What's in a name?
by: James Martin, TENNIS.com
September 12, 2007
Like most tennis fans, I suffer from an inferiority complex. How can I help it when tennis is given short shrift in the mainstream media? Just this past weekend, I had to wait for the U.S. Open men's final to start because a football game hadn't ended. And after all that waiting I get …Liza Minnelli.
Such is life. I've come to accept that the American public will never embrace tennis the way it loves its football. I get it: Football has blood and broken bones, egomaniacal players, and those awesome pregame shows with so much faux male bonding that I grow chest hair just watching it.
Pass the beer, bro.
Tennis will never become a huge, Joe Six-pack sport and that's fine by me. The pro game should wear its niche colors proudly. But it doesn't. Commentators (yeah, you, Dick Enberg and John McEnroe, to name just two) incessantly talk about ways to "fix" the sport, which only reinforces its inferiority complex.
And the powers-that-be often shoot the game in the foot by dreaming up Byzantine ways to keep tennis as marginal as possible, or make it sound as cheesy as possible. You only have to watch the U.S. Open trophy ceremony -- an annual rite of crass game-show-style commercialism -- to see that.
But the award for bone-headed play of this season goes to the ATP. Just recently, it announced that in 2009 it's replacing the nine Masters Series events with nine "1000" status tournaments. Catchy, isn't it?
Granted, this is just a change in name (it's the same nine tournaments), but it's a dumb change. The Masters Series actually has been one of the few marketing success stories in pro tennis over the past couple decades. The name has built up some cache.
That's all gone the way of the wood racket now.
By the way, there are also 500 and 250 level tournaments; the numbers, in case you didn't know (and why would you?) tie into the total number of points awarded to the winner of each tournament. The ATP says this branding will work based on "extensive consumer research" and make the tour more "fan friendly." I agree, if those fans have a fetish for meaningless numbers.
Earlier this summer, the ATP also renamed its season-ending event. No longer the Masters Cup, in 2009 it will be called the ATP World Tour Finals -- otherwise known as W.T.F. Which is also short for What the … ?
One of pro tennis' greatest struggles is to help fans understand which tournaments, out of the gazillion played each year, matter most. The women's tour has done a terrible job at this. Yes, they have Tier I events, but can you tell me which ones are designated as Tier I? Or how many there are? Thought not.
The branding of the Masters Series was simple. "Masters" signifies importance. And before it was called the Masters Series it was dubbed the "Super Nine," another basic, intuitive branding. But 1000? It's relatively meaningless. How will fans know there's not a 2000 level event? Or a 1,000,000-level event?
Leave it to tennis to mess up one of the few things that actually works.
This is change for change's sake, and will serve to yet again confuse the fans and make them want to watch football. Speaking of which, I hear the NFL is renaming the Super Bowl the Inter-Galactic Football Championship Finals.