Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - An Open Letter. . .
Home       About Peter Bodo       Contact        RSS       Follow on Twitter Categories       Archive
An Open Letter. . . 12/12/2008 - 9:00 AM

Atp2_3 [[ The other day, I mentioned that Kris Dent, the ATP's Director of Corporate Communications, agreed to write an "Open Letter" to TennisWorld readers, to provide the ATP's institutional view of the progress that has been made recently in the sport, and to highlight some of the programs and advances of which the ATP is most proud.

I felt his would be a good thing to do in light of the fairly narrow focus I adopted in some of my recent pieces on the ATP, and specifically on the degree of latitude (or lack thereof) available to any potential ATP CEO. One valuable aspect of dragging Kris into this, I felt, was to highlight the fact that the executive actions of the CEO, especially in the most high profile areas (like the Hamburg demotion crisis, or the round-robin experiment) are only part of the ATP's overall effort to administer the pro game. So here's a broader overview of recent ATP activities and some of the up sides of the way the ATP is structured as a partnership between the players and tournaments.]]

Kris writes:

Peter - thanks again for your time this morning - always good to catch up and discuss and debate the issues. And thank you for making the changes to the original  article on the point about staff.

As I said I certainly wouldn't argue that tennis's structure can often make it a challenge to move the sport forward, but I'm not convinced it has lead to a 'perpetual state of gridlock'.

Indeed many of the positive changes that have been made to the men's game in recent times have come about because both the tournaments and players have been represented at the ATP Board table, and they have been able to find ways of moving the sport forward to the benefit of all in the men's game.

Innovations like Hawkeye and the changes to Doubles scoring, for instance, have been introduced successfully and have become huge fan favourites. Similarly, having both groups represented at Board level has allowed the calendar changes for next year to be made - positives such as creating a
healthier schedule for players to plan their season from, the creation of a new, dedicated Asian swing post-US Open, and the less congested spring clay and autumn indoor seasons are good examples. The increases in investment into new stadia ($800m worth) and the record prize money levels on offer next year only came about because both tournament and player representatives worked at a Council and Board level to create them, together.

Having the people that matter in the room together when decisions are being made and changes debated can be a great positive for our sport. No one would argue that having Rafa, Roger and Novak on the Player Council, involved in the process of governance, is anything but a huge positive for the sport and the same is true on the tournament side.

There are also positive examples in recent times of tennis as a wider industry working together to make needed change, quickly. The sport's reaction to the issue of integrity this year is, I think, an example of how we have worked together, quickly and transparently to the benefit of tennis. In less than a year, the governing bodies have taken decisive action to tackle the issue - they commissioned and published in full an independent report into integrity by Ben Gunn and Jeff Rees, accepted and implemented all 15 recommendations of that report, created a standard set of integrity rules across the sport globally and have introduced an independent, global tennis Integrity Unit which now has responsibility for this area.

Tennis is a truly global sport that has always had many stakeholders within it, and of course that means that one part of a tennis leader's role is to find common ground. But it is also a sport that is happy to acommodate visionaries, and having the key stakeholders in the Board room together means you can achieve a great deal together.

I guess that whoever becomes the next Chairman of the ATP will go a long way to proving or disproving your argument - but I would be very surprised if he (or she) turned out to be just a dotter of i's or crosser of t's.

Once again thanks for your time today. I will speak with Phil as soon as he is back in the UK and hopefully we can arrange the Q&A with fans for next week or early in January.

Cheers
Kris

[[ One of the main things I take away from these comments is that there's a big difference between a significantly reduced calendar and a better-structured one. That is, the players probably are reconciled to the loaded calendar, and agree that the solution to their discontents lies not in cutting back the calendar, but in structuring it in a more sensible way. And I'm glad Kris mentioned the rapid action on the integrity front. One thing Kris did not mention is that the tennis is way out in front of many sports on the doping issue; I think that's probably because that is more of an ITF/Olympics issue than an ATP issue. But it's a fact.

