Superset to rock foundations
Wednesday June 16, 2004
Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket caused uproar within the game's establishment in 1977. Twenty-seven years on and another Australian entrepreneur, Steven Duval, is looking to make the same impact on tennis.
Superset Tennis has already signed up Tim Henman, Greg Rusedski, John McEnroe and Goran Ivanisevic for its British debut tournament at Wembley Arena on October 3 and the organisers hope they will be playing in a highly charged atmosphere closer to WWF wrestling than Wimbledon.
With an emphasis on crowd interaction, the players will be encouraged to question line calls replayed on giant plasma screens, and their coaches will be on court with microphones.
The matches will each be played over one set, with rock music and lights. The one-day format will have a day session featuring all eight players in four head-to-head sets, and a night session of semi-finals and a final, the winner taking away the entire £250,000 pot.
"The idea of £250,000 for a day's work is pretty motivating," Henman said. "I think in the United Kingdom there's a massive amount of interest in the game and sometimes wonder whether we're really taking advantage. It's going to be something that generates even more interest. This should be a great spectacle and hopefully can bring more and more youngsters into the sport."
McEnroe claimed the format would put him on a level playing field with the current players. "I can give anyone on the men's tour a run for his money for a set or two," he said.
In a parallel with the Packer revolution some sections of the tennis family are expressing concern at the consequences if the idea does take off. But Duval, who intends to build a season-long series of events following a pilot scheme in the United States last year, has enlisted the support of the game's powerful management companies that represent the players. Their clout means any voices of dissent from within the ATP and WTA Tours should be quickly silenced.
"Certain people may be concerned but unfortunately the sport isn't currently changing to keep up with today's requirements," said Duval. "We are not trying to be in competition with existing tennis events. We truly believe that we are healthy for them because we're going to re-invigorate interest and reach a whole new demographic, which is good for tennis as a whole.
"Packer came in and did that to cricket, which was a dying sport, and now it's a billion-dollar industry. We want to do the same to tennis. We want to try and make tennis sexy again."
hmm, not sure what to make of this. Am I wrong in thinking 1 April was over two months ago?