Change is a phrase not readily related to tennis. For all its much-loved conventions, the game’s deep reverence for custom has typically been learn as an ingrained resistance to progress.
Throughout the tennis panorama, nevertheless, change is afoot. Generational shifts on either side of the draw supply proof long-touted revolution is, in the end, starting to materialise, whereas the introduction of profitable new tournaments and high-profile management adjustments increase the prospect of additional evolution to return.
Within the ladies’s recreation, the altering of the guard is effectively underway. With ten completely different winners of the final 12 Grand Slams, a run courting again to Serena Williams’ final main victory on the 2017 Australian Open, change has turn into a trademark of a WTA Tour in flux. Recent-faced main champions reminiscent of Naomi Osaka and Sloane Stephens have come to the fore taking part in a compelling, combative model of tennis, whereas the sudden rise of minor sensations like Coco Gauff and Bianca Andreescu has impressed a way that the sport’s long-term, post-Williams future is in protected palms.
Within the males’s recreation, then again, change has been tougher to return by. Nonetheless, in spite of everything these years, the so-called ‘large three’ of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic proceed to vacuum up probably the most prestigious titles. However the simultaneous emergence of gifted younger pretenders like Daniil Medvedev, Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev is fuelling the assumption that the nice triumvirate’s vice-like grip over the ATP Tour is slowly however absolutely weakening.
Behind the scenes, in the meantime, a raft of impending adjustments are poised to herald a brand new chapter for the game. The arrival of recent heads on the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and the All England Lawn and Tennis Club (AELTC) – organisers of the US Open and Wimbledon respectively – will convey recent concepts to 2 of the game’s marquee events subsequent 12 months, whereas the ATP, overseer of the elite males’s circuit, is poised to usher in a brand new period of its personal.
On the finish of this 12 months, Chris Kermode, the tour’s government chairman and president, will vacate a submit he has held since 2014. Arriving in his place will be Andrea Gaudenzi, an Italian former participant turned businessman who is because of start a four-year time period as ATP chairman on New 12 months’s Day.
Chris Kermode, the ATP Tour’s government chairman and president, will vacate a submit he has held since 2014 on the finish of the 12 months
Kermode’s departure will, undoubtedly, mark the tip of a memorable interval for the boys’s recreation, one outlined by unprecedented reputation and monetary prosperity. Throughout his transformative six-year tenure, the ATP has seen large will increase in revenues and prize cash, file business development, the formation of recent occasions in any respect ranges, and a marked uplift in participant pension contributions. The Englishman has additionally spearheaded the creation of the Subsequent Gen ATP Finals, the year-end showcase for the sport’s greatest rising stars and a raft of improvements, and the ATP Cup, a brand new group competitors set to debut in Australia this coming January.
Kermode has accomplished as a lot as anyone to maneuver the game ahead, however his efforts have been clearly not sufficient to maintain him in a job. Exact particulars surrounding his departure are scarce, however what is understood is that in March, throughout a gathering in Indian Wells, he failed to achieve the required assist from his personal board for a 3rd three-year time period. Crucially, the Djokovic-led, ten-member ATP Participant Council refused to endorse a contract extension – a choice which led to the three gamers’ representatives on the ATP board voting towards a renewal.
The circumstances that led to Kermode’s ousting highlighted the tensions that exist within the distinctive governance construction of tennis; a fractious atmosphere by which gamers and event administrators not often see eye to eye. However additionally they signalled a need for change that has been simmering for a while.
There are these – Djokovic amongst them – who’ve repeatedly questioned Kermode’s management and, particularly, his dedication to championing participant pursuits. In keeping with them, the Briton has too typically sided with the tournaments, a stance that has meant that even these gamers who’re most handsomely compensated for his or her skills don’t obtain an equitable lower of the revenues they assist generate.
However, in Kermode’s defence, gamers on the ATP Tour have arguably by no means had it higher, and anyone who doubts his legacy want look no additional than the flourishing ATP Finals. The 54-year-old served as event director of the season-ending showpiece for six years earlier than taking the reins on the ATP, presiding over a interval by which the occasion grew in each measurement and stature to turn into a real spotlight of the British sporting calendar.
Over the course of their 11-year keep in London, the finals have drawn a mean of greater than 250,000 followers per 12 months by means of the doorways of The O2, affirming their standing as each a marquee event and trusted revenue-generator for the ATP. However now, as this 12 months’s version will get underway within the British capital, the event’s future appears far much less assured. In 2021, the occasion will relocate to Turin’s decidedly much less glamorous Pala Alpitour, marking the primary time the finals have been performed in Italy since their inception in 1970.
The O2’s success has been such that will probably be a tricky act to observe. Few venues have turn into fairly so synonymous with, and so completely remodeled, a single travelling sports activities occasion. As such, saying goodbye to London can have been the hardest of selections for the ATP, albeit one which presents the tour with an opportunity to reinvent its flagship property.
