Just read my blogging colleague Lynn Berenbaum’s excellent eye-opening piece on the new changes at the ATP and with men’s tennis. Unlike me, she’s up on matters of the Tour. Last month she blogged on the round robin format, which has already been sanctioned at more than a dozen 2007 events, or as I would call them “events where you will not find Roger Federer”.
Back to Lynn’s blog. Frankly I don’t really care about the ATP’s hires and fires, but it does interest me when a sporting organization is planning on changing its name for this, the second time this decade. That’s a big thing. From ATP Tour to ATP to apparently ATP to ATP Worldwide whatever. Who gives crap. Changing the name is not going to magically moves the sport’s popularity past pub darts. Get over it.
Now I don’t profess to know much (if anything) about the inner workings of men’s tennis, but I do often and fairly compare it to the other pro sports I follow. So when was the last time the NBA or NFL or NHL changed its name?
And good luck marketing just six guys. I’m guessing Davydenko or Nalbandian or Ljubicic aren’t among the Chosen Six, right? Surely Federer, Nadal, Roddick and Blake. Then maybe Nalbandian and Murray, and maybe they can sneak in Safin. Basically, you go with guys who can sell tickets and/or those who are worth some bank. Hell, throw in Donald Young!
Point is, in tennis you never know. What if Blake goes back to 2003 Blake. Or Connors leaves Roddick and Andy decides that standing 10 feet behind the baseline is “in” again. Then who are you promoting?
Tennis has a lot of problems, and many of them will not be solved in my lifetime (season too long, appearance fees, too many self interests, etc). I get that. But tennis (WTA included) really needs to stop spending money on marketing and websites and posters and ranking systems, etc, and start looking at how to get their product – that means the top players – to show up on a consistent basis at their major events.
Peyton Manning is arguably the biggest star in the NFL today, and part of the reason he’s reached that level is because the guy shows up 16 Sundays out of 16 every fall, every year. Since entering the league Manning has started 141 straight games for the Colts, a streak that will continue next Monday. That’s 141 straight without missing the first snap of the game, which is pretty amazing when you consider it’s football. Makes me wonder who on the ATP or WTA has the longest consecutive streak of not pulling out of an tournament! I would love to know that one. (I’d bet Davydenko!) I mean if Manning can play 141 straight games surely some tennis guy/gal has played like 30 straight events without a pull, right? Maybe 40?
But Manning knows that showing up is his responsibility. That’s what he’s paid to do. That’s his commitment to his team, to his fans, to his league and to himself. And even though I’m not much of a Manning fan, I respect that about him and other athletes like Brett Favre who take pride in what they do and in the opportunity they have all been given – to get paid big time for playing a kids’ sport.
I just wish many of our tennis players shared in that same spirit. That way the governing bodies of the sport could stop throwing away money on temporary band aids in attempt to raise the sport’s profile. The best thing tennis has is its players, now get them on the court!
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