September 25, 2022

PARIS – The ATP, which runs the men’s professional tennis circuit, has approved a sweeping package of changes, including the sharing of profits between tournaments and players and the expansion and length of five other top Masters 1000 events of the circuit.

Italian and former star player Andrea Gaudenzi laid out much of this long-term plan when he applied to become ATP president, taking the job in early 2020.

It took nearly two and a half years to get the package approved due to the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic as well as the myriad tensions and fiefdoms within the sport.

“It’s been a while in coming, and for me it’s a big step towards players and tournaments working more in alignment and more in the spirit of partnership, which is exactly how the ATP has been. designed decades ago,” Todd said. Martin, a former top-five singles player and chairman of the ATP Players Council, who is now the chief executive of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

The ATP is an unusual and often unwieldy partnership in professional sport between workers and management: players and tournament owners have equal representation on the board and the ability to block each other’s initiatives.

This structure has made change difficult and sometimes excruciatingly slow in a fragmented sport that also has six other governing bodies: the WTA; the International Tennis Federation; and the four Grand Slam tournaments, which operate independently of each other and of tours and generate more than 80% of professional tennis revenue.

The new ATP package, due to be announced on Thursday, attempts to close some of that gap by bolstering other tournaments and closing ranks within the men’s circuit, which has been divided by internal dissent. Novak Djokovic, currently number 1 in men’s singles, spearheaded the creation of the Professional Tennis Players Association in 2020 with the aim of creating more bargaining power for players and increasing the number of players able to earn a living on tour.

But most male stars, including Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, have refused to support the PTPA, and all three are part of the ATP Players Council, which has been instrumental in approving the new changes.

It’s a far-reaching plan that also creates stricter conflict of interest rules for board members and improves conditions for players during tournaments. But the main changes come down to sharing.

The ATP will consolidate the rights to the tournament into ATP Media, the tour’s sales, production and distribution arm. For the first time, the Masters 1000 tournaments, the top nine regular men’s circuit events that include the Miami Open and the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., will share a percentage of ATP Media’s revenue with the tournaments. of lower category. known as the ATP 500 and ATP 250. The 500 and 250 will also have guaranteed representation on an expanded Board of Directors.

For the first time, Masters 1000 tournaments will allow fully independent auditing and award players a share of the profits in addition to the base prize.

“We said, ‘Let’s really start at the root of the problem,’ which is the lack of trust between players and tournaments,” Gaudenzi said in a phone interview. “And all of these fights that take place every year and take 80-90% of our time and energy and resources and are all about 1%, 2%, 3% of the prize money.”

Gaudenzi said the profit-sharing deal, like the ATP plan as a whole, would run for 30 years from 2023 to 2053 and called for guaranteed prize increases of 2.5% each year at Masters 1000 events. the tiered auditing process, players would get a percentage of the profits based on their performance in all Masters 1000 tournaments. If the tournaments lose money, the base prize would remain the same.

Gaudenzi said the annual bonus pool would also grow significantly, “targeting $20 million” (from around $11 million this year), and would be paid out to 30 players instead of the current 12.

In exchange, the Masters 1000 are multiplying. So far, only Miami and Indian Wells have been 12-day events with 96-man draws. But starting next year, the tournaments in Madrid, Rome and Shanghai will expand to 11 or 12 days, and the Canada Open and Western and Southern Open in Mason, Ohio, are scheduled to take place. expand in 2025.

That would leave only the Monte Carlo and Paris Masters as week-long 1000-level events, but Gaudenzi said the hope was to expand them and make them combined men’s and women’s tournaments.

“We’re trying to provide more days of premium entertainment,” Gaudenzi said.

He said market research has shown around a billion fans follow tennis to some degree, but the vast majority “only check in and check out in big games” like “semi-finals. and the Slams finals”.

He said the goal was to create a larger core of 100 million fans who follow the sport more closely throughout the year.

“The gap between Grand Slams and Masters, in my opinion, is a bit too big now if you compare it to, say, golf,” Gaudenzi said. “In terms of success and prize money, the majors and the PGA Tour are much closer, and we need to raise that level because we want to give fans a narrative from January to the ATP Finals at the end of the year.”

The Masters 1000 expansion will create spillovers, shrinking the available window for smaller tournaments, especially the ATP 250s, the lowest rung on the main tour ladder.

“When the schedule gets compressed, you’re going to lose like 250 somewhere,” said Bill Oakes, former tournament director of a 250 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “People are going to be kicked out, but I’ve spoken to several tournament directors who have said, ‘It’s not going to be me; it’s going to be the other guy.

Gaudenzi said attrition would be low, but the long-term goal was not just to change the ATP, but to grow tennis as a whole by creating more unified governance and safeguards. He added that he was looking to avoid disputes like this year’s with Wimbledon, which banned Russian and Belarus players from playing this summer only to see the ATP and WTA retaliate by stripping the tournament of ranking points.

“It’s an unfortunate situation that certainly upsets the players and everyone,” Gaudenzi said. “The only thing I can say is that I hope this is the last time this happens.”