Tennis chiefs shorten finals in overhaul
November 11 2006 at 04:05PM
Shanghai - Tennis chiefs on Saturday said they would shorten finals at 11 tournaments and test round-robin formats next year as part of a major overhaul of the men's circuit.
The ATP also announced more Sunday starts, bigger prize-money and a multi-million dollar marketing fund to build the sport's profile, along with greater use of the "Hawkeye" video umpire.
Best-of-five set finals at Barcelona, Basel, Gstaad, Kitzbuhel, Stuttgart and Vienna, and at the Masters Series events in Hamburg, Madrid, Monte Carlo, Paris and Rome will be cut to best-of-three for easier TV scheduling and to reduce strain on players.
Round-robins, where each player plays everyone in his group, will be tested in three different formats at selected events.
ATP president Etienne de Villiers consulted the top eight players on the changes here on Friday ahead of the season-ending Masters Cup.
"We've moved in the right direction this past year and there is a lot of potential to improve the game of tennis even more for players, tournaments and fans," said Ivan Ljubicic, president of the ATP Player Council and a competitor here.
"For sure there will be challenging times ahead for all of us and we may not necessarily agree, but I am optimistic from the discussions we've had with the leadership of the ATP that we will do what's beneficial for the game."
The round-robin test, which will guarantee fans the chance to see their favourite players more than once, drew immediate fire from world number one Roger Federer.
"I'm not so happy about the round robins but it's a test, we'll have to see how it goes," Federer said.
Prize money will be increased across the board for the first time since 2000 and the Hawkeye system, allows players to challenge line calls, will be used for the first time at the Australian Open, the Indian Wells and Miami Masters and the Masters Cup.
Player burn-out has been a constant source of debate, most recently at last week's Paris Masters where the withdrawal of several top players angered organisers.
"I don't think it's good that nobody of the top five played in Paris so we have to look at it," Federer said. "But sometimes players are just exhausted, like I was, or injured."