting, since it is a fairly empty month and probably the young players still have a lot of energy and desire to play. We are considering various options, including merging it with a similar event for the WTA, because it would be nice to see the promises of the future all together. There is also the hypothesis of greater integration with the ATP Finals, although the logistical issue is not easy to solve, because it would imply having many matches in one day. We really like the NextGen format, they’re churning out the results of the future, and it’s a great format that allows to test innovative solutions.”

Ubaldo Scanagatta, Ubitennis: “Is some progress being made to unite the Davis Cup and the ATP Cup, perhaps returning to the old Davis Cup 3 sets out of 5 that had a different spirit and I think brought greater benefits to the tennis image? And then, a question that concerns journalists: it is not very clear what the ATP would like from journalists in the relationship with players. In Barcelona the mixed zone was in an area journalists could not access; in Acapulco there was a situation where first you could ask questions via Zoom and then they disappeared; in Indian Wells they all complained about how the mixed zone was organized, so I would like to know if you have also taken into account what Billie Jean King said at Roland Garros according to which it is also in the interest of players to have a human relationship with journalists, at least with those who live the tournaments the most,  because if we continue to separate journalists and players, we are not helping tennis and tennis players “.


AG: “With regard to Davis Cup/ATP Cup, we have an agreement with Tennis Australia also for 2023, but we are having talks. I think I’ve always been honest enough to say that having two events like Davis cup and ATP Cup so close is not good for our sport. If Davis cup were to disappear it would not be good news for tennis, in consideration of the value of its history and for what it has meant. It is necessary to find a solution, and this is another proof that these decisions should all be made together, also because if confusion is created, the public usually tends to move away. With regard to the other issue, this is not a subject I am very familiar with, because I have been dealing with other things. However, I have always been a promoter of the importance of the media and the importance of communicating with our fans, especially about things that happen off-court. 50% of the focus is on non-live, as the Formula 1 documentary [“Drive to Survive”] has also shown, which has aroused great attention, and you are a little bit the “enablers” of this story. It must be said that COVID has really created a great revolution in the way we work, and this theme should be reviewed and discussed, especially by also talking to players, because they are the first to have a say. We will review the matter and give you an answer.”

Vincenzo Martucci, SuperTennis: “Me too I’d like to reiterate Ubaldo’s question about the relationship between players and journalists. But my questions are different: first of all, I would like to know exactly what this relationship with the WTA means, and when will we see the real effects at a journalistic level? Compared to you, the WTA is in a prehistoric situation: they deal exclusively with American journalists, and some English. All Europeans, Spanish-speaking ones, Italians, perhaps with the only exception of L’Equipe, are almost ghettoized, despite the fact that there are outstanding characters who could be analysed in depth and promoted. I also have a question about doubles: have you considered the idea of starting the doubles tournament 2-3 days after the start of the singles so as to possibly recover some of the eliminated players, especially the most popular, to boost attention on the doubles tournament?”

AG: “I believe that integration with the WTA could improve this aspect, because we want to have a single point of access for players. The team will be united: today we have one only marketing team, then we also want to have one only team of PR, social media, commercial and many other things. Integration is progressively under way. Then there is always a problem of supply and demand: the demand from you is always much higher than the time offered by the players. And also from this point of view we must succeed in changing the current perception of players who think that playing the match is the end of their commitment. This profit-sharing that we are promoting is aimed at showing tournaments as partners, not as enemies who ask you to spend further 20 minutes with the media. The idea is that even the players of the new generations should understand the reality around the tournament and around the match. There is a need to tell stories, and therefore there is a need to give access to those who tell stories. If the players understand that the more they give time, the more the ecosystem in which they live grows, a virtuous circle will be created. Agents always tend to reserve the player’s time for initiatives that benefit the player and agent directly, and not the tournament, which benefits the whole system.  As for doubles, it’s part of the problem we’re facing with Challenger prize money. The prize money is too low for those players who are struggling to survive, so we have to help them. And this negatively affects doubles, that indeed needs support. However this 96-player format for masters 1000 singles tournaments is definitely a help: if you see the Indian Wells doubles draw there are many more singles players who also play doubles. First of all because they have to go to Miami so they have to stay there waiting, but then there is also the question of the rest day. A player never wants to play two games on the same day, but if he can use the rest day to play doubles, it becomes interesting. We’re trying to work on the Challenger issue and the doubles issue over the next six months, to try to make both of them more interesting to the public. It’s not easy because some players want to leave after losing in singles and don’t want to stay, but that’s one of the aspects that we have to deal with.”

Emilio Mancuso, RAI: “Wimbledon without points is really bizarre: if there had been Gaudenzi at the head of the players’ union who knows what would have happened. Also, if you skip the Asian season, will there be possibilities for more tournaments in Italy since it has been proven that in Italy you can organize good events?”

AG: “As far as Wimbledon is concerned, we found ourselves in a situation where no one wanted to be. We responded to a unilateral decision by Wimbledon and we would have preferred to take this decision together with everyone else, also to have a uniformity of action. Now in a few days the USTA will make its decision, Roland Garros has made its decision, and everyone goes their own way. Another reason why governance should be brought together. From our point of view it would have been hard for us to look away when there were 60 players involved in this decision, players who from their point of view were willing to do so many things, and who have done nothing wrong and who are not supporting what is happening. I understand the propaganda theme and the arguments brought by Wimbledon, but at the end of the day, calculating everything, we are a global sport, and we must use our platform to unite, without discriminating people owing to their passport. Let’s hope it will never happen again, and I hope it’s an accident which will bring us to sit at a table to talk. Sometimes you have to break an egg to make an omelette…”

NOTE: press confrence was conducted in Italian and has been translatred into English by Ubitennis.

