Tennis Pros Need to Support Smaller Tournaments
| February 21st, 2010

By Krystle Nicole Russin

The other day, someone said to me, “Tennis’ rankings order doesn’t tell the real story.” He went on to say the rankings aren’t representative of real talent measures, only that some people pick their tournaments wisely. I, having heard this argument from others before,  highly disagree.

The current rankings rules encourage emphasis on entering smaller tournaments and therefore, reaching more tennis fans as opposed to those with the money or transportatIon means to attend Grand Slams. A true tennis star shines most in my eyes playing everywhere – the events with less prize money and publicity –  more than the player doing well a few times a year.

My hope is the WTA and ATP can somehow bring even more players to smaller tournaments with the encouragement of a more equal points system. Furthermore, players as we know, dislike putting full effort into matches with fewer points because they get neither improved rankings nor money.

If the greatest in the world could see they needed to give their all to smaller events, more fans would come in bulk, deals could be inked for better television tournament coverage, more businesses would take an interest in promoting the sport and the entire tennis industry, including players, would find great financial incentives – all while reaching more people at smaller levels.

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31 Comments for Tennis Pros Need to Support Smaller Tournaments

Kimo Says:

Well, let’s start by mentioning the obvious: You’re not gonna see Fed, Djoko, Murray and Rafa compete in ATP 250 tournaments anytime soon. It’s just not worth the effort, inconvinience and possible injury to go play such tournaments for the sake of 250 points and a few thousand bucks (in case you win).

So this leaves us with ATP 500 tournaments. Now if you are able to get 2 out of the top five plays in such tournaments, they would draw big crowds and a lot of interest from the media. Dubai could have had Roger, Rafa, Novak, Murray and Delpo, but unfortunately for us only Novak and Murray remains. Djoko’s and Murray’s fan bases are simply no match for Roger’s and Rafa’s. Murray I think will have plenty of support; lots of Britons in Dubai.

jane Says:

Kimo I think Djoko has pretty good support there as well; he is returning champion, and he is thinking of having a home training base there. He and Martin practiced in Dubai pre-AO. So I think both Murray and Djoko, as well as Cilic, Davy, Tsonga, will draw a number of fans.

PietjeP Says:

Well, I’m not sure about this. I tend to disagree about more top tennis players to the “smaller” tournaments. Mainly because there are too many/much “bigger” tournaments.

It’s a combination of different factors. At first, the slams, the 1000-series and Tour final amount to 18/19 calendar weeks already. Then there is Davis Cup, in which most top players participate (except Fed). Add another 2/3/4 weeks.
Also keep in minder travelling the globe, which takes time; Australia – Europe -USA – Europe – USA – Asia – Europe. It takes not just the flying time, but also time for physical adjustment.

Now most players do compete in a couple of 500-series. Fed for instance in Basel and Dubai (if not injured). Then some players maybe play a favourite tourny or home tourny in a 250 series.

But that’s about it. What more should we expect from the top players? Look at a 500 series tournament like Rotterdam. Every year, the cancellation of top players, half of field still struggling with physical problems. Mainly due to crappy timing (right after the AO).

This whole topic is very delicate. Maybe we should look at the 250 series as a level in between the top tennis and the challenger circuit. Just a thought :)

Curtis Says:

I totally agree PietjeP. The regulations dictate that those who have direct entry must include the grand slams and master series tournaments in their overall ranking score which amounts to around 15 tournaments. Then the next best 3 results at 500/250 tournaments contribute to their final total. This clearly doesn’t give incentive to the top guys to be playing anymore more than this number. I’m not sure prize money is really the issue here given that the top 10 could quit tennis now and not worry about their finances for the next 200 years.

The only solution would be to reduce the number of masters series tournaments which frankly would be counter-intuitive.

