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tennisIlove09
Mar 18th, 2003, 08:27 PM
IMTA set to square off with ATP

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Reuters


INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- South African Wayne Ferreira says the proposed breakaway International Men's Tennis Association (IMTA) will be formed when a group of players meet during the Miami Masters event which starts on Monday.

Ferreira, who won the Pacific Life Open doubles title when he and Russia's Yevgeny Kafelnikov defeated Americans Bob and Mike Bryan here on Sunday, told reporters more than 20 players would sign on with the group and that it would "launch next week.''

ATP Players' Council vice president Todd Woodbridge said last Tuesday the IMTA would fizzle out.

"They don't have enough support,'' Woodbridge told Reuters. "It's unlikely they'll get off the ground because what they are proposing is already in place.''

Ferreira and former world No. 1 Kafelnikov held different views, however.

"I don't agree,'' Ferreira said. "I think it will be OK.''

Two-time Grand Slam champion Kafelnikov told Reuters: "Wayne and I have been good friends for a long time. We share a lot of similarities off the court.

"I can say that even if he was wrong, I would stand behind him. I doubt the (IMTA) will go away.''

The proposed IMTA is headed by Ferreira and Laurence Tieleman of Belgium, who have hired a New York law firm to represent them.

They are upset their voices are not heard loudly enough in ATP decision-making and that they do not know enough about the organization's finances.

The ATP will also hold a mandatory players' meeting during the Miami Masters.

World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt of Australia said earlier this week that he supported plans for the IMTA.

"For sure,'' Hewitt said. "With my experiences with the ATP, I've got to look at it in a very positive way.

"Any way things can be helped, that's great for everyone. At the end of the day, I know with my dealings with the ATP that there's a lot of room for improvement.''

Woodbridge said the players already had the right representation through the ATP Players' Council, which elects three members to the ATP Board of Directors.

"That's where the IMTA is not well thought out because we are the ones who are paying our board members,'' he said.

"The fact that we own 50 percent of the tour gives us more say than if we weren't part owners and then be at the whim of the people who own it.

"It's the players who vote and elect who we want. We put our trust in them. If we're not happy with the board, we can vote to restructure it.''

Ferreira said the formation of the IMTA could only lead to good things for tennis.

"The players are deciding they want to be more unified and not as wishy-washy as they always are, and want to know more about the business we own 50 percent of,'' he said.

"We want to work with the ATP and improve it and the game. It's a positive thing and there's nothing negative about it.''

Ferreira said the group was not demanding ATP chief executive officer Mark Miles's resignation.

"We just want to have a look inside and find out what's going on,'' he said.

"The guys would feel more comfortable dealing with the ATP if they knew they were doing a good job. People are upset with what's going on and they want to get the right information.''