Whatever the reason, tennis today is one of the most rigorously "clean" among all sports. Interestingly, a powerful, independent player's union might have created serious obstacles to the implementation of strong, transparent integrity policies and perhaps even doping positions, given the way that player unions often try to protect their constituents and preserve their autonomy and what might loosely be called their "rights." But that's an issue for another time.]]

-- Pete


35
Comments
Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Posted by Master Ace 12/12/2008 at 09:28 AM

Pete,
Glad Kris is able to shed some lights on what is happening with the ATP. Hopefully, the Q & A session will happen next week as the Holidays are fast approaching and when January comes, our attention will be on the Australian Open. Also, you made a good point on tennis being ahead of many sports in the doping area. That is one reason I follow tennis more than any sports(except maybe American football)'cuz baseball is a joke at the moment dealing with mainly steroids and some basketball players smoke marijuana during the season. I do know that American football has an issue at the moment where the league wants to suspend players but the judge granted an injuction as the players was not clearly told about it in their collective bargaining agreement.

Posted by 12/12/2008 at 10:00 AM

a random contrarian thought....

The letter says, "No one would argue that having Rafa, Roger and Novak on the Player Council, involved in the process of governance, is anything but a huge positive for the sport..."

I feel as if there have been several, if not many, statements latelyl to the affect that the experience of a very top player on the tour is very different than even one just in the top 30, let alone, 100, or lower. The needs are different and the perspectives on things like number of tournaments, prize money, etc. may be very different. As such having the players represented by the top three constitutes a very skewed perspective on what the players as a whole reallly want.

I don't think that the top three are this thoughtless but as an example, the ATP could eliminate all challenger or lower tier tournaments and abrely affect the top three's schedules, except for the occasional home-base tournament. This clearly does not well serve the majority of players in this 'union' who live and die on these tournaments.

just a thought

Posted by jb (Go Smiley Tennis!) 12/12/2008 at 10:27 AM

While Fed, Rafa and Nole may have a different perspective on the tour, the reality is if they speak, people will listen. Nature of the beast, imo, that the big names will draw attention as well lend some wait.

While Alberto Martin does indeed have a different view of the tour and its issues, I can't believe that his voice would carry as much wieght as one of the top 3. It will be up to the other players to get their views voiced to one of their representatives; the good news is all 3 seem to be fairly approachable 'regular' guys. And between them, they've got most of the languages covered to be able to speak easily with most of the players on the tour.

Posted by Syd 12/12/2008 at 10:35 AM

Thanks Kris,

For taking the time to write. There are still a number of questions that I would like to ask, such as the ATP's reasoning behind the change to the new point system—and what it hopes that system to accomplish that the old one could not; as well as how points from the old system will fall away.


Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 12/12/2008 at 10:42 AM

Thanks for the open letter, interesting to read. :)

On the top 3 not being able to represent all the players, I just assumed it was their responsibility to look outside their own areas of concern and all the way across the tour. And as jb said (hey, jb!) they are the ones with the most influence.

Posted by Marian 12/12/2008 at 12:13 PM

Thanks for the open letter, Kris.

Has the ATP calculate what are the different scenarios regarding the new point system?. I mean will the new one benefit a "hot player" or it's payment time the following year for a top-10 one?. Does it end -as we know it- the Roger era of 237 weeks as number one for any other player in the future?.

I would also like to know why is the new sanction rule for withdrawing necessary. The big guns will probably cite a medical reason to withdraw from the mandatory tournamentes -like fatigue- because they are always going deep in MS and GS. Why is it necessary to implement the sanction if the other players are just benefiting that one of the top-five/top-ten is at last not showing at a certain tournament?.
Is it only about investments and tournament directors or does it has anything to do with the sport called tennis?.
If everybody is attending the same tournaments, the young players don't have a pray until the top five retire or at its best when they have a bad day at the office.

