While the ATP heads have been thinking of ways to screw with tennis, the top players have decided to (again) screw the Paris event. As of this writing Monday afternoon, five of the top six players have already pulled from the Tennis Masters Series event in Paris.
Taking a pass from Paris are Ivan Ljubicic, Andy Roddick, David Nalbandian, Rafael Nadal and today Roger Federer. The pulls mean Paris, which offers 2.6 million dollars, with two fewer Top 6 players than the $690,000 Vienna event earlier this month.
How the hell does that happen? Especially when I always thought that if you offer more prize money – in the case of Paris vs. Vienna 2 million dollars more – you get better players.
Obviously, if you run the Paris event, you can’t be happy, and sure enough the tournament heads are not.
Says tournament directory Alain Riou, “This tournament is suffering, our crowd is asking questions. They are tennis fans, most are tennis players themselves. They know what it means for the players to participate in those tournaments. The Paris audience has proved during the past 20 years that they had an appetite for tennis, and we are convinced that they will be able to be patient and wait until next year.”
And, Alain, the players have proved the last few years that they don’t care about playing in this the last event of the season, and sorry, it will probably happen again next year unless something is done.
Former two-time Slam finalist Cedric Pioline, who helps run the event, wants to take it a step further and ban players. “The only formal sanction system which can be effective for players who pull out a the last minute is suspension. The only thing a player understand today are financial sanctions, fines. But given the money they earn, they don’t care about that.”
Suspend them? How is that going work Cedric? It’s tough enough to get them to show up and now you are calling that the tour just kick them out? Unfortunately, tennis needs to guys to playing, not sitting at home.
ATP chief Etienne was also upset, but could offer no immediate solutions: “I am both deeply disappointed and concerned by the depletion in the player field for one of ATP’s most prestigious events. Unfortunately this is the third year that withdrawals and injuries have hurt the event and the fans’ opportunity to see all their tennis idols. This reinforces my determination to introduce meaningful change to the calendar, the structures, the incentives and sanctions needed to have healthy, motivated top players grace our top events.”
But Cedric is right in saying fining them, unless you can fine them six figures and beyond, is not going to matter much. If you fine Federer $75K he can make that up three-fold playing Doha next year. Same goes for Roddick and Nadal. For those guys, the money is available virtually whenever they want it.
So I don’t blame the players, they are just playing the system, which allows these withdrawal to happen with little punishment. Plus, the guys that pulled are already into Shanghai so their the motivation for playing in Paris beyond financial isn’t that great.
And it’s not the fault of Pairs, although one could argue if the event was held two weeks earlier they wouldn’t be facing such a problem.
But if you can’t really fine the players and can’t suspend them what can you do?
How about start docking ATP points for missing TMS events and Slams. If tennis officials can take away player prize money, why can’t they also take away player points? After all, the only place to get those coveted ATP points are at ATP events and not at exos, where you can make-up any money you had lost to fines.
Imagine if they were fining top players in such a way this week. Let’s say you are Top 5 and you skip Paris (i.e., don’t even show up like Roddick) you lose 50 Race points. From 6-10 you lost 25 race points. And so on. Obviously Federer and Nadal are unaffected really, but Ljubicic, Roddick and Nalbandian would certainly have to rethink their decision to miss the event.
After assessing the ranking point fines, the new Top 10 entering Paris would look like (assuming my math is right!):
1. Federer (1574)
2. Nadal ( 804)
3. Davydenko (445)
4. Ljubicic (429) -50
5. Roddick (413) -50
6. Nalbandian (414) -25
7. Blake (411)
8. Robredo (410)
9. Gonzo (402)
10. Ancic (387)
All of a sudden Ljubicic, Roddick and Nalbandian are well within striking distance of the other guys. And guess what, you think those guys would roll the dice, stay at home? Doubt it. I’d bet they’d be on a plane to Paris.
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