Ben Pronin Says:

In a perfect world, the top players would play a bunch of small events and give their all to defeat their rivals. However, the sport is too grueling and demanding for this to happen. It’s unfair to ask the players to give their all every single time for every single event, small or big, just like it’s unfair for the fans who want to see great tennis to settle for above mediocre. And how would you go about making the smaller events more valuable? More points? That goes against the established hierarchy of tennis tournaments that the ATP has worked hard to establish.

Voicemale1 Says:

I agree with Ben, with this exception: A “Perfect World” would not be what a spectator wants, which is implied by the suggestion that players playing everything would constitute such a world.

This article by Russin shows what’s inherently wrong socially speaking: the idea that spectators have a “right” to see such things as huge stars in smaller events; or to see top players play in anything an audience wishes to see them play. As Russin points out, the estimation of players shines brightest when they serve the author’s desire of seeing them play everywhere they could. This is naive beyond measure. Players do NOT have any obligations to spectators. The tours try to enforce such a thing with “mandatory requirements” of participation, but this is done strictly for sponsors. If a corporation is asked to shell out millions to prop up the tours, they want a return on the money, and understandably so. However. Both of these purposes run into the same stumbling block: The Modern Game of Tennis.

Today’s game is a far cry from the almost genteel, country-club atmosphere and pace of the early days of Open Tennis. Watching an early 70′s Wimbledon Ladies Final between King & Evert you notice that there were not even any chairs set out for players at changeovers! These women actually brought their PURSES onto the court with them, just laying them on the ground near the Water Cooler!! Evert would actually hold two balls when serving, and if her first serve went in, at some point she would release the other ball during the rally and it would roll behind her, laying on the back court during the point! Today, any ball rolling onto the court that way requires play be stopped immediately and a Let be played. But this is a perfect example of how the game itself has changed: back then you weren’t required to move that much off the base line – especially going behind it; so a ball laying on the ground 8 feet behind the base line was never a threat. Far from what it’s like today. So aesthetically, that early 70′s kind of tennis looks almost primitive by today’s standards. But if it was still played at that pace (with nothing but small headed, ultra-heavy wooden racquets with 100% Natural Gut string) then the sponsors and the author of this piece would have no trouble getting players to play everywhere they wanted to play. And the players then used to do that, because the tours as we have them today were built by that kind of “barnstorming”.

Today’s game is nothing like that. Players own fitness requirements just to keep up with their competitors means stressing the body even before they ever get to the court! Today’s equipment has made The Modern Game one of brutal power, whether your name is Federer OR Henin. The strings alone, with their capability of producing the craziest angles or the highest bounces, make players today have to cover areas of the court that Evert, Borg, King and Laver would never have even thought to visit during a match. When you add in that Hard Courts have been slowed to “Medium Fast” for the sake of producing the rallies audiences supposedly want to see, well – long rallies lead to a lot of running, hitting, keeping balance, staying mentally focused, and most of all testing your endurance. All of this produces a cumulative stress on the body. More often than not, this stress results in an injury or mental burn out serious enough to lay someone up – and then force them to re-think a schedule for THEIR OWN longevity. That is, if they still want to play tennis for a living. A players first obligation is to himself, not a spectator. An audience OBSERVES an event; they are NOT participants in the event’s parameters. Ergo, they have no such “rights” to see any given player play anywhere.

You could say that today’s Modern Game is in fact a result of trying to cater to an audience demand. By the late 90′s Men’s Tennis in particular had become a battle of who could “not” actually play the game of tennis. A Samprs-Ivanisevic match was about how LITLLE actual tennis could be played. To placate spectator “boredom” of watching an Ace Fest, hard courts were slowed down, tennis balls were made larger – and voila.! More rallies. But this “solution” has a price – on the players. The more running they do and body contortions they have to execute to keep up with the pace, weight and placement of the shots today, the more the body gives out. It has to.

This piece is written with the notion that somehow it’s more magnanimous or egalitarian of a player to obligate himself to spectators by playing every backwater burg in the world which has a tennis court. It’s also written by someone who has very little insight into what’s required today to play tennis for a living.

