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View Full Version : Navratilova's New Proposals To Fix Pro Tennis


Cris Senior
Jul 5th, 2005, 11:48 PM
Apart from point 1, which I support, it seems that that she's got a late age case of greediness and all ahe wants is more money.
'Players need control to bring about change'Martina Navratilova outlines her 10-point plan, in no particular order, for how she would shake up the game for the good of the players and fans

Saturday July 2, 2005
Guardian

1. Ban screaming It is one thing grunting but screaming is another. Definitely, definitely disallow the screaming. Some of the guys are doing it but the women are louder than the guys. Why can two players hit the ball just as hard as each other, yet one is quiet and the other is yelling and screaming?

Players are taught that it would help relax them but it has gone too far. It's an intimidation factor, gamesmanship. And for players at the net, it is essential they hear the sound when the racket hits the ball - you first hear the ball, then you see it - so the screaming puts them at a disadvantage. But, most of all, it is not attractive and takes away from the game. I mean, I would rather have people wondering who hits the ball harder, not wondering who screams louder, wouldn't you?

2.The game must be more simple and accessible

The first changeover has gone now to speed things up. Keep going. Do away with the let once and for all as it is an old rule that makes no sense. You could just carry on playing ball and you'd have no expensive machinery on the net or a person sitting there getting hit on the head all the time.

Tennis should be made more spectator friendly and must not be afraid of innovation. There are different scoring systems being tried out and that's a good thing. I've heard they're bringing in sets to five games in the doubles in a best of five-set format and that might be the way they should play the singles as well. It would mean there's more big points because everything's more compacted.

We want more drama and excitement. If it wasn't for progressive-minded people we wouldn't have tie-breaks and would still be playing 15-13 sets. Speaking of which, all tournaments and the US Open have tie-breaks in the final set, so why not the other grand slams? Let's get a resolution to the match already and, while we're at it, why not play the no-ad system which would speed it up. You could add the intrigue of letting the receiving player choose whether to return in the deuce or the ad court.

3. Minimise players' injuries, short- and long-term

There are three ways to do this:

a) Change the calendar. Tennis must have an off-season. At present we finish in the middle of November and start again in the first week of the year. That is not enough time to let the body and mind recover from the wear and tear, relax for a while - go on a vacation (I had three vacations between 1976 and 1994) - and then get ready in great shape for next year. We must have three months off - what a concept!

b) Standardise hard surfaces. We should be playing on softer hard courts. There is a big difference in "give" of the surface on the hard courts and we should be playing on either Rebound Ace or Decoturf only: the cement courts are much too hard on the body.

c) Play with the same balls year round. Going from one surface to another, one time-zone to another is bad enough. Why not give it one constant and at least use the same balls? It can take just one week with heavy balls to develop tendinitis in the shoulder or wrist and can take months or even years to get rid of it. I am definitely speaking from personal experience here.

4. Increase sponsorship opportunities

The tournaments make so much on merchandising and the potential sale of their tournament but the players don't get a slice of the action .

We have stupid rules imposed by the WTA and the ITF about the size of the sponsors' patches we can wear and where we can wear them. There's a three-inch limit on the shirt logos, so companies with long names won't sign players because they know they'll lose out if no one can read their advertising.

You can only have the name of a clothing company on the shirtfront and no patch deals with other companies' names. The patch has to be on your sleeve unless you have a sleeveless top, in which case it can be on the front of the shirt or dress.

There's no writing allowed on the hats, only the logo - so you can have a Swoosh but no brand names like Nike. So companies without a recognisable, well-known logo are penalised. Why can't you have writing on a hat?

Sony Ericsson sponsor the WTA tour and we wear patches with Sony Ericsson WTA Tour on our clothing but not at the grand slams. This is crazy, the tour is the heart and soul of the tennis year and yet we can't promote it at grand slams. I mean, who makes up these rules? How short-sighted can you be?

I was forced to put duct tape on my racket bag at the Australian Open because I had one logo too many on it. But at the French Open and here at Wimbledon the same bag is apparently OK. Crazy.

All of this is why golf is so far ahead of tennis on sponsorship. Someone on the golf tour you've never heard of winning in a minor event earns 500,000 in a week.

Take Annika Sorenstam for example: she has two sponsors' names on the front of her shirt, yet another one on her hat, and these puppies are a lot bigger than three square inches. Tell me, does this make her sport worse for it? No, it brings sponsorship possibilities in; we in tennis keep them out and I have no idea why.

5. Make sure drugs laws catch the cheats, but don't go overboard with it

Despite what people might think, tennis has become so stringent in its drugs rules as to have gone too far. It's not catching the cheats and the people who are not cheating are so paranoid about it that they can't take care of their body as much as they should.

They're kitchen-sinking the drugs. Everything is in there. Some drugs might help in one sport but not in another but they're all banned to everyone.

