ET Makes a Deal with Monte Carlo

Monte Carlo is still a Masters Series event and the tennis calendar is still too long.

Etienne de Villiers (known here as ET) is the CEO of the ATP. ET has been given the job of reducing the tennis calendar but not enough power to do it, in fact, everyone is working against him.

Tournament directors don’t want their tournaments reduced in stature or removed from the calendar.

The organizers of the tournament in Monte Carlo had filed an anti-trust suit against the ATP in the U.S. state of Delaware. Yesterday, Monte Carlo and the ATP announced that they have settled the suit. ET made a deal with the organizers of Monte Carlo. They can keep their Masters Series designation but their tournament is no longer a required event.

Right now that may not make much difference because the top clay courts players will still play Monte Carlo and many hard court players found a reason not to go already. James Blake and Andy Roddick skipped it this year. But if Monte Carlo was a target for demotion now, nothing about the tournament has changed so it could be a target for demotion in the future.

Clay court players don’t want to lose clay events, especially Masters Series events which hand out lots of points and big prize money.

Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal screamed when ET announced that Monte Carlo and Hamburg would be demoted from their Masters Series status in 2009. ET flew to Monte Carlo this year to explain his decision to Roger and Rafa. He took 24 lbs. of documents with him – as he said in a recent Tennis Magazine article: “I weighed the fricking thing” – to show the market research which led him to choose Monte Carlo and Hamburg for demotion.

It probably wouldn’t take 24 lbs. of documents to figure out that Hamburg is cold and gray and neither Hamburg not Monte Carlo can compete with other Masters Series events that have higher attendance and make a lot more money.

They also can’t compete with a city like Shanghai which gets the newest Masters Series event starting in 2009. China is an emerging tennis market whereas Monte Carlo is tapped out.

It’s not as bad as watching the Tour de France disintegrate in front of our eyes – the race leader, Michael Rasmussen was sent home because he skipped out of competition drug tests. But the Tour de France is making progress because the anti-drug forces in cycling are finally winning the war, the player’s just haven’t gotten the message yet.

There is no progress on the ATP calendar. In the proposed 2009 calendar, the year-end championship will start on November 23rd. This year, the championship will start on November 11th.

That’s not progress, it’s regression.