Ben Pronin Says:

That’s not entirely true, Voicemale1. The players do have some obligations to the spectators. Fans pay a lot of money to watch these guys in actions and plenty of the players acknowledge that. Why should we pay to watch a guy sleep walk through a loss? And what’s the point of sponsorships in the first place? Why did Corona sign with the ATP? Corona will be all over the events where people who want to watch tennis will see the signs and eventually start buying Corona and making Corona money. It’s a cycle to starts and stops with the fans. Therefore, everyone is obligated to them, including the players.

I overexaggerated with the “perfect world.” In a perfect world, the players would never get injured. When Del Potro and Murray sign up for Marseille, they play it. They don’t have to play everything, just no pull-outs and/or retirements. I think that’s a perfect world for tennis (or any other sport).

In retrospect, slowing down the surfaces was selfish for the events. Too many players are really suffering. But would speeding up the courts be a solution? There are still plenty of super fast courts out there (Cincinatti, Dubai, Paris) and yet the players still create long, awesome, grueling, and draining rallies on these courts. I guess in the long run, if you have a bunch of tournaments where you’ll hit a winner 2 or 3 shots sooner, it’ll pay off. But by how much?

Ben Pronin Says:

Scratch Dubai of the fast-court list.

skeezerweezer Says:


TY, nice read.

Just to be clear, there are no more “super fast courts” in todays game. The older hard courts had little or no sand in them, which mostly controls the speed AND the bounce. They were for sure faster. Heck, some of them had no asphalt base, the base was concrete!

Also, Grass, today, IMO is a joke. Why they change it to play more like a hard court still puzzles me. Have you played on Grass? WTF? Isn’t the whole idea behind winning on all 3 surfaces a great conquest because they actually play way different than each other and not a “little”. Maybe this was done to placate to a baseline game? Why don’t we now just paint one orange, one green with chalk and one a darker green with painted lines. You could control the speed with added degrees of sand.

Maybe you should research and write an article on that.

IMO, what the fans want to see.

But is it really? If we had a REAL difference we would see some nice variety and style of players. Who do we have now that has variety & style? FED? Who else? How many?

I think if we are honest with ourselves, not many. I say one, IMO.

And he doesn’t come to the net nearly as often as when the courts were faster….

Sorry for the off topic….hope everyone gets well…SOON :)

Ben Pronin Says:

I don’t entirely agree with only one player having variety. Nadal, at his best, has close to as much if not equal variety to Federer. Djokovic, at his best, is also quite varied. Even though the surfaces are all very similar, you still don’t see everyone performing great on all 3 besides these guys. That’s why they’ve been 1,2, and 3 for the last 3 years. Grass still requires disciplined footwork. Clay still requires patience.

I personally like it when players can play well on all surfaces, no matter how similar. I’m not a fan of specialists. Sampras, as great as he was, was a fast court specialist and only sometimes more than that. You could never say the same about Federer. He’s an all-court specialist.

jane Says:

The lack of variance of service also allows for more dominance. If there were a variety of surfaces, we may see more of a variety of winners, right? It would certainly be harder to dominate if the grass were super fast and the clay slow.

skeezerweezer Says:

Just to be clearer, I am talking about the bounce and the action of the ball on the surface, not that the surfaces still don’t have there differences ( eg; Clay – sliding. Grass – soft body landing lol, hard…tough to slide…although I have seen some guys do it….ouch )

jane Says:

*typo – service s/b surface. “the lack of variance of surface…”

jane Says:

It seemed like the FO played faster last year, or maybe it was just the types of players winning – Soderling in the finals, Murray in the quarters, Roddick his deepest ever result there. Or, it could be that the players have developed their games to suit a variety of surfaces, I am not sure. But it’s an interesting topic.

margot Says:

Anyone watching Murray match? I don’t know what the temperature is out there but to me Andy looks unfit and unwell. Don’t think he’s gonna get to the final at this rate.

skeezerweezer Says:


“Or, it could be that the players have developed their games to suit a variety of surfaces, I am not sure.”

