A comment poster who shall remain nameless sent me a rude rant yesterday, and in an odd way it's as good a place as I can think to start a discussion of the current controversy surrounding Masters Series events. In fact, I think I'll fisk it and add my comments on the trot:
Didn't you call "ironing out the schedule" for the WTA "castrating gorillas" or some such nonsense? (Interesting how that “WTA” gorilla was “naturally” male when the most famous gorilla is Koko! She represents intelligence, not castration--unless female intelligence equates to emasculation in your eyes.) Where the hell did you get that whole gorilla thing from anyway, Imus?)
I have no idea what this woman is talking bout here, but am willing to entertain theories. I'm leaning toward nuclear-grade PMS.
How come ironing out is okay for the ATP? How can you account for the fact that both players & tourneys are unhappy w/the ATP imposing its will on both? Are you one of those who justifies every hairbrain (sic) scheme as for the "fans." (No one asks us anything!)
My position on the WTA and ATP calendars has been clear: in an era of theoretical parity between the two tours, right down to equal prize-money, there is no excuse for the tours not to have a mirror image of each other, the high points for both being the Grand Slams and Masters Series-type events, in which entry is automatic (meaning those who don't play get zero ranking points and an official tournament start). I think the mandatory entry (but not necessarily participation) approach is the most sane, realistic approach to the thorny and chronic issue of player withdrawals. My record on supporting hare-brained schemes speaks for itself.
Your so called justification for siding with the ATP looks like Bodo again pounding his chest:
"The ATP is doing the right thing in reviewing the calendar, and I think it has not just a right, but a mandate to do so. That's what the lawsuits are about
: the ATP's right to run the game the way it sees fit.
Hmmm. . . there's that gorilla motif again. Now I invite everyone to figure out what happens if the courts determine that that ATP has no right to demote or promote events within its own Masters Series. Reserve your tickets now for Hamburg Masters Series 2345, when it will no longer be miserably cold (see, there IS an upside to global warming!), and the seats will no longer be empty (Hamburg will house the entire European population; the rest of the continent will be underwater). If the ATP executives, chosen by the ATP Board, which is composed of members elected by the players and tournaments, cannot determine the look and shape of the calendar going forward, who can? Guess I'm pounding my chest. Gee, it's kind of fun!
Now here is something I mentioned a few hours ago in my ESPN chat: Tennis is in a golden age at the moment: full of wonderful personalities, role-model champions, and rapidly emerging rivalries and new stars. Yet it is not an especially healthy sport from the players and tournaments point of view. This great resurgence in the men's game has not produced dividends for the players vis a vis growing prize-money (check the prize-money stats of tennis vs. golf) or windfalls for tournaments. It is not a robustly expanding game and the people in the trenches know this.
When was the last time tennis underwent anything comparable to the NFL adding an extra week to the regular season, or MLB adding a franchise? The game is mired in the status quo, which is not a bad thing unless the players and administrators believe it to be so. And they do.
The irony here is that on this calendar re-structuring front, the ATP is proposing nothing- that's zippo, zilch, nada - that comes even remotely close to qualifying as radical. Hey, my chest is starting to hurt!
On what do you base your opinion? According to the ATP site, the ATP’s “mandate” is to satisfy both players & tourneys. In this instance, and many others, it has done neither! According to the ATP site, the ATP was formed when “tournament directors representing many of the world's leading events voiced their support for the players and joined them in what was to become a partnership unique in professional sports-players and tournaments, each with an equal voice in how the circuit is run.” (from the ATP site)
The ATP website is, with all due deference to the ATP, disseminating absurd propaganda. Yes, I know what I just wrote. But here's what really happened, and if you don't trust me, read something other than the official ATP website: The ATP players decided to stage a palace coup and take control of the game from the Men's Pro Council in 1988 (remember the Parking Lot Revolution? I do. I was in the parking lot, with Mats Wilander). It was a unilateral action, carried out in complicity with some tournaments, who saw their own advantage in choosing the side of the player's union (the ATP) early in the struggle. Those tournaments, BTW, were amply rewarded when it came time for the ATP - the players and their representatives and self-interested allies - to draw up a calendar. Surprise, Surprise.
The ATP Board now consists of three player representatives and three tournament representatives, plus the chairman. Does anyone believe that the chairman is going to risk alienating The Mighty Fed and company by aligning himself with the tournaments?
Look: the players do run the game; Etienne de Villiers is their guy - whether they're happy with their choice is another matter entirely, and their discontent can be easily resolved.The only bulwark in tennis against the power of the ATP is the ITF, or more properly speaking, the Grand Slam Committee, which represents the four majors in negotiations with entities like the ATP or WTA. The ATP's overarching problem - and it is a doozy - is that it has no real control over the four tournaments that stand head and shoulders above the rest - the Grand Slams. That's partly why Wimbledon didn't go round-robin.
If the players are unhappy, it means that they themselves are incapable of creating a satisfying structure for their game. To me, that translates to: We don't want to take risks or give anything up, but we want things to be "better." And this is where the problems inherent in the inmates running the asylum kicks in.
The players, Roger being unusually vocal, are not happy; the tourneys are not happy. I as a fan am not happy. I used to so enjoy these tourneys on ESPN—Zabaleta-Rios in Hamburg a few years back was one of the best and most exciting matches I ever saw.
