Not digging the RR idea at all. No surprise thought that the top 2 players support it.
But at least they're increasing prize money.
A.T.P. Adopts Early Starts and Shorter Matches
Radical change has proven elusive for men’s tennis, whose leaders have been unable to shorten the season significantly despite concerns about the increased physical demands on star players.
For now, Étienne de Villiers, the new chairman of the ATP, is settling for minor modifications instead of revolution. And last night at a player meeting at the National Tennis Center, he said that the tour board had approved several alterations for 2007, including more Sunday starts for ATP events, the elimination of best-of-five-set matches in nearly all cases outside of the Grand Slam tournaments and, most intriguingly, the introduction of round-robin in the early stages of some lower-level events.
The reaction in the room was generally positive, according to the American player Vince Spadea, but not quite as positive as the reaction to the announcement that prize money would be increased 10 percent across the board at tour events in 2007, the first significant increase for the Tour in seven years.
Andre Agassi also got a roar of approval from his peers in honor of his career, as well as a bottle of 1970 Château Pétrus in honor of his birth year.
“He got a long standing ovation,” Spadea said of Agassi, who has announced that the United States Open, which begins tomorrow, will be his final tournament.
The first day’s lineup has been released, and Agassi is scheduled to play in a night match Monday in Arthur Ashe Stadium. The match will follow the on-court ceremony to name the tennis center for Billie Jean King.
It is unclear whether Agassi will involve himself in the politics of tennis after he shuffles into the sunset in Las Vegas, where he lives, but his close friend and longtime manager, Perry Rogers, is already deeply involved as a member of the ATP board. The six-man board has been consulting more frequently than usual under de Villiers.
De Villiers hopes that starting tournaments on Sunday instead of Monday will increase exposure and allow more opportunity for promotion and interaction with fans. The French Open became the first Grand Slam event to start on Sunday this year. “We’re in the entertainment business,” said De Villiers, a former Disney executive. “Why open your event on the worst day of the week?”
“We’re hoping that between 20 and 30 percent of our events will use the Sunday start in 2007, and it will be mandatory by 2009,” he said, adding that certain events that were close to Grand Slams or Davis Cup weeks would be granted exceptions.
Eliminating best-of-five-set finals outside of the Grand Slam events and the season-ending Masters Cup is designed to limit wear and tear on the top players. After de Villiers assumed his post last year, he quickly made it clear that he wanted to shorten the season significantly to address health concerns. But after learning more about the game’s competing interests, he has backed away from that stance. Best-of-three-set finals also work better for some television networks.
Round robin is already in use at the Masters Cup, the season-ending championships open to the top eight players in the rankings. But it has not been used recently in other tournaments. The idea is to guarantee that fans will get multiple looks at stars at tournaments instead of living with the risk that Roger Federer will, for example, fly all the way to Bangkok for one match and then fly right back home to Switzerland after losing in the first round.
Tournaments with 48-player fields could use 16 round-robin groups of three players; tournaments with 32-player fields could use eight groups of four before becoming single-elimination events in the final stages.
The initial response of the top French player, Richard Gasquet, was negative. De Villiers said Federer and Rafael Nadal, the top-ranked players in the world, support the idea, which protects top players’ interests even though it might lead to them playing more matches over the course of a season.