Posted by Marian 12/12/2008 at 12:19 PM

I just realised that all that money that my parents and the State have invested on me to learn English properly has been for nothing. Sorry about all the mistakes, folks.

Posted by maedel 12/12/2008 at 12:54 PM

Marian --

No need to apologize! Because of typos and careless errors even by native speakers of English when they are writing in the heat of passion, I think we all know to read for meaning, not correctness of form.

I appreciate the questions you asked about the new point system and the sanctions for withdrawal and hope that direct responses will follow.

Is the new spring clay season really *less congested*? Doesn't seem so to me.

Posted by Ruth 12/12/2008 at 01:32 PM

I was pleased to read Kris's comments on the ATP. I am sure that having the top players on the Council will be good, but I just wonder how much time they will actually give to the thorough examination of all sides of the issues, the kind of time and the kind of study required for making sensible decisions. How often will they actually be "in the room" listening and thinking before reacting?

I was very disappointed, for example, by the seemingly sentimental/selfish/juvenile reactions of some players to the suggestion for the change in the status of the Monte Carlo tournament. The comments certainly didn't seem well reasoned. I also hope, as someone else suggested, that the needs of the lower ranked players will also be given full consideration.

In spite of all of our hopes for improvements in the future, I still believe that there was/is a great deal of truth in what Pete wrote about the difficulties (to put it mildly) inherent in any attempt by anyone -- insider or outsider -- to make some of the changes (for example, in the structure of the calendar) which cry out to be made.

How many times, for instance, have I heard people say, resignedly, "That will never happen!" when they talk about how sensible a change in the dates/length/location of certain events would be? Too many times, I'm afraid!

Posted by greenhopper 12/12/2008 at 01:41 PM

Thanks for the interesting read, Pete and Kris.

"Innovations like Hawkeye and the changes to Doubles scoring, for instance, have been introduced successfully and have become huge fan favourites. "

ahem, am not a fan of either really. not by a mile.

Posted by Marian 12/12/2008 at 01:45 PM

Hey Maedel,

Thank you for understanding the gist of my comment and "forgive" my mistakes.

Indeed the spring clay seasson is even more crowded with Madrid in it. I understand they cannot built it around Rafa but any clay specialist player in the future will have to grind it if he wants to become a top five player. And that will probably mean that by fall he'll be totally exhausted. Or is this what the ATP wants?. Hot-players for the spring season and then another set of hot-ones for the fall?. This of course means that the clay specialists will never be seen at Paris and Shanghai (MS) because they will be burn-out by then. I don't want to see Chinese players only on hard courts and this will be the result of this policy IMO.

Posted by RedClaw 12/12/2008 at 01:54 PM

Marian, your English is just fine. :)

Posted by Marian 12/12/2008 at 01:59 PM

Thank you, Redclaw. Interesting name, by the way.

I think I'm going to have some wine and see if my English improves with alcohol.

Posted by Annie whose son just got in to Cornell! 12/12/2008 at 02:13 PM

Marian: lol

Posted by Marian 12/12/2008 at 02:36 PM

Annie,

You think is funny but at the end of the day I tend to mix four different languages. My family has no problems with this peculiarity but my children's friends when visiting, think I'm some sort of ET. My son is quite proud of it and he tends to show of -specially with girlfriends by answering me in the same way. Of course these girls think he is some Einstein and I'm a freak of nature. That's a generation gap for you.

By the way, congratulations with your son. We don't have those differences with universities here in The Netherlands being such a tiny country.

Posted by Sher 12/12/2008 at 03:22 PM

greenhopper,

["Innovations like Hawkeye and the changes to Doubles scoring, for instance, have been introduced successfully and have become huge fan favourites. "
ahem, am not a fan of either really. not by a mile.]

Me neither!

Posted by Sher 12/12/2008 at 03:25 PM

[I was very disappointed, for example, by the seemingly sentimental/selfish/juvenile reactions of some players to the suggestion for the change in the status of the Monte Carlo tournament. The comments certainly didn't seem well reasoned. ]

What would you consider a well reasoned suggestion?

