Blogs & Opinion


Time to look again at ATP Tour structure, says Barry Cowan

Features Posted 22nd February 2013 view comments

If ever there was a week that illustrated how bizarre the current men's schedule is, this is it.

While five of the top 10 players in the world are competing at a 250 event in Marseille, the top seed at the Memphis 500 is Marin Cilic - the current World No 12.

It can't be right that an event which pays less prize money but more in guarantees than another attracts a greater number of top players.

Grigor Dimitrov: one of the emerging players who must prove their mettle against the best

Grigor Dimitrov: one of the emerging players who must prove their mettle against the best

To me that's evidence that the calendar is flawed, as well as proof of how the sport is suffering from a shortage of top American players.

Problem

The ATP is going through an extremely hard time right now so this isn't the ideal time to embark on major restructuring, but that is what's needed.

It's not yet clear who will pick up the baton from ATP executive chairman and president Brad Drewett as he continues to battle illness so don't expect any swift decisions.

That, in a nutshell, is the problem that the Tour has: some tournaments want to grow, but others don't.

Barry Cowan
Quotes of the week

ATP World Tour 500 - Dubai

From 10am, Mon, Sky Sports 2HD

But it will clearly be no easy task to get each and every tournament onside, as typified by the recent row about prize money levels at Indian Wells, which is owned by Larry Ellison.

As one of the wealthiest men in the world, Ellison wanted to increase the prize money for the tournament only for it to be stopped by the ATP board because of interests elsewhere and the pressure it could put on other tournaments to follow suit.

The two parties have reached a compromise for the 2013 season, with the total Indian Wells prize pot up a reported $860k on last year, but it is only a one-off solution to the lingering problem facing the Tour: namely, that some tournaments want to grow, but others don't.

I've no doubt that the organisers of the upcoming World Tour 500 event in Dubai - not to mention the Doha 250 and Abu Dhabi (if they could have a Tour event) - would like to offer a lot more prize money.

But effectively they are capped because of the way the Tour is structured with the distinction made between Masters 1000, 500 and 250 events.

Dubai will welcome Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic once again this year, but if it was able to offer more money we might be looking forward to seeing the top four in action.

I'm not saying it's time to start afresh because events like Monte Carlo - which is not a mandatory event but is still a Masters 1000 - have earned their place in history and don't deserve to be downgraded.

But perhaps it is time for the board to assess whether each of our current Masters 1000 tournaments merit that status. There are plenty of tournaments out there which aspire to knock Miami off its perch as the 'fifth grand slam'.

Peaking

Federer returns to Dubai as defending champion after just about the worst set-and-a-half of tennis I've seen him play, in defeat to Julien Benneteau at the World Indoor Tournament in Rotterdam.

He played so poorly that you can't read anything into it. He looked off the pace and was struggling for timing. It made me wonder just how much work he has put in on the court since Australia.

He's tweaked his schedule this year, presumably with the aim of peaking at the season's third and fourth Grand Slams.

But if Dubai plays similarly to last year, when the pace of the court was very quick and played into Federer's hands, then he should return strongly.

Novak Djokovic will want to prise back the title he won three times in a row from 2009 and it's so important that he, as world's No 1, has that hunger because it can't all be about the Grand Slams. The only way he is going to stay at No 1 is to do well in the 500s and the 1000s.

He and Federer will have to watch out for Juan Martin del Potro, who played really well last week - I was really impressed with the way he overcame Grigor Dimitrov in the semi-final and then Benneteau in the final.

He'll not only want to continue his fine run but I'm sure he'll be desperate for a crack at Djokovic or Federer.

Like Del Potro, Tomas Berdych is another knocking on the door and conditions in Dubai should suit him. On any given day he is a challenge for Djokovic and Federer, whom he beat at last year's US Open, but I'm starting to wonder if he will ever beat the top four consistently.

As great as the top four guys are (and I include Rafa Nadal in that), it would be fantastic to see some of the other players break through.

That was what was so refreshing about Dimitrov's run of wins in Rotterdam. There's no doubt that he's getting closer; he's really starting to knock on the door and he's only going to rise higher in the rankings this year. A place in the top 20 is definitely within his grasp at some stage in 2013.

The top guys have been around for so long that they are going to be selective with their schedule, so tennis needs other players to stand up and be counted - someone who can carry the sport for five or 10 years after each of the current top four decide to call it a day.

As of yet no-one has been able to break through and it's up to the next generation of stars to learn how to handle the expectation from the tennis world and go out and fulfil their full potential.

back to top

Other Experts:

Latest Posts in :

Alex Ferguson

Clowney's no joke

US sports expert Alex Ferguson profiles Jadeveon Clowney, the biggest defensive pick of the draft....

Alex Ferguson

King James reigns

Alex Ferguson celebrates a wacky, smile-inducing year in US sport - and salutes Miami's LeBron James....

comments

Alex Ferguson

Start your engines!