In any case, the move to Turin comes with tangible advantages for the ATP’s high stars. Some US$14.5 million in prize cash shall be on supply in 2021, a file sum that may additional line the pockets of these gamers who’re already among the many greatest remunerated of their sport.
Notably – and considerably uniquely within the context of worldwide sport – that bumper purse will put the boys’s finale on par with its ladies’s counterpart, the WTA Finals, whose big-money swap from Singapore to Shenzhen this 12 months noticed the event’s complete prize pot doubled to a cool US$14 million. Talking to SportsPro in June, WTA president Micky Lawler described that improve as “a giant assertion” for girls’s tennis, one which performed a key function in pushing the ATP to reply in variety.
In truth, Shenzhen’s decade-long internet hosting deal represented the largest business settlement ever signed in ladies’s sport; it additionally meant that Ashleigh Barty, the winner of this 12 months’s occasion, pocketed a gargantuan US$four.42 million, by some measure the largest payday in tennis historical past. It’s little marvel, then, that the WTA is reluctant to attract its gaze away from burgeoning Asian markets like China, the place it now operates an workplace in Beijing and levels no fewer than 9 tournaments.
In ladies’s tennis, cash has at all times been a byword for progress, even when it sometimes means cozying as much as regimes with doubtful human rights data. However within the sport generally, it’s the primary issue driving gamers to push for additional advances.
In keeping with latest stories, a bunch comprising each female and male gamers is actively lobbying Grand Slam organisers for a better lower of event revenues. Presently, gamers obtain roughly 12 to 17 per cent of Grand Slam earnings – far under athletes in different high skilled sports activities leagues. That actuality has spawned this newest, and unprecedented, cross-gender alliance, and even prompted renewed speak of unionisation.
However it’s elsewhere in tennis that participant energy and the promise of better riches are fuelling arguably probably the most important progress. Away from the game’s elite skilled excursions, the Worldwide Tennis Federation (ITF) is within the means of revamping its blue-riband group competitions, a part of an try by the worldwide governing physique to remain related in a dramatically altered, and more and more aggressive, panorama.
Subsequent week, a new-look Davis Cup Finals will get underway in Madrid, bankrolled by soccer star Gerard Pique’s (under, left) Kosmos Tennis funding firm and a raft of recent sponsors. Having paid over the percentages for a 25-year working license, Kosmos’ ambitious yet controversial vision for the 118-year-old event is to create ‘The World Cup of Tennis’, a week-long pageant to rival the largest events in different mainstream sports activities.
For some tennis followers, Kosmos’ resolution to put off house and away ties in favour of the brand new neutral-location format will strip out one of the distinctive and best-loved features of the Davis Cup. But it has been clear for years that one thing needed to give amid widespread calls for a brand new method to the event, which has clearly fallen behind different extra profitable occasions within the worldwide pecking order.
On the very least, the occasion in Madrid will supply a primary glimpse into the ITF’s future, offering proof of how a historic but creaking property could be wholly reimagined for the fashionable age. Full with a swollen prize pot totalling US$20 million, it must also assist curb the development of flaky participant dedication that has so blighted the Davis Cup in latest occasions – though that eye-catching purse was not sufficient to entice Roger Federer, nonetheless the game’s greatest draw, to participate.
With the groundwork laid for the Davis Cup’s reinvention, David Haggerty, the ITF president whose latest re-election was received on pledges of additional reforms, now has his sights set on overhauling the Fed Cup, the ladies’s equal that shall be restyled as a 12-nation clay-court event in Budapest subsequent 12 months. The finals of that occasion shall be introduced ahead from its common November slot to April, with the Hungarian capital staging them till not less than 2022. The file prize cash on supply? US$18 million.
Collectively, the 2 newly reformatted, super-sized ITF showpieces will convey recent intrigue – and ever-more profitable events – to a tennis calendar that’s being reshaped by new tournaments in new markets. A complete of 5 tournaments will debut on subsequent 12 months’s WTA schedule, a 60-strong sequence of occasions that may supply a mixed US$179 million in prize cash. Elsewhere January’s launch of the ATP Cup – to be held throughout Sydney, Brisbane and Perth – guarantees to ship a compelling new dimension to the beginning of the boys’s season; run over ten days previous to the Australian Open, it can characteristic 24 nations competing for the lion’s share of a hearty US$15 million.
Some have expressed doubts as as to if a 3rd group occasion can justifiably co-exist alongside the Davis Cup and the Federer-fronted, Europe-versus-the-world Laver Cup, which continues to gain traction and is now officially sanctioned by the ATP. However that’s inappropriate. Kermode himself has mentioned the ATP Cup “matches completely with our technique to innovate and look in the direction of the longer term” – a future, it appears, that shall be outlined by modern occasions, rising participant energy, and new ranges of economic largesse.
Certainly, as one other lengthy season attracts to a detailed, it’s clear that the world of tennis is pursuing change extra forcefully than at any time in latest reminiscence. For some, that change will come at a sizeable price, such because the erosion of custom and years of cherished historical past. For others, although – not least the gamers – it can not come quickly sufficient.