The tense summit of the first 700 tennis players in the ATP ranking: claims, the tournaments with the most chances to be played in 2020 and the ghost of a boycott

(Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports / File Photo)
(Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports / File Photo)

Despite the objection of weight tennis players, the ATP puts the business ahead of the possibilities of the players and, together with the American Association, intend to carry out the US Open on the scheduled date.

"What they have to understand is that this is a business. I understand them, because when I was a player like you, I did not see it this way, but you will change your mind, after you retire, as I did, "the new ATP president, the Italian, told the tennis players. Andrea Gaudenzi, giving an overview of the true intentions of the meeting in which they were participating.

The conference summoned for today, from 11 in the morning in Argentina and which lasted 4 hours, was attended by several of the Argentine players and gathered the majority of the top 700 players in the world ranking. Some of them share the specialty of doubles, too. Everyone from their home or office had the opportunity to listen, rather than participate. "We were supposed to start a debate to draw a conclusion, but everything ended more like being told what to do, without us having any decision on that," said one of the players present there. "We try to make ourselves respect a little more, but the same thing always happens, the beneficiaries are the ones above," commented another of the tennis players called up.

Roger Federer, recently operated on his knee, did not participate in the meeting and the voices of either Djokovic or Nadal were not heard, in a day that had other veteran players as protagonists. The position of the three of them was already known. Nadal and Federer are participants that all players must have the same chances of being able to play a tournament and that these conditions would not be present. "If today they ask me if I am going to play in New York (the US Open), I say no," said the Spaniard in the video conference with invited journalists.

For his part, Djokovic, in a television interview, had stated that the organizers of the American Open demanded too much and did not guarantee a good tournament. "Too many tests, all staying in the same hotel in Laguardia, without changing rooms in the tournament and with only one member of the team," said the Serb.

"There have already been boycott attempts at other times," recalled Gaudenzi from his time as a player and harangued that they not bow to it, because “Many were the ones who spoke and, later, when the silver appeared, they went without saying anything. And there was no boycott ”.

Italian's focus on communication followed the same path of showing players the dependency and profit of the tennis business. "Both ATP and USTA want and need to host the tournament," Gaudenzi continued. "ESPN paid a lot for television rights and they also need content that tennis can provide them with." About 30 million dollars is what the USTA hopes to collect cleanly in law and some sponsors, so it would not be necessary for the public to enter.

While some only care about how many members of their coaching staff they will be able to carry as companions, the other topic of discussion is the number of players that will be able to participate in the tournaments. The US federation made its proposal: “We can do Cincinnati and the US Open. If we do both, they would be without the classification and with a table of doubles of 10 couples, but if we only do the Grand Slam, we add the Qualy. ”

"Saying that and saying they do two tournaments for the same players is the same thing," confessed one of the disgruntled tennis players. "And what about the points?" Asked Marius Copil, who last year reached the second round of the US Open and is currently ranked 182nd in the ranking. “It doesn't seem fair to me. If points are awarded to the tournament, I have no chance to defend them, ”said the Romanian from a position on the ladder that prevents him from entering the main draw.

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For his part, Marin Cilic (Croatia) maintained that not all players were in the same conditions or could not be due to situations unrelated to them. To explain his point, he gave as an example that if any of his colleagues was or shared space with a person within the risk group or was infected, he would not be able to participate in the tournament. The South African was added to this position Kevin Anderson and the Canadian Milos Raonic, who also contributed doubts about the treatment that the ranking would have.

“Very confusing ideas came up. Some wanted to divide them by weeks, others to take them into account and others to play without points, almost like an exhibition, ”said another of those present at the conference. Doubts arose in spurts: some players, due to the irregularities caused by the pandemic, could play this season, but next year, with the normalized circuit, they would not have the possibility to defend those points and would go far in the ranking. "For this reason, the most logical thing seemed to us, to many, is that it would only be played for the prizes, if the total effort was going to be the same and what several players were looking for was only money," he stressed, expressing what he lived internally. With no disputed points, players were more likely to accept the tournament dispute, but associations flatly denied it and it all went backwards.

There was more than one attempt to conduct a vote that could resolve the position of the players, but ATP refused at all times. "It seemed judged, they were just informing us," the players complained. “A business like this cannot be solved in just five days. I manage other businesses outside of tennis and I have it very clear ”, said the Indian Rohan Boppana, in reference to the fact that in less than a week (June 15), the USTA must define whether to hold the United States Open on August 31.

ATP and USTA march together, while players are divided. "There are those who need to play to get their income," said Briton Daniel Evans, but others also want to ensure security and a level playing field for tennis players.

Regardless of what happens with tournaments in the United States, progress is made with a mini tour of brick dust, attached to the US Open, in September and October, which would include the contests of Rome, Roland Garros, which is the one that would be firmer, and Madrid. For this, the USTA would have a charter flight for the players to move from New York to Europe.

There was no final conclusion, there was no vote, only the communication remained that the athlete must resign himself to the business, which is what gives him food. The idea of ​​the ATP is for the circuit to resume in mid-August with the Cincinnati tournament, because, as its president said: "You have to save the rest of the season."

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