Yesterday the ATP’s U.S. media maven, Greg “The Remorseless Eating Machine” Sharko told me that the news that came from a spokesman out of the ATP’s international office in regard to the Masters Series events receiving the same number of ranking points as the Grand Slams under the tour’s new 2009 calendar was incorrect.
Shark(o), who has literally eaten people under tables in eat-offs at various Slams, confirmed with the ranking department that the Slams will continue to receive twice the amount of points as the Masters Series events. Shark also put out the fire at Tennis.com which was grabbing and running with the story via their news ticker. To further calm the waters, today the ATP put out a press release to reassure fans that the Slams are of the utmost importance, and that the ITF and ATP are still the best of pals — even though the ITF would instantly baseball bat the ATP Tony-Montana-Scarface style if it meant they could run the entire tour as they did pre-1990.
“The ATP wishes to advise that reports circulating in some sections of the media reporting that from 2009 the Grand Slams will have the same points as ATP Masters events are completely incorrect,” stated the press release.
“It is regrettable that this has occurred at a time when the relationship between the Slams and the ATP has never been closer or better,” said ATP Chairman and President Etienne de Villiers, sitting down for a chat with Tennis-X. If by “chat” you consider sending an e-mail to website president/godhead Luke Johnson who forwarded it me saying “do something with this;” and if by “sitting down” you mean Etienne dictating something over the phone to someone and the website happened to be on the distribution list. That kind of sit-down chat. Anyways, “The ATP regards the Grand Slams as the pillars of the professional game and would not do anything to diminish their status,” according to E.T.
The international group employee who originally said the Slams and Masters Series would be on even terms might have gotten fired, or even promoted, who knows. Sure threw a scare into the ITF though and had honcos reaching for the red Batphone. “You guys are doing what!?!”
Amidst the apology release was this gem: “The ATP does intend to double the points scale for the Masters Events as part of its overall 2009 plan to best position and brand the ATP World Tour events.”
Why throw that gobbledygook in? What the hell does points have to do with “branding”? How does that work? The Masters Series events used to have more points than other events on the calendar, other than the Slams, and under the new 2009 calendar it still will. If you want to “brand” these as top tournaments, here’s a tip, get the top players to play them and not pull out (see: Americans typically each year in Monte Carlo and Hamburg).
And does anyone think renaming the top Masters Series events “Masters 1000″ is a grand branding scheme? Was that the same guy who came up with “Super 9″ in the ’90s (which some ATP employees inverted to “Stupid 9″ in private conversations in regard to some of the marketing tactics back in the day). I challenge the ATP to put up a poll on their website — tennis fans could surely come up with better moniker than “Masters 1000″ to represent the quality of the Masters Series events, which by virtue of the 64 draws featuring roughly the Top 64 players, are tougher to win than the Slams.
Are fans supposed to hear “Masters 1000″ and think “Oh, 1,000 ranking points — now it’s so meaningful to me — like NASCAR!” Give the series a name that can drum up some excitement and doesn’t sound like an action figure or a lawn fertilizer.
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