For me it all boils down to: I personally loved to watch Monte Carlo -- beautiful location & great tennis. Do I as a viewer care that Ion Tirac thinks Madrid will be more successful? No. I just lost a tournament I enjoyed watching.

I didn't have such emotional attachment to Hamburg so I am not as sorry to see it go. What I am sorry about however, is that it wasn't turned into a grass tournament instead to create a grass court season. It's a missed opportunity.

You can definetly call my views sentimental -- they are, since they are based on emotions. Personally, that doesn't bother me and I don't consider it a reason to discount the views themselves. We can't always be motivated by cold hard logic, or we could just program robots to play tennis instead and watch that.

Posted by Pspace 12/12/2008 at 03:38 PM

Thanks Kris, for taking the time. And, of course, to Pete, for making this a forum where this sort of dialog can happen!

Count me in as a fan of HawkEye and the new doubles scoring. I still have some reservations about HawkEye, and feel that the experimental work has not been clearly explained. In particular, I'm not sure exactly how accurate it is. I've always considered dubs as an opening act for singles, so no complaints in making it shorter.

Regarding Monte Carlo and Hamburg, I'll prolly agree with Sher. My beef with Hamburg was that the clay was too different from RG, giving Roger an unnecessary sense of confidence before Paris :). I believe Madrid clay is closer to RG.

Other issues can wait till Q&A. Thanks again.

Posted by ptenisnet 12/12/2008 at 04:32 PM

Hawkeye is cool enough on its own.
I am not sure that I am a big fan of the rules around its usage. If it is in fact better than the human eye, why limit the number of challenges? Or why even leave it up to the players?

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 12/12/2008 at 04:41 PM

I like Hawkeye, just for the fun of seeing the replays. I guess the rules are a bit gimmicky but the limits on the number of challenges maybe stop players over-using them purely for gamesmanship.

Not a fan of the doubles scoring. But then I don't like TBs much either, not at all in a final set.

Posted by Samantha Elin 12/12/2008 at 05:32 PM

Hawkeye is the best thing to happen in tennis in a long time. I remember the match between Serena and Capriati at the USO which led to instant replay, one mistake after another. An umpire and mistakes shouldn't get to decide a match. I'm just glad we now have instant replay, so we can know for sure. Go Caroline, Scandinavia's#1!

Posted by Arun 12/12/2008 at 05:39 PM

I don't like the super tie-break - it kills a proper Dubs match.. And hawk-eye is okay.

Posted by jb (Go Smiley tennis!) 12/12/2008 at 06:22 PM

Ruth - i'm see your point about the top 3 perhaps not having enough time to dedicate, but realistically - i don't see other players making particularly 'reasoned' and deliberate decisions either.

As for the clay season becoming more crowded, surely it hasn't it? Monte carlo is no longer required, so 1 down. And hamburg and madrid have simply been swapped?

Should be interesting to have a Q & A though, i'd like to know about the points; what made them so convinced that they wanted to increase the spread between the winner and the runner up.

as for hawkeye, its a stop in the right direction imo, but i still hate the dubs scoring change. no ad scoring takes all the suspense away. again, imo.

Posted by Ruth 12/12/2008 at 09:10 PM

jb: Not surprisingly, the opinions of the top players or better known players were publicized, so I really don't know what the other players felt. I doubt that their thoughts would have been any different, and I didn't mean to imply in any way that the other players not heard from would have been any more reasonable about the Monte Carlo and Hamburg changes. In the end, I believe that, in spite of the wailing we heard, all of the players embraced the changes because the changes made good economic sense for the business -- yes, tennis is a business! -- in which they earn their living.

