ATP Chairman Etienne de Villiers is setting his sights on revising the 2008 calendar, but he's already turned the page when it comes to the Tour's code of conduct. In an effort to prevent the tennis tribe from degenerating into a dysfunctional feuding family, de Villiers delivered a decree to tournament directors and players: diss each other — or the ATP — in public and run the risk of facing sanctions.
While that doesn't mean violators will be forced to face a firing squad led by a legion of the game's hardest-hitting servers targeting transgressors with the official ball of the ATP, de Villiers called on tournament directors and players to collectively debate their disputes privately and respectfully rather than resort to public criticism and quarreling. To that end, de Villiers plans to reinforce the ATP's code of conduct and punish violators.
"I’ve been quite shocked by how dismissive and critical both tournaments and players are of one another, and how collectively you are dismissive of the ATP," de Villiers wrote in an email to tournament directors obtained by Tennis Week. "Now, I recognize we all have to do a lot better and that is my stated aim, but 'dissing' each other, especially in the media, is no way to go. We should be open and honest about our failings and shortcomings, debate solutions fiercely, disagree passionately in private, but once we have decided to do something we should support each other and never harm our game by criticizing each other. I am going to refine and strengthen our code of conduct rules and sanction anyone who violates them."
The statement may be interpreted as a veiled reference to the public sniping between tournament officials and some players over the antitrust lawsuit brought by 45 doubles players against the ATP and its Board of Directors as well as some tournament officials' criticism of player pull outs and depleted fields at the Tennis Masters Cup Shangai, BNP Paribas Masters in Paris and the Tennis Masters Series Madrid.
A week before the start of the Madrid event, tournament officials announced they planned to dump doubles from the event unless the antitrust lawsuit brought by doubles players was settled.
It was an embarrassing episode for the ATP, which appeared to be caught off guard by Madrid officials decision to eliminate doubles exacerbated by the fact Madrid officials initially defied the ATP's decree it must host a doubles tournament before eventually bowing to the Tour and adhering to Rule 2.03 in the 2005 Official ATP Rulebook which states: "Any ATP or Challenger Series Tournament that defaults in payment of prize money or tournament fee or any other payments due to the ATP may have its membership status (sanctioned status if a Challenger Series Tournament) changed subject to ATP Bylaws."
Even before Madrid officials boldly announced they had suspended doubles play, some prominent doubles players already believed doubles was facing a death sentence from the Tour.
"There is no credibility left for the ATP," said Grand Slam doubles champion Mark Knowles at a U.S. Open press conference announcing the antitrust lawsuit brought by doubles players. "They are basically trying to annihilate one form of the game, which is doubles."
Knowles' comments came just days after ATP President, Europe Horst Klosterkemper, told Tennis Week doubles does not draw the crowds that singles does and suggested doubles controversy, rather than competition, is what commands coverage from the media.
"You tennis people have to admit that the fish and not the angler has to enjoy the bait," Klosterkemper told Tennis Week. "Daily newspapers only cover controversy, not the game of doubles."
While some doubles players may well have wanted to wash Klosterkemper's mouth out with wasabi for that remark, doubles wasn't the only point of contention between tournament directors. The rash of injury-induced withdrawals at the final two Masters Series events — Madrid and Paris — as well as the depleted field in Shanghai sparked criticism from some officials.
Andy Roddick and Marat Safin, who were both injured, and Lleyton Hewitt, who stayed home in Australia to be by his wife's side as she gave birth to the couple's first child, pulled out of Shanghai before the tournament started. Within nearly an hour of each other, both Andre Agassi and second-ranked Rafael Nadal, who both made the trip to Shanhai, withdrew citing injuries, leaving only five of the ATP's Race top 10 remain to compete for the biggest prize the Tour offers.
Eight-time Grand Slam champion Agassi aggravated his ankle injury after losing his opening Tennis Masters Cup match to Nikolay Davydenko then pulled out citing the injury and leaving organizers livid.
"We feel like we bought a Mercedes-Benz only to find 60 percent of the auto parts are no longer the original ones we paid for," Wang Liqun, deputy director of the organizing committee said.
Wisely realizing fractured relations are as positive for the Tour as playing demolition derby with the official sponsor's sedans, de Villiers is determined to create a cohesive public presence for the tour and attempt to mediate and resolve disputes privately.
"I believe in the ‘3 R’s’ but not the ones we learned at school. Mine are Rules, Respect and Responsibility," de Villiers wrote. "We must have rules because without those we have indecision, uncertainty and lack of clarity. With rules comes responsibility for each and every one of us to do the right thing and to do it right. I do not want to force things — we should all be persuaded by the logic, benefits and reasonableness of initiatives and rules. But that only comes if we respect one another’s needs and roles."
The ATP has already launched preliminary meetings with Madrid and Paris officials to propose short-term solutions for encouraging player participation in those Masters Series events.
"Player Commitment and Incentive Compensation Representatives of ATP Masters Series — Mark Webster, Paris’ Alain Riou and Madrid’s Gerard Tsobanian — met with the Board to discuss remedies for the ATP Masters Series player field issues," de Villiers wrote. "While they hope we will establish a long-term plan for the ATP Masters Series, we agreed, given our focus on the calendar and all it entails over the next 12 months, in the short-term we will focus solely on possible solutions to help those two tournaments, who have suffered from diminished player fields the past few years (a reversal from historical trends, when the two final Masters events of the years always boasted strong fields)." Revisions to the calendar cannot be made until 2008, the Chairman said. Proposed future changes to the calendars will require the cooperation of the International Tennis Federation, which governs the Grand Slams and Davis Cup. "I am committed to a thorough evaluation of the tennis calendar with all stakeholders in the game — with considerable input from each and every one of you — and expect in Shanghai 2006 to unveil a new strategy for the sport’s season," de Villiers said. "This time, however, we felt it prudent to keep the overall 2007 calendar approach pretty much the same as 2006. Limited changes were made in the Latin America and U.S. summer swings. I have also come to understand that Abraham Lincoln’s famous expression about ‘pleasing some of the people all of the time etc., etc.’ was directed at the ATP calendar and not politics as initially believed. I also know that in future you will all have your turn in being angry and disappointed with me. But if we are going to change and grow, by definition the status quo has to be disturbed. That means some people will be happier with some losers in the short-term. Hopefully, we will collectively come out better, much better and that’s the whole idea."
Jim Thomas - Max Mirnyi - Jordan Kerr - Rohan Bopanna - Andy Roddick - Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi - Ilia Bozoljac - Chris Haggard - Jan-Michael Gambill - Donald Young - Nathan Healey - Lleyton Hewitt - Jamie Murray - Olivier Rochus - James Blake - Vince Spadea - Tim Henman - John Isner - Travis Parrott - Paul Goldstein - Tim Henman - Wes Moodie - Arnaud Clement - Michael Russell - Jeff Coetzee
Aaarcchhh... political correctness, aka hypocrisy, ahoy!
When will Mr. Disney start showing respect for the players ("Thou Shalt No Longer Get Injuries and/or Become Tired!") and the tennis fans (RR, 5-set finals -> 3-sets, etc.)?
I wonder how this idea will become effectuated.
Take that you bitch. In your face. And to top it off her son, Novak went out in the 3rd round, has been leapfrogged by Murray in the rankings and is only a little bit ahead off Juan Martin In yo face, biatch.