Tough Talking Tiriac
Time is GMT + 8 hours
Posted: 24 October 2004 2337 hrs
Tennis: Tiriac talks tough to absent Madrid Masters players
MADRID : Flamboyant tennis impresario Ion Tiriac called for a get-tough policy for the millionaire absentees who didn't bother to play at this week's 2.425-million-euro Madrid Masters.
With Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Guillermo Coria and Lleyton Hewitt - the current world top four - all failing to play, Andre Agassi remained the biggest draw card at the Rockodromo.
While Federer pleaded tiredness, Roddick claimed a knee injury and Hewitt stayed away for a holiday in Australia.
Coria actually watched the final as he recovers form a shoulder problem which has kept him away for months.
The quartet have all qualified for the lucrative season-ending Masters Cup next month, and have little incentive to risk themselves in the run-up.
The ATP men's sanctioning body also has no leverage in the matter, since dissolution of the year-end bonus pool system several seasons ago due to a financial squeeze brought on by collapse of a billion-dollar television rights contract in Switzerland.
But taking a page from Formula one racing, Tiriac endorsed hitting the players where it hurts most - in the bank balance.
"Take a million from my prize money," he said of his 2.425-million-euro event. "Call it player compensation, put 10 million in the Masters (Cup fund)," said the colourful former player, coach and manager.
"If he doesn't play one (of the nine Masters Series) tournaments, take away a quarter of his (ranking) points. If he doesn't play two, it's too bad, he cannot play the Masters Cup, nothing else."
The sums in question are not trivial for even the errant top stars.
With Federer walking away with 1.52-million dollars last year as an undefeated Masters Cup champion for a week of tennis, skipping that kind of a potential payday is surely not attractive to any of the Top 10.
Tiriac contrasted the attitude in tennis to that of F1 king Michael Schumacher, who is competing in the weekend's final race of the season despite wrapping up another championship months ago.
"Schumacher didn't stop after six races when he was world champion," said Tiriac, who brought the tennis event from Stuttgart to Madrid with great success in 2002.
"The players have to get conscious that they cannot live without somebody putting an event like this together. I'm calling the rule."
Tiriac said that the four Grand Slams, rivals to the ATP circuit, should also come on board to the new sanctioning plan.
But he doesn't hold out much hope of that kind of cooperation in what appears to be becoming a more Balkanised sporting landscape.
"If the Grand Slams are not going to play with us, then automatically (they) are against us. Of course, Wimbledon is always going to resist.
"The Grand Slams should be aware of the fact that it's a problem, and .. they should participate in the bonus pool, participate in the Masters Cup."
The mustachioed former manager of Boris Becker and Goran Ivanisevic and Romanian rival in the 1970s to compatriot Ilie Nastase directed another serve at today's current stars.
"I think a tennis player who makes five, six, seven, eight, ten million dollars a year, he should have the decency to make his program and give back to the game something.
"He cannot play 70 tournaments, it's true. But is something that is wrong."