Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - My Apologies. . .
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My Apologies. . . 12/10/2008 - 12:46 PM

Tmc Mornin', everyone. We'll be starting our book group live discussion of Pete Sampras's autobiography A Champion' Mind  a little later (starting at 2 PM, EST, with another round at around 9 PM tonight - if there's still interest), but meanwhile I have a little misunderstanding to clear up.

In my recent ESPN post, I wrote a fictional "Help Wanted" ad for the ATP's CEO job, and included this line: Senior employees might be intractable and exacting, and often at cross-purposes. A number of ATP staffers and/or board members read that literally (and you can't blame them), as a reference to the ATP's in-house staff.  I want to make clear that I was playing around and meant "employees" metaphorically - as a reference to the top players, agents and tournament promoters, all of whom loosely can be said to work for or under the ATP CEO. This was an obtuse and ill-chosen device, because it sure reads like a criticism of ATP staff - which is an extremely professional, diligent and cohesive unit. It's always  been a great pleasure to work with them.

I had a conversation about this and other matters a few minutes ago with Kris Dent, ATP Corporate Communications Director. We cleared up the above matter and had a good conversation about things in general, and Kris mentioned something that really bears repeating here. The Hamburg case was a momentous event in ATP history. Had the ATP lost that case - and many pundits and knowledgeable insiders predicted just that  - the ATP as we know it would have (as Kris put it), "ceased to exist as we know it."  It's a sobering thought to keep in mind when you ask a question that begins with something like, Why can't the ATP just. . .

And that entire series of events was launched by nothing more earth-shattering than the change in the status of an existing tournament and the addition of another, with a slight calendar tweak.

Here's some good news. Kris agreed to get a senior ATP staffer to field some of your questions about the upcoming year (and the ATP in general), because some of the changes (ranking points, the relative importance of various tournaments, etc. etc.) are confusing, and the ATP knows it. The designated ATP staffer will also answer any Big Picture questions you may have, including those that begin with, Why can't the ATP just. . . We're going to try to make this happen sometime between now and the start of the new ATP year. I've asked that we make it a live chat, so you'll be able to post questions in the comment section, and the ATP representative will answer you in real time. Stay tuned for more information on that.

Please stay on topic if you wish to comment on this post.

PS - I am still pondering the endless and difficult debate over Off-Topic comment posting, and have decided that Watercooler posts will be wide-open for any discussion y'all wish to have, including OT. There will be a Watercooler post every other day until we return to Your Call and Crisis Center posts once the tennis year begins, at which time those posts will be open to OT chatter before and after the day's play is done. But more on that later. . .

-- Pete

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Posted by Master Ace 12/10/2008 at 01:16 PM

That will be good for an ATP person to answer the question on the new point structure and how it will affect the 2008 numbers.

But here is why can't the ATP just have a place where we can find the record of all players(and the record of all players on different surfaces) at one location instead of going to their profiles?

Posted by Pete 12/10/2008 at 01:29 PM

MA - maybe we'll get Greg Sharko to sit in one day, too, to answer that and to maybe get some ideas for fan-friendly features. . .

Posted by Annie 12/10/2008 at 01:36 PM

First! my first first!
Hi everybody. I read your espn post yesterday and of course knew you were being facetious. Btw, when you mentioned john. p. mcenroe, at first i thought you were referring to john's dad who i know is a lawyer, but you were actually referring to john the player! i know he's out of contention but that would have been ironies of ironies.

Posted by Annie 12/10/2008 at 01:37 PM

aaaww MA! shucks.

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 12/10/2008 at 01:37 PM

Hey Pete.

Live chat with ATP person is a fantastic idea! Looking forward to it.

Posted by Syd 12/10/2008 at 01:38 PM


Glad you got things squared away with the ATP guys. As for someone from ATP answering our questions - brilliant! Cannot wait to read both questions and answers.
Master Ace has already fielded two great ones.

Posted by Orpheo 12/10/2008 at 01:49 PM

For Logistics sake. Could we start turning in questions for the ATP rep now? That way people wont ask the same or very similar question twice....just a thought.

Posted by Pete 12/10/2008 at 01:49 PM

au contraire, Annie, I was talking about JPM the lawyer, whose hounded me all of my days for referring to him as John McEnroe Sr. As he rightly points out (and he's an amazing proof-reader and amateur linguist), his son is Jr., but that doesn't by definition make him (or anyone else in that situation) "Sr." And I screwed that up a number of times. . .

Posted by Annie 12/10/2008 at 01:53 PM

pete: i thought Sr. was a great idea! sorry it didn't get any traction.

Posted by Master Ace 12/10/2008 at 01:55 PM

That would be excellent if you can get Greg to join in if he has time.

