ATP chief to players: show the fans some respect
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -ATP chairman Etienne de Villiers has an edict for his elite tennis players: start treating fans with more respect.
In the past week, seven players withdrew from the Sydney International. The most controversial was Russian player Nikolay Davydenko, who was later fined $10,000 for saying that it was a ``small tournament'' that ``nobody cares about.''
De Villiers said he was concerned that 383 players withdrew from men's tournaments last year.
``I'm saying, 'Let's make it a commitment guys','' de Villiers said Sunday in an interview with The Associated Press. ``It's not a reservation or an option. Let's not defraud the fans.
``If you go see U2 at a concert, and at every single concert, one of the band decided not to play, how long would it take you to get teed off?'' said de Villiers. ``If The Edge didn't play, or Bono wasn't there, it would be unthinkable. I tell the players, 'that's what we are doing to our tour'.''
De Villiers said the ATP would also introduce more stringent rules on players pulling out of tournaments ahead of the start, giving players just one ``free'' withdrawal per year before a range of fines or other sanctions take place.
He admitted it was difficult to judge the degree of players' injuries when they pull out during a tournament or in a match.
No. 2-ranked Rafael Nadal pulled out of the Sydney tournament with a groin strain, saying he didn't want to risk his participation in the Australian Open beginning Monday. Dmitry Tursunov and Paradorn Srichaphan also withdrew during the tournament.
De Villiers said he could not be the arbiter of how serious a player's injury was.
``I don't really want to make that judgment call with an athlete that continues to play when they really are carrying an injury,'' he said.
De Villiers reiterated the ATP's need to fine Davydenko heavily.
``He was disrespectful to the game,'' de Villiers said. ``It's hard enough to get fans to come and enjoy this, and it's a lot worse when your own professionals are trashing tournaments. We put a lot of money and spend a lot of time and effort to get the best tournaments we can possibly have, and someone casually trashes it.''