ATP

Jack Draper Wins In Stuttgart, Potentially Faces Andy Murray in Round Two

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Jack Draper – ATP Monaco di Baviera 2024 (foto via Twitter @atptour)

Britain’s Jack Draper tight first round win headlined the opening day’s results at the Boss Open 2024 in Stuttgart – and possibly faces a second-round match with Andy Murray who takes on Marcos Giron tomorrow.

Less than 24 hours from the last ball being hit at Roland Garros, the ATP Tour had already switched surfaces onto the grass, and 22-year-old Draper was well tested but ultimately came through in two tie-breakers over Sebastian Ofner.

The sixth seed’s 7-6, 7-6 win contained just one break of serve each, both coming in the second set, as serve dominated proceedings on the faster grass courts in Germany.

While the Austrian won 75% on his first serve, Draper won a whopping 89% behind his first delivery as well as hitting eight aces. These kind of service stats will surely take him far during the grass court season.

“I thought it was a really good match,” Eurosport quoted Draper saying after his match. 
“Both of us played really clean tennis, executing really well.
“When it came down to it, I’m glad I competed really well and got over the line – it’s good to be back on the grass as well.”

There were also wins for Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann who won 6-3, 6-3 over wildcard Henri Squire, while compatriot Dominik Koepfer won in three sets over China’s Zhizhen Zhang 4-6, 7-6, 7-6. 

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Carlos Alcaraz Still Owns A Magical Racket

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The legend of Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket lives on.

The 21-year-old Spaniard executed one magical shot after another with his racket and legs  Sunday afternoon in the French Open final. That bit of magic spelled defeat for Germany’s Alexander Zverev.

This was a final to remember, one of the great matches of all the Grand Slams. It just wasn’t in the cards for the 26-year-old Zverev to finally win a Grand Slam title.

HE HAD IT, THEN HE DIDN’T

Both players seemed to play a game of “he had it and then he didn’t.”

Alcaraz appeared to have everything under control in the first set, but Zverev rushed through the second set and then made a comeback from 5-2 down in the third set to win five straight games.

Zverev had everything going for him when he started the fourth set with a two-set advantage. It appeared that all the 6-6 Zverev had to do was to continue playing his masterful game of big serves and mighty ground strokes.

But Zverev couldn’t get started in the fourth set until he was down 4-0. So much for a smooth and easy ride to a Grand Slam title. By then, the magic of Alcaraz was heating up.

MAGIC OF ALCARAZ HEATING UP

Zverev still had his chances, even when he fell behind 2-1 in the fifth set. He had to feel pretty good about his chances when he took a triple break point lead against Alcaraz’s serve and appeared ready to even the set at 2-2. Even after Carlos came up with a winner to bring the  game score to double break point.

Zverev still was ready to even the entire match.

That’s when everything seemed to go haywire for the German, while all the while, Alcaraz was able to repeatedly come up with his magical shots as the Spaniard made critical shots that looked almost impossible to make.

ALCARAZ HEADED FOR GREATNESS

Everything for Zverev was lost in the magical racket of Alcaraz.

What was then initially called a game-ending Alcaraz double fault and a 2-2 deadlock quicky reversed itself and Alcaraz stayed alive by winning the next three points while taking a 3-1 advantage.

Zverev did get back to a 3-2 deficit and had a break point in the sixth game, but that was it for the hopes of Zverev. The last two games went rather easily in favor of Alcaraz to wrap up a 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 victory for Alcaraz.

That moved the Spaniard to a higher level of success on the ATP Tour. He became the youngest man to win Grand Slam titles on all of the different surfaces, clay, grass and hard courts.

Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket appear to be headed for greatness.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Tsitsipas Brothers Hit With Trio Of Fines At French Open

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Stefanos Tsitsipas and his brother Petros have been fined more than 20,000 euros for multiple violations of the coaching rules at this year’s French Open. 

The brothers received a financial penalty during three different matches that they played in. Two of those were in the second and third rounds of the men’s doubles tournament. Furthermore, Stefanos was also penalised during his singles quarter-final match against Carlos Alcaraz, which he lost in straight sets. According to French newspaper L’Equipe, all three of those fines were issued as a result of coaching rules being broken.

Ironically, coaching is allowed during matches at the French Open but certain rules must be followed. ‘Verbal’ coaching can only be issued from the coaches and their team if they are sitting in the designated player’s box. Instructions must be limited to a few words and can only be given if the player is in the same half of the court as their coach. Although non-verbal coaching is allowed regardless of what side the player is on. Finally, players can’t start a conversation with their coach unless it is during a medical break, a bathroom break or when their opponent is changing clothes.

However, the Tsitsipas brothers have been found in violation of these rules, which is likely due to their animated father in the stands who is also their coach. Apostolos Tsitsipas has been given coaching violations in the past at other events, including the 2022 Australian Open. 

The value of the fines are €4,600 and €9,200 for the Tsitsipas brothers in the doubles, as well as an additional €7,400 just for Stefanos in the singles. In total, the value of their fines is €21,200. However, the penalty is unlikely to have an impact on the duo whose combined earnings for playing in this year’s French Open amount to roughly €495,000. 

So far in the tournament, the highest single fine to be issued this year was against Terence Atmane who hit a ball out of frustration that struck a fan in the stands. Atmane, who later apologised for his actions, managed to avoid getting disqualified from the match. Instead, he was fined €23,000. 

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