Sher: Perhaps the best place for us to find "reasoned" reactions to the changes would be in the transcript of the trial in which --no surprise to me -- the ATP emerged as winners. One of my brothers and a couple other folk I know practice law in Wilmington DE where the big ATP case was tried, and their reaction to the whole case was whatever is the professional or legal equivalent of "Duh!" It's too bad that the ATP had to spend so much money on that case, money that could have been better used.

Posted by skip1515 12/12/2008 at 09:24 PM

I, too, thought Kris' positive spin on Hawkeye and the dubs changes to be a bit facile.

Hawkeye provides a tremendous opportunity for tennis to be a real competition between the players, and less of one between potentially bad linejudges. Not that I mind the human component, but if they're going to replace it they should do it entirely. The inherent disparity between courts that have Hawkeye and those that don't, at the same tournament, is like there being different rules for different fields at a baseball tourney. And that doesn't begin to address the greater opportunities to exploit Hawkeye by the better players, who spend more time on show courts that have Hawkeye installed.

Not that this appears to bother the spectators and television audience, who lap up the manufactured drama.

Dubs has managed to survive somewhat by default. If the measure of whether the changes are a net plus or not is that doubles is still being played, then I suppose the changes are good. Taken on their own merits, admittedly by me, they are a net minus (pun unintended). One of tennis' most unique elements, the scoring, has been bastardized. And yes, I do think breakers shouldn't be played in deciding sets.

This is not just a result of crotchity-ness on my part, however much it might read that way. You'll just have to take my word for it.

The quick movement on the "integrity" issue was great. Not so great is the continued sponsorship of tournaments by online gambling sites. (Feel free to read that again if it didn't make any sense the first time through. It won't improve the message, but you'll be sure you read it right.)

As a long time follower of Things In Marketing and, excuse the expression, Branding, I've yet to hear or read a compelling rationale for the switch from Masters Series to tournaments differentiated by a number system. Zero romance, zero depth of meaning (i.e., all the meaning is superficial), and double zero continuity.

Having said all that, and implied even more, I appreciate Kris' taking the time to write. Whatever else we might think of the ATP and other ruling bodies of tennis, it's unlikely the same kind of thing would ever happen with any of the other major sports.

(Yup, that's right. I just suggested that tennis is a major sport.)

Thanks, Kris. And thanks, too, to Pete. Do any of the *other* major sports enjoy this kind of forum?

Posted by mina 12/13/2008 at 09:20 AM

hi twibe!!!

back again after an encounter with the evil blue screen...

*off to read the open letter in its entirety*

Posted by Maha (TMF = King of my Heart) 12/13/2008 at 09:44 AM

HALLOOO!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by skip1515 12/13/2008 at 10:37 AM

Mod: entirely understandable, but I thought I was at least mildly entertaining.

Posted by VE 12/13/2008 at 10:42 AM

Sher,

I agree, I think that Hamburg should've been replaced by the Halle Masters instead of Madrid.

Posted by tennis08 12/13/2008 at 11:46 AM

maedel posted:
"Is the new spring clay season really *less congested*? Doesn't seem so to me."
maedel, ITA with you: this year MC, Barcelona, Rome and Hamburg were all back to back, between Hamburg and RG was one week. In 2009 MC will be no longer mandatory but MC, Barcelona and Rome will still be b-to-b ! There will be a week between Rome and Madrid and between Madrid and RG. So players have one more week between tournaments. That is all. Or they skip MC (and Barcelona) to take care of their health.

Kris, I do not agree with you. The new calendars are no healthier calendars. Season is too long as always. There will be a lot of back-to-back events, players will be forced to travel to Asia in fall to attend the new mandatory tournament in Shanghai.

And Kris, I do not remember that everyone worked so beautifully together within ATP or on ATP board as you claim. Players said in interviews that they did not agree with the changes to ATP tour and calendar, they had player meetings and signed two player petitions because of this. All to no effect. In the end, the top three decided to run for player council. As they did not feel represented on the board they got new player representatives.
Kris, who do you think you can fool when you claim things that simply are not true?
I love tennis, but reading your letter gives me the creeps and ATP more and more reminds me of "1984" by George Orwell and the Ministry of Truth where all records are constantly altered so that they fit into the latest official version of reality that the Party wants.
Please do not whitewash what has gone wrong, admit mistakes that has been made, learn from them, to truly work together for the best of the sport. Thanks.