Posted by Orpheo 12/10/2008 at 02:10 PM

Why cant the ATP and WTA form a cohesive governing body for both tours, just like ITF is for Slams??
Ibelieve that double gender Master Series are the most appreciated and the ATP could benefit from the marketting experience of the WTA, and the WTA might shape up in the competition if it is constantly competing for attention against ATP matches...

Posted by Orpheo 12/10/2008 at 02:30 PM

It would be interesting to have Mario Ancic as a Player rep in the ATP. I just read in ESPN what his thesis was about.

"Mario Ancic: The 24-year-old Croat can now answer to "Counsel for the Defense," having earned a law degree from the University of Split in April. Ancic started working toward his degree in 2002. Ancic gave a 45-minute oral thesis on a subject matter close to his tennis ties -- "ATP: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow."

Maybe Pete could ask for a copy of that thesis (translated to english if it is in croatian)

Posted by Ross (formerly JR) 12/10/2008 at 02:41 PM

Who's the gremlin who keeps substituting Steve's posts for Pete's on the home page?

Posted by 12/10/2008 at 03:49 PM

why Davy's picture was chosen for this???

Posted by 12/10/2008 at 05:19 PM

I second Master Ace in the wish for a unified database. Preferably, something which we can script, i.e., write programs to gather stats. Or, is this something that they want to sell?

Another question is whether the ATP has plans to do anything to benefit players ranked 50-100. I've read stories about players in this range who are in pretty dire straites financially. Is there any way to spread the love, so that they don't have to pay for strings, balls and shoes?

Posted by Pspace 12/10/2008 at 05:26 PM

Oops ^^^ was moi

Posted by ptenisnet 12/10/2008 at 06:03 PM

Spoken like a true nerd Pspace. I would have loved some kind of data only downloadable format for all the stats that they publish.

Also, why doesn't the ATP make use of their website to make announcements about themselves in a timely fashion. Why do we find out about things like the betting imbroglio or the tour restructuring or anything else ATP related from external sources first.

Posted by Miguel Seabra 12/11/2008 at 12:13 AM

Hey Pete!

I'm having a little bit of free time for the rest of the month, so I'll try to visit you here more often.

There's this thing about the frequent ATP nomenclature changes that should promote a very good debate with Kris Dent. It's an issue that really bugs me, not only as a fan but also as a professional within the sport.

Tom Tebbutt called it "Nomenclature Nonsense". Here's from his blog:

«...In other news from nomenclature nonsense department, the ATP is changing its name to the ATP World Tour. Surely surveys have again led to this initiative, which means in less than 10 years the tour has gone from ATP Tour to the ATP to the ATP World Tour. It seemed ridiculous back in 2000 that the ATP Tour would choose to become simply the ATP, creating an inconsistency with the women's WTA Tour inside the sport of tennis – not to mention with the PGA and LPGA golf Tours that usually appear in proximity on the results pages of daily newspapers.

Journalists covering tennis since 2000 have spent hours writing a lower case “tour” after ATP to be officially accurate. Now, with the ATP not only restoring the capitalized “Tour” but adding “World,” will they go for this longer form?

Another example of ATP corporate over-think is the name of the season-ending tournament held every November. Over 20 years it has had four – the Masters, the ATP World Championship, the Tennis Masters Cup and, starting in next year, the ATP World Tour Final.

In 2000, the event reverted to the Tennis Masters Cup because from 1990 until 1999, despite officially being the ATP World Championship, many media outlets, mainly in Europe, continued to refer to it as the Masters. The ATP returning to the Masters name in Tennis Masters Cup was a sensible way for it to re-incorporate a popular name and also have it fit with the its nine Masters Series elite tournaments. But now it changes again.

Next year the ATP World Tour will have significant prize money increases, with overall direct prize money up 36 per cent over 2006 levels. The Rogers Cup to will go from $2.45-million in 2006 to $3-million in 2009.

To justify prize money hikes, the current ATP regime has obviously had to add some sizzle by re-jigging its nomenclature and introducing such things as harsher punishment for players missing Masters Series events (unnecessary because players have been good at playing them – the top-five missed zero Masters

Series tournaments in 2008) and stencilling tour identity on the bottom part of the nets on court. For example, at the Rogers Cup it would be “ATP World Tour 1000” – all in the name of branding.

Roger Federer is against the latter and has suggested that, if necessary, the identification could be superimposed graphically on television as is done with the first-down line in football games.

Sometimes you wish that ATP officials would realize that the personalities of the tennis's superstar players, and the sport itself – as it is played on the court – are the greatest advertisements for the game. The matches are occasionally truly inspiring, and may also occasionally be really dull, but then has anyone seen three more boring NFL games than were played on American Thanksgiving Day last week?