Yes, or maybe because since all the courts are playing closer to the same…….

And yes I agree FO is playing faster also…

It’s a conspiracy! lol

IMO, if you allow me to go deeper, the courts overall have gotten SLOWER. If you’ll notice most of the time if anyone serves and volleys it is a surprise tactic, not something they will do throughout the match. When is the last time you saw chip and charge besides Fed? Sampras? Sampras days the courts were different. IMO if they changed it back the way it was with the surfaces being different you WOULD see a greater game. Yes the players have gotten better, so why did they have to make the courts more the same?

I am going cath some Sh8t fo this but here goes…….when I see Roddick ( BTW, I like Roddick ) hit 140+ mph serve against Fed who then pushs/fluffs a high floater that takes 2 1/2 hours to come back over the net and Roddick WAITS on the baseline for it because he wants to crush his forehand because it feels more manly or whatever….welll…i hope you see where I am going. Get in and put the ball away!Ugh!

skeezerweezer Says:

For those of you “surface nerds” like me looking for data to back it up try reading this article by Time Magazine,9171,1815724,00.html

Nadal would have never won prior to 2002

I’m out….

Colin Says:

Margot, I didn’t see the match, but Andy seems to have won fairly handily, and at least he managed a decent first serve percentage – about 60% I think. I may have said this before, but I think one of the things about him is that he’s a mouth breather, which can give the impression he’s gasping or unfit when he really isn’t. I hope that was the case today!

jimbojones Says:

Ferrero is rebuilding his ranking, Querrey is building his by doing well at smaller events. Good for them, but players also need to avoid over playing. So if a guy makes a deep run or two a la Delpo last Summer skipping cincy even if a 1000 series event was a wise move to save his legs for NY.

Kimmi Says:

jimbojones. Agree. You made some good points.

Here is an intersting article about Andy Murray, talking about his fitness and Priorities.

Voicemale1 Says:

skeezerweezer Says:

“For those of you “surface nerds” like me looking for data to back it up try reading this article by Time Magazine,9171,1815724,00.html

Nadal would have never won prior to 2002

I’m out….”

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

So I keep hearing about all this stuff about Wimbledon’s alleged “slow down” of surface. And I’d heard before that Nadal never would have had the Wimbledon career he’s had to date prior to the slowdown.

But how then did Nadal manage to win Queens Club in 2008? All of the written and talking-head clamor about slowing down the grass pertains just to Wimbledon. To my knowledge, no one has ever spoken about “slowing down” Queens Club, or Halle for that matter either. So this “slow down of the grass” stuff is dubious at best, because all of it seems to pertain just to the All England Club. Which brings us to the real reason grass tennis is so different now.

It’s the equipment and the size of the ball more than the court. Serve and Volley is dead everywhere as a tactic to be in the Top 10 (or even Top 20) nowadays. The strings and racquets allow players to generate so much power and spin from the back court, making a volley extremely dangerous living. The reason the bounce off the court is higher is quite obviously due to the RPMs on the ball now, thanks to the Polyester Strings. Sampras, Borg, McEnroe, Rafter, Laver or anyone else back then could never dream of putting 2500 RPMs of topspin on a ball they hit with their Natural Gut string. ANY ball with that kind of spin is gonna jump off a court, even grass. That same kind of spin brings the ball down to your feet much more quickly, yet another reason S&V tennis is a dying game. The ball is already well below net by the time you get inside the service line to hit a volley – another consequence of the new equipment and strings.

Grass has become a baseline game just like every other surface has for the exact same reason: the equipment allows for too much power coming at you from the baseline to control a volley regularly. The court has much less to do with it.

skeezerweezer Says:

Voicemale1 Says,

“But how then did Nadal manage to win Queens Club in 2008? All of the written and talking-head clamor about slowing down the grass pertains just to Wimbledon. To my knowledge, no one has ever spoken about “slowing down” Queens Club”

Your knowledge? From where?. Go look around first before you say “to my knowledge” and knock someone else. Try researching some facts dude;

BTW, Yes they did.