Alex Ferguson predicts who will triumph in NASCAR's showpiece race, the Daytona 500....

comments

Alex Ferguson

A perfect union?

Alex Ferguson looks at the possible unionisation of college football and how he would handle the issue....

Alex Ferguson

Call of the century

Spacemen Portland pick Bowie over Jordan - Alex Ferguson ranks the biggest decisions in US Sport....

comments

Alex Ferguson

Independence aces

Alex Ferguson kicks off his Independence Day fun by picking his 20 best bits of American sport....

comments

Jamie Redknapp

Jose 'embarrassing'

Jamie Redknapp says that Jose Mourinho should focus on his own failings rather than blame match officials....

Jamie Redknapp

Everton come unstuck

Man Utd's men with a point to prove can take advantage of Everton's midweek blow, says Jamie Redknapp....

Ed Chamberlin

Van the man?

Ed Chamberlin explains why Tejay van Garderen is capable of plucking the Tour de France's Yellow Jersey....

comments

Paul Merson

Merson's predictions

Paul Merson says Liverpool WON'T beat Norwich - and Chelsea and Man City will close the gap....

Dewi Morris

Heart and soul

Dewi Morris looks at a crucial weekend in the Championship as we head towards the play-offs....

Stuart Barnes

Ups and downs

Stuart Barnes says the drama of relegation must be kept in rugby, but the play-offs need changing....

Phil Clarke

To Hull and back

Phil Clarke looks at the mental damage done to Hull FC and Huddersfield in the Challenge Cup....

Bob Willis

Away for a while

Bob Willis thinks Jonathan Trott will be absent from England duty for some time following his latest setback....

Rob Lee

Pinky and perky

Rob Lee blogs on his vivid Masters Breakfast attire and the men that made waves at Augusta National....

Mark Petchey

Fillip for Ferrer

Mark Petchey marvels at David Ferrer's win over Rafael Nadal but downplays it's long-term significance....

Barry Cowan

Heavy burden

Great Britain's best Davis Cup since 1986 fails to mask their reliance on Andy Murray, says Barry Cowan....

Alex Hammond

Just Cause

Alex Hammond reveals her tips for the Irish Grand National and the other decent racing in Ireland this weeend....

Alex Hammond

Going the distance

Marathon entrant Alex Hammond previews the Newbury action and Scottish National meeting at Ayr....

Alex Hammond

Rocky's road

Alex Hammond explains why she is backing Rocky Creek and Lion Na Bearnai at the Grand National....

Johnny Nelson

The best of friends

It will be tough but Johnny Nelson expects mates Anthony Crolla and John Murray to serve up a classic....

Glenn McCrory

Manny happy returns

Manny Pacquiao is back to his best and could yet get it on with Floyd Mayweather, says Glenn McCrory....

Johnny Nelson

Delighted for DeGale

James DeGale's Matchroom switch is the perfect move to get him back in the mix, says Johnny Nelson....

View from America

Desperate deals?

Simon Veness reviews a crazy week in the NFL's free agent frenzy, as sides splash out over $1bn....

comments

Neal Foulds

Trump tip

Ronnie O'Sullivan is favourite for the Worlds - but Judd Trump could spring a shock, says Neal Foulds....

Neal Foulds

Night at the Circus

Neal Foulds is looking forward to another fun, raucous Snooker Shoot-Out - but can't pick a winner....

comments

Neal Foulds

Simply the best?

Five-time Masters champion Ronnie O'Sullivan may be the best snooker player ever, says Neal Foulds....

comments

Kelvin Tatum

The contenders

Kelvin Tatum runs through the teams and riders ahead of the 2014 Elite League Speedway season....

Kelvin Tatum

Kelvin's 2013 Review

Kelvin Tatum salutes Poole's hierarchy and Tai Woffinden in his round-up of the speedway season....

comments

Kelvin Tatum

Rich re-Ward

Poole, and the dynamic Darcy Ward, will wrap up the Elite League title at Perry Barr, says Kelvin Tatum....

comments

Richard Moore

The final curtain

Richard Moore reflects on Sunday's Closing Ceremony to an unforgettable Olympic Games......

comments

Richard Moore

A lasting golden glow

Richard Moore suggests all the British Olympians should visit schools and talk about their experiences....

comments

Richard Moore

Favourite Froome

Richard Moore reveals his predictions for the 100th Tour de France, which starts on Saturday....

comments

Wayne McCullough

Wonderful Davis

Wayne McCullough watched Antonio Rogerio Nogueria take on Phil Davis at UFC Fight Night 24. ...

0 comments

Wayne McCullough

Jones shines bright

Wayne McCullough was highly impressed as the talented Jon Jones made short work of Mauricio Rua....

2 comments

Wayne McCullough

A bloody marvel

Wayne McCullough salutes Diego Sanchez as he edges out Martin Kampmann in a UFC humdinger....

0 comments