If only the ATP brain-trust understood that a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.

I told him that the word World had only one vowel, making it a difficult word for latin speaking countries. Then he added this:

the paucity of vowels in the word “world” makes it difficult to pronounce for speakers of Latin languages such as Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and French.

Who would have thunk it? But it got me thinking, is it wise to have an English world in the name (and logo?) of the ATP when there are only three players from English-speaking nations in the top 20 (Andy Murray, Andy Roddick and James Blake), and fully seven, starting with numero uno Rafael Nadal, from Spanish-speaking countries?

ATP Mundo Tour anyone?

He also has a word about the new WTA Tour nomenclature... which will be more confusing than the Tier I, II, III and IV branding.

Posted by Miguel Seabra 12/11/2008 at 12:22 AM

An this is the other part from Tom Tebbutt's "Nomenclature Nonsense" post:

Money and surveys is what is behind the latest changes in the men's ATP tour.

It's the same old story.

In 2000, the ATP Tour got $1.2-billion (all figures U.S.) over 10 years from Swiss sports-marketing giant ISL and introduced a series of changes that it justified by saying it had done market research surveys.

Within three years, ISL had gone belly up and the financial windfall disappeared but the changes did not.

Because surveys indicated casual fans did not understand the ATP rankings, tour officials decided, based on the Formula One car racing format where the results start afresh at the beginning of each year, that its Race would replace the rankings. All of its publicity was focused on the Race, which fans were supposed to follow excitedly from the start of the year, and the rankings would be renamed the Entry System and hidden from the public.

Of course, the rankings continued to be the life blood of the tour because, based on a 12-month rolling system, they determined that most vital and elementary of functions for players – entry into tournaments.

It took more than five years, but the ATP finally had to end the charade of the Race and the Entry System by restoring the pre-eminence and the name of the rankings, which have been the essential currency of pro tennis (and arguably the ATP's most valuable asset) since being introduced in 1973.

A major misconception by the ATP in its surveys has been that all varieties of fans of the sport need to understand the rankings. It is a little bit like the playoff set-up in the NHL, NFL, NBA or MLB; it is simply not essential that they are understood, just that they are perceived as providing a generally fair and logical system for running the sport.

Do most NFL fans understand the intricacies of quarterback ratings? Do they even need to? Probably not, but those ratings are nonetheless widely accepted as being a reasonably accurate representation of quarterback performance.

The current ATP leadership, based on what it claims are “extensive” worldwide surveys of 20,000 fans, are again tinkering with the rankings.

It appears to think that if it renames its various levels of tournaments the Masters 1000s, Masters 500s and Masters 250s – based on the ranking points available to the winner – there is going to be a sudden epiphany of understanding about the rankings and the structure of the ATP calendar.

Fundamentally, what should come out of its surveys is that fans actually do generally understand tennis, namely that the foundation of the sport is the four Grand Slam pillars – Wimbledon and the Australian, French and U.S. Opens, which are not controlled by the ATP. The rest of the year is like the regular season in other pro sports – good quality tennis but just not played at quite the same heights of competitive fervour and media interest as the Grand Slams (or the playoffs in the other major sports).

In order to re-brand a Masters Series event like the Rogers Cup in Canada as a Masters 1000, the ATP ranking points for the winners had to be doubled, meaning the Grand Slam champions now get 2000 points, Masters Series winners 1000 points etc. etc. That's a clumsy move because the 1000 points for a Grand Slam event champion and 500 points for a Masters Series winner were somehow able to communicate a much better sense of the relative merits of tournaments.

Posted by DMan 12/11/2008 at 01:57 AM

I like Miguel's post, including comments from Tom's blog.

It's that time again, for the so-called leaders of the pro game to start tinkering in an attempt to make things more confusing.

The WTA is master at it.

The ATP's idea to re-brand the Masters series events as: Masters 1000 events?!?!?! DUMB with a capital D-U-M-B!And does anyone really care if the ATP is now the ATP World Tour. Way back when, the WTA was the WITA (I for International) until they changed it back to WTA. Leave things well enough alone. Like ATP. And Masters series events. This every few year tinkerings of branding, ranking systems, year ending format and venue changes just hurts the credibility of the game, and doesn't bring more fans or respect to the sport.

Also, it would be nice for an ATP exec to grace the presence of TennisWorld, but it sort of makes me wonder when you need to have someone from the ATP explain all the changes going on, especially for die hard fans. If die hard fans can't understand, how will ordinary, casual fans get it?

To summarize the problems in pro tennis today, I feel I need to repeat this over and over: It's the SCHEDULE, stupid!

(Until the powers that be want to really and truly address the pro tour calendar schedule, the growth of pro tennis will be forever stymied.)

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