In the March issue of Tennis Magazine, there is an interesting entry in a statistical sidebar: the number 10. It represents the number of WTA events in which the winner never faced a top 50 player.
This can only mean one thing. There are too many tournaments. This is bad news for tournament directors because people will not buy tickets if the top players aren’t there. It’s bad for players because they play too many tournaments and end up on the injured list.
It looks like the ATP is finally going to do something about it. In the same issue of Tennis Magazine, Christopher Clarey has written a very good article that covers all of the issues in this complex power struggle.
See what happens when there is no separate players’ union? The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
The grand slams, the ITF (which runs Davis Cup and Fed Cup), the ATP and the WTA are the combatants. The slams are big and powerful, they make a lot of money. They not only will not shrink or move in the schedule but the French Open is adding a day. And Davis Cup is unwilling to give up any of its four weeks each year.
That leaves the ATP and the WTA and they are in a tough position because they represent both the players and the tournament directors.
What to do then? No one wants to give up schedule time and the ATP and WTA are too timid to take away tournaments from tournament directors. How about paying the top players to limit their playing schedule? Clarey reports that this is the current solution under discussion.
The slams would pay the top players a large bonus in return for playing in a limited number of tournaments and giving up large appearance fees to play in smaller tournaments. I don’t know what Roger Federer got from Dubai to hit balls with Andre Agassi on that helipad in the sky but I do know that Tiger Woods got $3 million to hit a few balls off the helipad and play in their golf tournament.
Now let me get this straight. The top players, the ones making $3 or $4 million a year, are not capable of deciding to play fewer tournaments to reduce the chance of injuring themselves. We will pay them to do it and thereby create an elite class of tennis players. We will reward them for being irresponsible.
See what happens when there is no separate players’ union? The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Isn’t the point of a union to protect all of its players?
If the rank-and-file, in this case the group ranked below the elite-irresponsible-upper-class, does not strike or sit down en masse in the middle of the court during the Wimbledon final, they deserve their fate. They will have given up what little power they do have.
Additional changes are under consideration Clarey reports: reduce the number of Masters Series tournaments, contract the fall season, and use a regional tour structure organized around the grand slams and the year end tournaments. We’ve suggested those here before and they are a good idea.
But don’t be surprised if everyone takes the easy way out by paying off the stars and backing out of any significant changes to the schedule.