Re: New blog post (135#) (22/5/11) Clay and I - by Amir Weintraub
Here's the latest post. I've missed a couple cause I've been busy. It's a very fast transation.
"The best Univesity in the World"
Sometimes people ask me about my commitments as a tennis player. After all, you don't belong to a team, there is no coach that can pull you off if you don't follow instructions, you are your own master, Your life is honey. If you don't feel like practicing, you can always convince yourself that you don't feel well and need a day off and stay in bed (and it happens). You live your life.
Quite frankly, they have a point.
A few weeks ago I have felt, for the very first time, that I do "belong" to something. I got a memo from the ATP about having to complete the annual duty of attending the ATP University. Four days of studying.
"Requirements? University? Is there an exam at the end?" I went to check with my friends.
Apparently every player in the top 200 must attend, within a year after first entering the 'top 200 club" a four days program. The options weren't bad. Miami in March, London in November. I've decided to use the off-season to get to London and get this thing over with.
The slight trepidation evaporated within the first moments. Upon arrival to London an ATP vehicle arrived to pick me up. After less than an hour I've found myself getting a huge suite (paid by the ATP) in the Marriot hotel, and spitting distance from the Big Ben. So, in four days, Eleven – pretty overwhelmed – guys, most of them have never even played a main draw GS round, had an experience most of knew might never return.
Let's start with the business. For Four days we've studied (studied sounds difficult, we're talking 9 AM – 2 PM) about how the ATP works. Where the money comes from, how to handle the media and how to give interviews. How to watch out from the hundreds of forbidden substances around which are being offered by 'doctors' that had been the bane of many innocent tennis players. Mostly we've learned what to do, or – more to the point, what not to do with our money.
The 'university' requirement exists since 1989, around the time the ATP started enjoying the big money. At the same time, there had been a growing amount of incidents in which players had lost their money or bankrupted, whether because of the wrong investments or because it went down the drain with the bookies. The intention was clear, to give the kids on tour an idea about the world they've found themselves in. To try to explain what happens to a kid, for example like Boris Becker, who wins Wimbledon at 17.5 and gets a huge pile of money and glory which change his life overnight.
We've gotten some investment tips. Including a lecture by one of the senior executives of BNP PARIBAS (A bank which is the main sponsor of the Davis cup). We were stunned to hear how common it is for players to crash.
Some of the most known and less known names lost all their money shortly after retirement, or while they were still playing.
Some players have tried to get into business because they figured out they were going to be as good there as on court, some just gambled and lost all of their career on the roulette table.
Rios the Chilean was mentioned as a player who was world number one and lost all of his money in a short time. Dominc Hrbaty the Slovak, who might not have been a superstar, was mentioned as a guy who made very successful real-estate investments, and today, a year after retirement, enjoys a great financial success.
So we wouldn't feel 'ripped off' (After all, we paid 2,500$ membership fees to the ATP this year), the ATP explained to us where the ATP gets its money, and which percentage goes to us players. The most surprising data was the fact only 12% of the tournaments revenue is from the TV, a miniscule amount in comparison to other sports.
As time went by we've allowed ourselves to ask more questions which bother us as the 'ordinary' tennis players on tour. Because with all due respect, we're far from wondering where to invest the money, we will never be Federer, Nadal or Djokovic. We're not even sure we're going to get into the top 100, and we're concerned with our inability to make a living.
We've brought up the biggest absurdity with the ATP people – prize money for winners in Masters and GS goes up each year, but those winners don't need another 100,000 dollars to their already inflated check, while us, the players who need to play qualies, don't get any raise.
All of the big money goes to the elite. The bottom line – something in the ATP mechanism is broken if only top 100 players can make money. How could it be that a player ranked between 100-200 in the world needs a daddy who will pump him with money to keep him afloat?
One of the more interesting classes we've attended was about working with the media. They taught us how to avoid questions by journalists who are trying to trick us, how to identify such question, how to stand and where to put your hands during an interview. Each player had a personal training in which he practiced one-on-one what we've learned in class, and had to withstand an 'interview' test and then watched himself to see how he stands in front of the entire nation and… stares at his own feet...
And there was a lot of pleasure, too. After all, the ATP makes a lot of money (in 2009, for example, I've read that the ATP made 83 million dollars and earned 28 milion), and we got a good example of its ability to pamper (and lets forget for a moment about the full funding of the flights and dinners, the suites, or even the Ipod waiting for us at the end of classes).
So - At the end of the first day they told us that tonight we are the guests of the ATP at the Masters finals between Federer and Tsonga at the amazing O2 arena. We all got player badges, so we could get anywhere we wanted in the stadium, locker-rooms, trophy rooms, VIP room. I preferred the VIP room, I was there for most of the time and I figured out this was the best way to watch the match.
I don't like asking for photographs from people, but in this case I had to make an exception. It started in the VIP room where a whole bunch of soccer players stood – nearly driving me mad. Christiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney. Almost all of Totenham players. A moment after I've forced Ronaldo to take a photo with me, Pipa Middleton showed up, Alton John, Sting and Models. Lots and Lots of Models.
At the end of the night, after having dinner at the stadium, we had a ride to the hotel – the ATP chose an original way to get the players around during the WTF – a 50 seat ferry which sails on the Thames, so we wouldn't have to fight the city's traffic. We boarded the ferry which was due to depart at 10 PM.
A few moments after the ferry was suppose to head out, it was asked to be wait because of 'some people who *had* to board it'. A few moments afterwards we could hit the road – Tim Henman, Greg rusedski , Boris Becker, Pat Cash, Kate Middleton, Alton John and Roger Federer boarded.
It had been my pleasure to write for you this year. See you in 2012.