Posted by oliverjohn 12/13/2008 at 01:04 PM

For those who have questions about the new points systems. Here is one answer. We will have to wait for the 2009 rulebook to come out to have all the answers

"At the end of the 2008 season, the points a player has earned in his ranking will be doubled. Starting in 2009, the new ranking structure will be in place with new points structure and new ranking formula. Here is a tournament point breakdown for the different classifications from the quarterfinals-on:
Grand Slam: 2000 (Winner), 1200 (Runner-up), 720 (SF), 360 (QF)
Masters 1000: 1000 (Winner), 600 (Runner-up) 360 (SF), 180 (QF)
ATP 500: 500 (Winner), 300 (Runner-up), 180 (SF), 90 (QF)
ATP 250: 250 (Winner), 150 (Runner-up), 90 (SF), 45 (QF)"
Greg Sharko(atptennis.com)


Posted by Sher 12/14/2008 at 07:56 PM

Ruth, I'm pretty sure the court decided whether or not ATP had the _right_ to do what it did, not whether it was the right thing to do, so to speak.

Posted by stop, in the name of the game! 12/14/2008 at 10:03 PM

Kris,

There's this thing that really hurts the ATP a lot: the constant naming, branding and rebranding.

Please, stop what has already been labelled "nomenclature nonsense". Stop messing with the names of the tournaments. Stop messing with the name of the year-end event. Stop messing with the name of the tour itself.

Would you like people to start writing your name Chris, instead of Kris? Or start calling you Nigel, for that matter, before they start calling you Trevor as soon as the clay court season starts?

A strong name provides a strong identity, as Oscar Wilde proved in his play "The importance of being E(a)rnest". That's why the Grand Slams and the Davis Cup are better known: they kept the same name all the way through, no-one changed their names into Slam Dunks or Davidoff Bowl.

After ATP Tour from 1990 on and then just ATP in the past years (though everybody called it the ATP tour), why does anyone have to squeeze the word "World" between ATP and Tour from 2009 on? Do you know that there is only one vowel in that word, making it very difficult to pronounce in most languages?

And, by the way, if the year-end event is now called ATP World Finals, what happened to the co-ownership of the ITF during the Masters Cup years and why is it (presumably) finished (since the ATP in the new name indicates proeminence)?

I sincerely do hope that no-one will ever start calling tennis with a p just to attract more attention...

Posted by Nancy J 12/15/2008 at 04:57 PM

I personally don't like the "restructuring" of doubles scoring one bit! I don't think it's a "fan favorite" for those of us who have a long history of loving doubles.

I do like Hawkeye, even though, sometimes I wonder how accurate it really is. I know they claim it is very, but... Still, it's fun, and quickly shuts the players up. I do hope they continue to limit the number of challenges. That makes it more fun as the players have to manage how they use the challenges.

Posted by tennisfan2 12/22/2008 at 10:23 PM

Lots of great comments in here. If you were concerned about player health, you would have more grass and clay tournements and the clay tournaments would not be crammed together. The change to points is pointless and seems to favor the leaders. There are so many changes that are pointless, mentioned already by the astute tennis fans above, that I can only say, Is this all about money for the tournaments? Probably, it's always about money.


We are no longer accepting comments for this entry.

<<  Your Call, 12.13 The Deuce Club, 12.11  >>




Wild Women of the U.S. Open
Wild Men of the U.S. Open
Roddick's Imperfect World
"It's Kind of a Dance"
Nadal's Kneeds
The Racquet Scientist: Canadian Tennis
The Long and Short of It
This blog has 3693 entries and 1646147 comments.
More
More Video
Daily Spin