Apparently, the change bug bit not only the WTA but also the ATP. With the sports’ global appeal on the rise particularly in Asia, the ATP decided the time had come for a major overhaul. Moreover, concerns over the inordinate number of retirements and withdraws from events prompted the organization to revisit its rules in order to combat that particular virus.
Here are a couple of key modifications that will be in play in 2009:
1) The ATP Masters series will be renamed Masters “1000” keeping in line with the number of ranking points at stake. The next tier of tournaments will be called “500” and “250” also reflecting the points to be rewarded.
2) Masters “1000” will consist of nine cities and the year-end tournament. It will be compulsory for the top players to participate in eight out of the nine tournaments. Also, there will be 11 “500” events to which players will be forced to commit for a minimum of four years.
3) This should be pegged the ‘play to get paid’ rule. Word of honor will no longer be the measure of a player’s health; a medical panel will decide the validity of an injury. If a player is deemed fit to compete, he will be subject to suspension and depending on his ranking monetary penalty will apply including revenue sharing loss.
To heighten tennis’ visibility, the ATP plans to pour millions into constructing new stadiums worldwide while revamping others. Further, it wants to increase its viewing audience by picking up more broadcasting rights. Moreover, the ATP retooled its calendar applying, whenever possible, the successful format of the U.S. Open series whereby a group of tournaments leads up to the grand prize of the majors’ crown.
Yet, there appears to be some fuzziness as to how the new system functions. A major detail that remains nebulous is the value that the majors will be awarded. How many ranking points will a U.S Open or Wimbledon trophy be worth? Moreover, controversy has arisen over the new policies. American Andy Roddick has vociferously denounced the new calendar as player unfriendly. Roddick feels it will be abusive, requiring an eleven-month commitment from the players. Also, he fears that it will augment the possibility of injury. On the other hand, player and ATP board member Ivan Ljubicic praised the revised rules as favorable for the game in general and the fans in particular. Only time will tell which player is right.