Press Release Source: Save Doubles Tennis
Save Doubles Tennis Files Lawsuit Against ATP Tour, Inc.
Thursday September 1, 6:02 pm ET
HOUSTON, Sept. 1 /PRNewswire/ -- The best doubles players in the world have joined together to file a lawsuit against the ATP Tour, Inc. (ATP) to "save doubles" and preserve the tradition and integrity of the sport of tennis. Ironically, it is the ATP that governs the professional tennis tour, formed in 1990, to, among other things, "promote and protect the future of the sport of professional tennis" and to give tour players a voice in their sport. The suit was filed earlier today on the fortnight of the U.S. Open, the highest attended tennis tournament in the world, in which the plaintiff players are participating. Some of the top players in the suit and their attorneys will hold a press conference at the tournament site in Flushing Meadows, New York on Friday, September 2 at 10:00 a.m. E.T. The lawsuit alleged that the ATP's efforts to purportedly "enhance" doubles is in fact a concerted effort by tournament directors to run the best doubles players out of the game and turn the doubles circuit into nothing more than an exhibition marketing tool for tournament directors to promote their singles tournaments. The lawsuit also alleges that the ATP's directors have violated their fiduciary obligations to the players by enacting rules that prevent doubles players from competing, contrary to the express wishes of the players.
The international law firm of Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P. and the Houston- based firm of Ellis, Carstarphen, Dougherty & Goldenthal P.C. have teamed up to bring the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on behalf of the highest ranked doubles stars, including U.S. standouts and twin brothers, Bob and Mike Bryan who were ranked no. 1 in 2003 and most of 2005, Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor, the number one ranked team in 2002 and 2004, Mahesh Bhupathi, another former no. 1 player, Graydon Oliver, a former NCAA champion and standout on the tour who is fast rising in the rankings, as well as Houston resident twin brothers and former NCAA Champions, Richard and Will Barker, who joined the tour in 2004, among numerous others of the game's best. The complaint seeks injunctive relief to stop the ATP's and its directors alleged unlawful and anticompetitive conduct against athletes who excel in doubles. The players charge the ATP and its directors with antitrust violations and breaches of fiduciary duties.
After Wimbledon, the ATP announced fundamental changes to the rules concerning scoring in doubles as well as how players would qualify for doubles tournaments. The players claim the ATP, controlled by self-interested tournament directors, have unfairly changed the system to favor excluding doubles players in favor of singles players, upsetting long traditions in the sport and completely divorcing entry requirements from past competitive success in doubles. The players were flabbergasted by the announcement especially given that the Players' Council (comprised of mostly singles players and a few doubles players) voted 8-0 against the doubles reform. Mike Bryan, one-half of the dynamic and fan-friendly U.S. team stated "They are monkeying with the integrity of the game ... 99 percent of the players who I've talked to think it's gonna be bad for doubles and fans. People are gonna lose a lot of respect for doubles. The players voted against it and the tournaments passed it anyway, so it's a pretty corrupt system." Under the new rules, doubles experts, who train and play an event with unique requirements as compared to the singles game, will be required to qualify for the singles tournament before being eligible to compete in ATP doubles tournaments, no matter how successful they have been in prior doubles competition. Under the new regime, doubles Grand Slam champions would be denied entry into tournaments if they did not also qualify for the singles draw beginning in 2008. However, because of the special requirements to excel at the highest level of doubles, most of the top doubles players do not play the singles events. If the rules are implemented as planned, the result will be that a century old sporting event enjoyed by millions of players around the world today -- doubles tennis -- will virtually disappear as serious competition at the professional level.
"These so-called 'reforms' are nothing more than the latest, but most outlandish, step in the ATP's effort to get rid of today's doubles stars. Unfortunately for our clients, as well as the entire sport of tennis and its fans, a small number of ill-advised and self interested directors of the ATP are not only attempting to unlawfully take away the livelihood of the best doubles' players in the world, they are also seriously harming a sport that millions of people love to watch and play. They have failed miserably to promote doubles, which, in retrospect, is actually part of their overall scheme to get rid of the event so they won't have to compete for players in that market -- thus putting more money into their own pockets." said John F. Sullivan III, a partner in Fulbright's Houston office. "Worse, these directors have flaunted their misguided intentions without even acknowledging their fiduciary duties to the players and members of the ATP, which they don't seem to appreciate includes the doubles stars." David Mantor, a partner at Ellis, Carstarphen, Dougherty & Goldenthal makes the point that "Doubles is such a great event that even with no promotion by the ATP, it's clear that fans love it." "It should be obvious to all that with proper promotion and attention, the event of doubles can flourish and be profitable to all concerned." Sullivan adds: "at the U.S. Open yesterday, the Grand Stand Stadium was packed with boisterous fans cheering on the Bryans against a team of singles players ... while next door in Louis Armstrong Stadium where two singles stars slugged it out, there were few fans and little cheering ....the Bryans won that match in three sets and saluted the crowd who gave them a standing ovation. Just think what it would be like if they truly promoted it."
The new requirements will not extend to the four major Grand Slam events, which are governed by the International Federation of Tennis, but the effect of the rules will keep most doubles stars out of competition in those events too based upon the ranking system. If double players are prohibited from playing ATP events because their singles rankings are not high enough to secure entry to singles draws, they will lack the ATP standing to be eligible for doubles draws at the Grand Slam events.
The players have also started a non-profit entity called "Save Doubles" because of the expressed interest of so many fans who want to contribute financially to support these great players and the sport. Those wishing to support the cause can send contributions to "Save Doubles" Care Of: Nancy Stark, Suite 5100, 1301 McKinney, Houston, Texas 77010-3095.
Source: Save Doubles Tennis