Nadal, Robredo Slam ATP Schedule Plans
KEY BISCAYNE -- Rafael Nadal is not happy. Neither is Tommy Robredo. Nor are about 60 players who earn a big part of their salary on clay courts and who signed a petition that Nadal and Robredo waved at ATP CEO Etienne de Villiers in an extremely noisy, extremely unpleasant meeting Tuesday night.
Things got so out of hand, according to one of my moles, that dozens of players walked out of this mandatory players meeting, which was called to go over a number of issues -- not the least of which was to explore plans to eliminate Monte Carlo as a Masters Series event in 2009 and reduce the prize money there from $2.1 million to about $500,000.
They're also not happy about plans to downgrade another Masters event in Hamburg.
Things became so contentious in the meeting that at one point Roger Federer got up from his seat at the front and moved to the back of the room because "it was quieter back there."
More than one source said that de Villiers was having trouble controlling the temperament of the meeting, which is unfortunate because what he's trying to do is the right path. If the ATP is to streamline its schedule by reducing one of the nine Masters Series events, Monte Carlo is it. It's a great site, with the courts overlooking the Mediterranean, but the revenues there are nothing to brag about.
Those clay courters who are demanding de Villiers instead eliminate one of the four North American hardcourt Masters Series events (Indian Wells, Key Biscayne, Cincinnati and Canada) are dreaming. All four of these events produce solid revenues.
Monte Carlo is a clay court event which has been won over the last several years by Nadal, Guillermo Coria, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Gustavo Kuerten. Hamburg, which is two weeks before the French Open, was won last year by Robredo. It's cold there in mid-May. It can be wet and the clay can be very heavy.
Nothing was settled at the meeting, but de Villiers got a major earful. That's something he didn't need a couple weeks after fumbling the round robin problem in Las Vegas. One thing is clear. There's a deep split among the players and de Villiers, who is a strong "people person," has to find a way to bring Robredo and Nadal and their supporters into some kind of compromise with those who either don't care about Monte Carlo and Hamburg or who make their money essentially on the hardcourts.
Another meeting like this could drive a very deep wedge not only between the players and the ATP management, but between players themselves.