If you have a terrible cold and are stuffed up, all you want to do is clear your head but you can't take anything from over the counter in case it's illegal. You just want to feel normal, not to cheat, but you can't take anything to help. Vitamin supplements, energy bars, protein powders, electrolyte replacement drinks, anything: you're afraid of it all.

I drank someone else's Evian water bottle by accident in Melbourne this year thinking it was mine. I had a couple of sips and it tasted sweet. I thought, "Crap, whose bottle was this and what's in it?" So I took the bottle to the drug testing people and they said there was nothing they could do. So all I could do was keep the bottle and hope all was OK. If I'd tested positive, I would have been banned.

What if there's a crank out there, someone playing a sick joke and spiking your food or water bottles? You just have to be so careful. For all that, though, there is doping going on and only a handful of players have been nailed.

6. Make grand slam events more generous

The grand slam events are where the players are supposed to make their money but the vast majority don't and the rewards should be redistributed a little more equally.

In the average tournament 20 to 30% of the net income goes into prize money while for the grand slams this is between five and 10%. It sounds amazing that the winner gets around $1m but, while that is a lot of money, it is won over two weeks, not one like normal tournaments.

Seventy-five per cent of players are out after the first two rounds and they are barely breaking even over the tournament. When you consider that most travel with coaches and trainers, that's two hotel rooms and only one is paid for by the per-diem allowance. Players still have to pay for the air fares and expenses for themselves and their team. Some players are still having to put themselves up in B&B accommodation and can't even afford to rent a car.

The slams are nickel-and-diming the players. You get a 22-per-diem allowance for the players' restaurant and the food is marginal at best. That 22 will get you two meals if you're lucky: if you don't spend it, you can't carry it over to the next day. It's gone and it seems to me they're trying to make money from the players' food.

But this is nitpicking. The big deal is the prize money and the unwillingness of the slam organisers to share the pot. When the ATP wrote a letter to the International Tennis Federation, which controls the game, two years ago about wanting a lot more prize money at the slams, the ITF just laughed it off. Players should be getting a percentage of the net gain, not small yearly increases in prize money.

The ITF has too much power. The grand slam events have too much power and money and they don't share it with the players.

7. Take bids for tournament ownership

Every week on the tournament calendar is owned by a different promoter. Octagon and IMG own about half a dozen tournament weeks each and they encourage their clients to play in their events. But no players have a financial stake in any tournament, at least that I know of.

So when the WTA or the ATP asks a player to help promote a tournament, why should they? Financially they are helping the promoter make the tournament more marketable and profitable but what do they get for the time they could have spent training or practising or going to a movie?

The players have no real incentive to help market the tour because they have no financial stake in it as every week on the tournament calendar is owned by a different promoter.

But le's assume the men's and women's tours owned the tour and all the weeks in it. Then let's say the WTA rents the week out - for three years' time, let's say to Rome. If it does well, it can stay there; and, if not, then after three years you move it to the next high bidder - anyone want to go to Beijing? If the tournament does well the WTA has a direct stake in it - a percentage goes to the pension plan, players want to promote the event now and everybody wins. And by highest bidder I mean rent and prize money, which has been rather stagnating for women.

8. Raise prize money

If it is guaranteed by the WTA that five of the top 10 players will show up for a given event, the tournament organisers know they will get the players anyway, so they have no incentive to raise the prize money or to pay guarantees like the ATP. Prize money would go through the roof if the tournaments were bidding as suggested above.

I am not sure what the grand slams give to the WTA but I know the WTA takes 10% of our grand slam prize money. So out of your total goes the WTA's cut, the tax from the country the slam is played in - at least 10% yet again - plus your own country's income tax. You then pay your overheads. Do the math: you'd be astonished how little is left for a great majority of the players.

9. Increase egalitarianism

Why is there no grass-court tournament for the women wheelchair-tennis players? This year is the first year of an official wheelchair tennis tournament at Wimbledon, in the doubles. But it's men only. Why no women?

10. Unionise

The WTA merged with the tournament directors, so the WTA is now a combination of them and the players. Larry Scott, the WTA's chairman and CEO, represents the players and the tournaments, so he doesn't want to make anyone mad. So what happens then? Not much and certainly not enough. The changes he is trying to implement are going at a snail's pace.

Tennis governance needs reform. The women players should start a union so they can take control of their sport. They should have the power the old women's tennis association used to have and make the changes necessary to make the sport better. The way it is going, well, it's just not going nearly as well as it could.

Can all of this be done? Absolutely. How? By the players from both the WTA and ATP tours getting together and demanding changes from the ITF and the grand slams for the long-term good of the sport and by making adjustments on their own tours.

Remember, if you try to make the changes for the right reasons, the money will take care of itself and everybody wins.
Guardian Unlimited