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Mar 18th, 2003, 08:19 PM
Summit Thrashes Out Future of Professional Tennis
Mon Mar 17, 4:04 PM ET Add Sports - Reuters to My Yahoo!


By Ossian Shine

LONDON (Reuters) - A multi-million dollar year-end tournament, a longer off-season, a revamped calendar and a new series of elite events featuring the sport's top names are all in the pipeline following a summit of tennis chiefs.



The Grand Slam Committee, featuring the chairmen of Wimbledon (news - web sites) and the French, Australian and U.S. Opens, met in Lausanne over the weekend to thrash out a number of issues following growing complaints by players.


They also appeared to open the way for the Australian Open (news - web sites) to be moved from its slot in January -- seen as too early in the year for a blue riband event -- to allow players "to build to a peak at the four Grand Slams."


The Grand Slams and the International Tennis Federation said on Monday they had met "to discuss how to generate meaningful change to ensure the long-term health and growth of tennis."


One of those "meaningful changes" is a bid to stave off fatigue -- for both players and fans.


The committee said on Monday it is committed to ensuring a player-friendly, rational and clear tennis calendar that offers "a longer off-season, not less than two months, for the benefit of both players and fans."


NEW CAMPAIGN


Currently, there is a window of just four weeks between the Davis Cup final and the opening tournament of the following season -- allowing top players only a handful of days rest before they begin preparations for the new campaign.


Earlier this year, former world number one Marat Safin said: "We have the shortest vacations in any sport. In every other sport they have ... time to recover, vacations with their families and time to prepare themselves for the next season.


"We have nothing. This year I had two weeks of vacation so I mean there is nothing. If you want to fly somewhere to have vacations, you can spend like ten days.


"It's tough to play all the time," added the Russian.


Plans for a combined year-ender featuring both a men's and women's tournament along the lines of a Grand Slam would be a huge boost for the women's showpiece in particular.


Much has been made of the poor attendances at the women's championships in Los Angeles where the Staples Center was almost empty for many of the early matches last year.


The men's event, by contrast, saw fans flock to Shanghai to witness the biggest professional sports event held in China.


Men's tennis chief Mark Miles of the ATP said at last year's season-ender: "I think that all of us here share a view that combining events for a combined year-end finale is a concept that has a lot of merit. Together we expect to explore that possibility with the WTA."


The Grand Slam Committee said on Monday they would be inviting other "key constituents" -- namely the ATP and WTA -- to "participate in a possible new governance partnership."


The committee also reaffirmed its commitment to team competitions and said it would promote international team competition and representation "through calendar priority for Davis Cup, Fed Cup and the Olympics."