Several changes volleyed around
It appears the spit has hit the can, so to speak, as the factions in tennis try to cough up solutions to their problems.
After years of relative peace among the principal players -- the women's WTA Tour, the ATP men's tour and the world governing body and ally of the Grand Slam events, the International Tennis Federation -- power struggles again abound.
The most serious is between the WTA Tour, which wants to shorten its schedule and restrict the lower-level events top players can enter to try to solve its injury crisis, and the United States Tennis Association, the custodian of the U.S. Open.
As part of its Roadmap 2010 plan, the WTA Tour may drop some American events and weaken others by limiting how many elite players can play in them.
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USTA officials, happy with the way the first two years of their U.S. Open Series have succeeded -- mostly in getting better television coverage -- are not pleased by moves that could reduce the number and quality of events. They are playing hardball. It was reported last week that the USTA board approved a $10-million (U.S.) contingency fund for possibly starting its own women's circuit.
WTA Tour chief executive officer Larry Scott and president Stacey Allaster, formerly of Toronto, are caught between implementing reforms and the USTA's power play.
On another front, the WTA Tour stubbornly continues its experiment with on-court coaching.
There was an almost universal chorus from big-name player such as Amélie Mauresmo, Maria Sharapova, Kim Clijsters and Serena Williams against on-court coaching at the time it was introduced at the Rogers Cup in Montreal and used in an event in New Haven, Conn., last summer.
Among arguments against it are that it is unfair to players without coaches, contrary to the principle of player self-reliance and susceptible to abuse by unscrupulous coaches. Yet, on-court coaching will again be tested at events in 2007, after the Australian Open.
All is also not well with the ATP.
New CEO Etienne de Villiers, a former Walt Disney Co. executive, is rapidly remaking the face of the game.
He wants a major combined men's and women's tournament in Madrid in May before the French Open, but has run into serious opposition from spring Tennis Masters Series clay-court events in Monte Carlo, Rome and Hamburg, Germany.
Chinese officials are also upset because De Villiers has said he wants to move the year-end Masters Cup to Europe from its current location, Shanghai, China.
Any schedule changes won't be made until 2009, because 2007 is set and 2008 is crowded by the Summer Olympics in Beijing.
De Villiers is also tinkering with tradition. Wanting to guarantee top players more matches, the ATP will experiment with round-robin play in the early rounds of 13 lower-level events in 2007, during which there will be groups of three, with winners advancing to the round of 16 or the quarter-finals, depending on draw size.
Top men's player Roger Federer is opposed to the round-robin events, which include Queen's Club in London and Indianapolis, Ind., and is not entered in any of them.
Like the WTA Tour's on-court coaching, the ATP's round-robin plans are severely flawed.
Is it worth sacrificing the timeless drama of "lose-and-you-are-out" just so one more match is assured?
Won't it be too complicated and confusing with tiebreaker rules (if all three players finish 1-1, for example) for fans to follow? And what would draw sheets look like?
How did the players ever sign off on this? They will lose money because of smaller draws at some events and also have to play more because of the round-robin format.