Hey, chica, I'm real happy for you! Sounds like a real barnburner, that one! Let's keep Hamburg a Masters Series forever on that alone, and to hail with Beijing, Madrid, Buenos Aires et al!
So Bodo I hope you will soon get as unhappy as the ATP currently is for overstepping its bounds. The last thing players, tourneys, & fans need is you pounding your chest from the rooftops & representing only yourself for yourself. (Talk about tennis needing to get a monkey off its back!)
Discussions about tennis promoted almost exclusively by people such as yourself are ridiculous because they're not based in reason or research--you guys always look like asses chasing tails. Tell us what cutting 2 great tourneys out of the calendar does for anyone & substantiate it with factual research and sound reasoning. Now that would be a first!
Let me climb down off this rooftop for a moment, rest my weary chest and hands, and say this: scads of people, many of them people with many years of service to the game, both as players and/or promoters, back the plan to downgrade Monte Carlo, Hamburg, or both. Check the transcript of the Miami presser with Butch Buccholz, for starters.
But more importantly: nobody is cutting any tournaments out of the calendar. Are you crazy? This is tennis, the sport that doesn't change! Cut a tournament, heaven forbid! And that in a nutshell is tennis's problem at the moment. Nobody wants to do anything that will upset the status quo, and there ain't no more room on the status for no more quo.
Here's something to contemplate: Monte Carlo is a wonderful, traditional event, especially if you're really into the Monaco vibe, where you'll be rubbing elbows and talking backhands with arms dealers in suits made from unborn baby zebra skin and Italian socialites with plastic boobs. Coin of the realm, and it has its own bizarre appeal. But look: if you're trying to grow the game, why accord such elite status to a tournament that is played at a jam-packed country club, at a playground for the rich and shadowy (and please, hold those emails about all the wonderful Monaco backpacker hostels)?
The Principality of Monaco does a spectacular job of promoting the tournament; it would continue to be a huge hit, even if it were downgraded to International Series simply because it's a happening - a place to be. So demoting Monte Carlo, and applying its Masters Series status to a tournament that better represents the diverse, global tennis demographic, seems a win-win situation. Monte Carlo still gets to host a tournament and the world gets a new Masters Series event.
Hamburg is a tougher case, but still: The tournament struggles on all kinds of levels. The German Federation has made a great effort to keep it front and center, but for just how long should a tournament like Hamburg retain its elite status, just because it's been around for a long time?
The U.S.Open series is just a joke anyway--a marketing ploy designed to entice people who were not tennis fans into something had been firmly in place for a long time. Europeans are genuine & knowledgeable tennis fans who probably couldn’t make sense of such a smoke & mirrors strategy. Maybe such ridiculousness can only happen here.
Okay, now we're down to it. This whole jag is also a thinly veiled anti-American rant (although why the demotion of MC or Hamburg would be seen through xenophobic prism is beyond me). But let me suggest that the U.S. Open Series has been an enormous hit, and the television viewership and attendance numbers prove it (Sorry for imposing such realities on your opinion!) .
In fact, what you have going on now is the Roland Garros Series, except it isn't as seamlessly and cleverly organized and branded (the reasons for that are complex). In fact, one thing these two "Series" have in common is the awkward placement of back-to-back Masters Series events (in North American, it's Cincinnati and the Canadian Open).
But here's another idea: Let's take a look at what happened to two once-great tennis events in the U.S., the U.S. Pro Championships, (a popular, critically important early Open-era event) played at Longwood (a Boston country club, much like a WASP-y version of the Monte Carlo Country Club), and the Volvo International, a wildly popular red-clay event played in the mountains of New Hampshire (It was sometimes called The Wimbledon of the Woods). Both were easily the equivalent of Monte Carlo or Hamburg by any measure, and both of them were ultimately victims of tennis politics and re-organization. They weren't demoted, they were destroyed. Monte Carlo and Hamburg should consider themselves lucky.
In thinking about this problem this morning, I moved slightly off my original Big Picture position, which was that the Masters Series events would be best used as tune-up events for Grand Slams. While that makes a lot of sense, it is, simply, impossible to implement. The Grand Slams are pretty much locked into their dates. Besides, does anyone think that it's a mistake to have Indian Wells and Miami on the calendar in that long interim between the Australian Open and Roland Garros?
Let's face it: The Australian Open more or less launches the tennis year. Wimbledon is a one-off, mid-season celebration, simultaneously the least relevant (just look at the surface) and most important tennis tournament on earth. The two tournaments that have a proper eco-system are Roland Garros and the U.S. Open. Masters Series events should be designated and distributed with two things in mind: helping the build-up to Roland Garros and the U.S. Open (both of which should be a branded Series), and spreading the tennis wealth to ensure that important events take place at sensible intervals, in the appropriately representative way for a global sport.
And this leads me to final thought, given the abundance of talent and plethora of tournaments out there today. While there ought to be a Masters Series grid, the International Series (and lower) events should award rankings points not by class but by strength of field. That is, the ATP should come up with a formula for assessing quality-of-field (piece of cake, that) and then award ranking points based on it - which means that there would be a constantly sliding scale, applied when the draw is made. This would enable sub-Masters events to enhance their prestige, and actually approach Masters Series events in importance.
Just a thought, and a last one for the day.