If the ATP, which governs the men’s tour, and the International Tennis Federation (ITF), which governs the four Grand Slam events, had become buddy-buddy over the last few years — even joint-sponsoring the year-ending Masters Cup — that love was lost this week when the ATP announced it would elevate its Masters Series events on its new 2009 calendar to the same ranking-points status as the Australian Open, Roland Garros, the French Open and the US Open.
Currently the Slam events receive double the points on the ATP-run rankings as the ATP’s Masters Series events. In March the ATP announced it was working with the ITF to elevate the ITF-run Davis Cup competition by offering ranking points for Davis Cup play. Now it appears ATP President Etienne de Villiers was merely throwing the ITF a bone ahead of what will be devastating news for the ITF, which holds the Grand Slam events far and above any “regular tour” events.
“The Masters 1000 events will be worth the same amount of points as the grand slams,” ATP spokesman Stephen Duckitt told The Age on Monday. “I haven’t heard anything as to what the reaction from the slams has been.”
You didn’t hear the sound of ITF honchos wetting themselves? Look for a major media reaction, and soon.
The ITF lost control of the tour in the late 1980s when players revolted against the lax running of professional tennis, and the ATP Tour was born in 1990 (a title since shortened to ATP, and reportedly changing to “ATP Worldwide Tour” in 2007. Just in case you might mistake it for a regional or local tennis tournament). Since then the ATP and ITF have been at loggerheads in a push and pull battle for control of professional tennis, at times making nice, at more often times taking shots at each other in the media and refusing to back down from even minor power positions. The ATP has had difficulties with the 2009 calendar, especially in regard to the ITF’s stiff positioning of the Slams and Davis Cup weekends.
The next ATP board meeting will reportedly take place at the French Open, with more ranking and calendar news to come. In the meantime, the Masters Series Hamburg and Monte Carlo events are suing the ATP over being pushed out of the Masters 1000 picture on the new 2009 ATP calendar.
The ATP is truly going for the gold in their restructure of men’s tennis in regard to leveling their top events (including a just-announced Masters Series event in China) with the Australian, French, Wimbledon and US Open. The great locations of tennis — Melbourne, Paris, Wimbledon, Flushing Meadows…Shanghai?
Now faced with the Slams getting lost amidst the ATP’s Masters events in terms of prestige, get ready for some ITF fireworks as tennis’ powers-that-be return to slugging it out ’80s-style.
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