Read this:

Ever heard of AELTC? Common sense, C’,mon!
Why in England would they want to make different playing grass court surfaces JUST prior to Wimbledon…..geez!

They may make different/faster tourneys on clay/hard prior to a GS but England is verrrrry traditional. If they make a change, u bet its gonna be consistent. How do you say “White colors”?

Which brings us to the rest of your argument, zero.

Ps; It sounds as though you have never played grass

I’m out….

skeezerweezer Says:


The above email address I posted previously at 10:24pm was a mistake. Tried to copy the article link NOT an email address. The e-mail address has nothing to do with my opinion…..

blah Says:

no, the grass courts are indeed slowed down… that doesn’t discredit Nadal’s wimbledon win though.

skeezerweezer Says:


No, it does not. It was just a point. Regardless, a win is a win! Congratulations Nadal!

O-Kerr Says:

Ben, variety does not necessarily win a tournament. It may or may not produce a better player. It depends on how much you have mastered the variety, plus whether the added element has affected your strong shot adversely. It has certainly helped Roddick but cannot say the same about Djokovic. The Serb may have added volley to his game but this addition has weakened his baseline game. His volley is not good by any measure, and I doubt it can ever be as reliable. His net-rushing is not going to work as he does not have the serve. For that matter, adding variety is a bad tactical decision on his part. If he is trying to compete with Murray in defense and thinks that that is his future direction, I say he can never be as good as Murray. Djokovic would have to retrieve his offensive game to be a dominant player in the future or else . . .

Jane, as for Murray producing better result on clay, his game is ideally suited to the surface. All he needs is play more on clay and believe he can win on this surface. I don’t know if we could conclude FO is playing faster just because a couple of players did well last year. I don’t think anything has changed at FO as of now, but it could if they move it to a new location, which has been in the serious discussion since last year.

Skeezerweezer Says:


Do you know your physics? A flat ball with a fast surface. It does not matter how much Spin a player can produce if he does not have the time to execute it so I will keep this short I am going to sleep already. 2500 rpm topsin? Who cares? Have you seen Nadal struggle on the faster courts? He can’t get his big cut at the ball because he doesn’t have the time! Players are learning to hit THROUGH him with speed and a flatter ball….

I posted earlier but they dis-allowed due to a mistaken e-mail link.

Also, If you do your research on the net the England Lawn association HAS in fact slowed down all tennis grass courts in England along with when Wimby did. Did you read the article I posted?

Serve and Volley is MAINLY dead because of the surface.

margot Says:

voicemale 1: gr8 posts as usual and here’s my halfpenny’s worth: when the players are trying to establish themselves don’t they play every blooming tournament in every part of the world, in order to get points? Why the heck should the top players go through all that again?

trener po tennisu Says:

ATP or WTA can pay extra for inviting top players in a smaller tournaments.

MMT Says:

The ranking points allocated to small tournaments are insignificant to the big name players – the best they can hope to get is 250 points and that’s if they win, which they all cannot.

What brings the big name players to smaller tournaments is money – prize money, bonuses from a common sponsors, or appearance guarantees. If the smaller tournaments could offer guarantees on par with prize money from slams, they’d have a shot.

How they go about doing that is a mystery, but I’m quite certain that’s the only way they’ll get big fish to swim in a small pond.

Ben Pronin Says:

The title of the article is “Tennis Pros Need to Support Smaller Tournaments.” I guess what she’s trying to say is the TOP players need to support the smaller events. Technically speaking, there really isn’t anything wrong with the way things are right now (except too many events). The top guys play and win the big events. The smaller guys play and win the smaller events. Sounds like a perfect puzzle to me.

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