MELBOURNE, Australia -- The chairman of the ATP Tour wants to reduce the tennis schedule to 10 months, move the season-ending Masters Cup to late October and give the men at least an eight-week break before the Australian Open.
In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, Etienne de Villiers said the tour hopes to have the shortened season in effect by 2008.
He also said there are no plans for a players' union, although he conceded that the ATP needs to take better care of its stars.
"A lot of the top players want a longer period where there is no tennis, and I acknowledge that's a requirement," said de Villiers, who took over as chairman last June.
"No one is saying we want four months off -- they're all saying eight or nine weeks. At the moment it's six weeks. I don't think getting to eight weeks is a problem at all," de Villiers said.
Any attempts to shrink the schedule will have to be approved in meetings with Grand Slam organizers, the International Tennis Federation and individual tournaments, de Villiers said. He hopes to have a better idea of when it will be introduced by the end of this year.
"We can start introducing elements in 2007, but the calendar is locked right now," he said. "Hopefully by 2008 we will begin down that road."
He said the shortening of the calendar will ultimately result in shifting of some tournaments. There's been calls in the past to move the Australian Open, the season's first major, from January to March.
"The calendar is a very complicated chess game, it's not an easy thing to resolve," de Villiers said. "We have to do right by [the tournaments]. If there are losers in this process, we have to be fair and reasonable, we can't be dismissive.
"But equally we need to be clear about what we want to do. We have to build something that's a better business," he said.
De Villiers, a former senior executive with The Walt Disney Company, said a two-week break in the middle of the season was discussed but discarded as impractical. He said the break would likely start at the end of October and run into December.
He said there is too much time between the U.S. Open in September and the Masters Cup final in November, and it may be turning off fans.
As well, some of the top players who have qualified for the Masters Cup take time off, watering down the quality of events in between.
"The crescendo that you build toward the season, I think that's a lot of what we suffered with," he said. "The season kind of goes dead after the U.S. Open, a lot of the players feel they're done.
"For the fans it's quite a long way: 'What is going on, why should we care?' That's something we need to focus on a lot more," he said.
De Villiers said that it's important that the Davis Cup final, currently scheduled for the last week in November, ends the season.
"If we can bring everything else forward ... the Davis Cup final doesn't affect that many players," said de Villiers. "It's an added burden for six or eight players."
Last week, 2003 U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick said the longer season resulted in more injuries and suggested a players' union might give the players more say on the circuit. But de Villiers said a union isn't on the agenda.
"It's a complete non-issue," de Villiers said. "I know Andy said something about that but I had a long conversation with him, and Andy was saying, 'We need to have a voice and we need to be listened to.' I've reassured them that that's what we're going to do."
Top-ranked Roger Federer said this week at the Australian Open that the players need to do more to ensure the future success of the tour, perhaps putting aside individual goals.
"If we had more Rogers in tennis, we would have an incredible product," de Villiers said. "He's not only a great player, he's a great ambassador, a great thinker.
"I think part of the issue is that the top players are in huge demand, they know that they drive the tour. And yet because of the demands of the tour, they don't really have a voice. We may not agree with what they tell us, but we need to have that as a view," he said.