Umpiring: Aurélie Tourte, a woman in the chair

Translation of this online article

Aurélie Tourte
Aurélie Tourte,  standing on the left, the most highly ranked French umpire when she got her Silver Badge in 2014, travels around the world at the beck and call of tournaments.

It wasn’t love at first sight between umpiring and Aurélie Tourte.

“Me, I liked playing tournaments or team matches for my club in Plaisir (the Yvelines),” she explains. “I discovered umpiring via the ITF Futures organised by TC Plaisir and during team matches. Without being completely seduced.”

Around 20 at the time, Aurélie was taken in hand by two umpires who give her the chance of umpiring in Deauville during the ATP Rennes Challenger. It was the turning point.

“I was able to see professional umpires at work, and it started to interest me. Gradually, encouraged by Maryvonne Ayale, President of the CRA (Regional Umpiring Commission) and the Yvelines League, I got taken with it and started passing my certificates.”

In 2014, Aurélie umpired for 26 weeks (Roland Garros, US Open, Monte Carlo,  ATP 250s, the WTA tour, ATP Challengers), which led to her being granted the Silver Badge in December of last year.

“I was proud about getting it, but it wasn’t necessarily a surprise, as I’d umpired quite a few matches and got good evaluations.”

In 2015, her programme up to June was just as busy: Feucherolles, a Fed Cup in Sweden,  then Marseille, Acapulco, Monterrey, a break in March, the Saint Breuc Challenger, Monte Carlo, Marrakech, Aix-en-Provence, Strasbourg (WTA) then Roland-Garros. The objective was straightforward: getting to know the Top Ten players of the WTA and ATP. “I don’t know them, and they don’t know me. So I need to learn to talk to them, to get ‘run in’.”

Temping as a nurse

Despite careful planning, expenses (travel, hotels, food sometimes covered) paid, Aurélie still hasn’t made the choice between professions. A nurse by training, she takes advantage of the shortages in French hospitals to work as a temp when umpiring gives her the time. Of course, in daily life, the travel isn’t easy to manage.

“Sure, my apartment is more of a furniture warehouse,” smiles the 31-year-old woman who still lives in Plaisir. “And as a woman it’s difficult fitting it into family life.  But now that I’m the highest ranked French woman, I’d like to see where it leads, as there have been only two French Gold Badge umpires in history (Anne Lasserre and Sandra de Jenken).”

Among the necessary qualities required she cites, randomly,  excellent sight, good communication with the players and the public, but also being able to make quick decisions. And especially a strong character. What’s not obvious: “Promoting women’s umpiring is complicate in France as it is elsewhere. You need to find your place in a man’s world. But you learn about yourself, you discover countries, people, ways of life. If you have a passion for it, you must grab on to it.”

This passion has allowed Aurélie to experience some big moments such as the 2012 Olympics, where she was a line umpire for the five finals, and being in the chair for the mixed doubles final at Roland Garros in in 2013.

 

Translated by Mark Nixon

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Interview with Stefanos Tsitsipas

Original article: http://tennisportalen.se/stefanos-tsitsipas-i-intervju-med-tennisportalen/

Stefanos Tsitsipas is currently ranked as the world’s 17th best junior and perhaps the greatest talent Greece as a tennis nation has produced.  Tennisportal Editor Alex Theodoridis got hold of Stefanos through Twitter.

Stefanos Tsitsipas has played tennis since he was 6 years old, and he usually trains in Glyfada Tennis Club in Athens when he is not traveling and competing around the world. Although he is now trying to break into the senior level, Stefanos has a genuine interest in tennis.  In his spare time he voluntarily runs the Facebook groups TenniscoreITN and TenniscoreITT with 17000 and 2500 followers respectively.

You are the greatest talent Greece has produced in years, maybe in history – do you feel any pressure?

– Tennis is my passion. I am proud to represent Greece. My goal is to always do my best on the court, always be better. Pressure is just a word.

Where do you train in Greece in the summer? Are there any indoor courts nearby or do you simply practice in the evenings?

– I play a lot of tournaments in the summer in different countries so the warm climate of Greece does not interfere with my tennis.

Who do you train with at home?

– I work mostly with Theodoros Angelinos (866) and Paris Gemouchidis (formerly 582). Sometimes I practice with Alexandros Jakupovic (434).

How popular is tennis today in Greece and how well do you think it does against the more major sports in the country, such as basketball and football?

– Tennis is not as popular in Greece today but I still think that the popularity is increasing slowly. Tennis is however very expensive today.

Describe your strengths as a tennis player.

– The forehand is my biggest weapon, but I feel very stable in my ground strokes. Also my serve, when I feel it well.

You play with a one-handed backhand, something that we see less and less in today’s tennis compared to 20-30 years ago. Was it something that your coaches from a young age recommended or was it simply something that you wanted to teach yourself?

– It was my decision. I never liked the double-handed backhand and for me the one-handed backhand is the most natural stroke in tennis. Classic!

Which players do you currently look up to?

– I like Wawrinka, Del Potro and Federer. Each one for their own characteristics.

Why, do you think, have Greece not produced an established ATP Player earlier, when tennis today is a global sport with players from all over the world? Could it be economic or traditional aspect that comes into play?

– Well, partly it is the economic part and also the organization of Greek tennis. Our nation is not as structured and disciplined as the other countries in tennis. I can only take Constantinos Economidis and Theodoros Angelinos as living examples. They were two very talented players who were hungry, disciplined and determined. They really wanted to do something with their tennis. That’s what it comes down to, how much you are willing to sacrifice. It is tough, and you must be able to manage to travel all year round and be without friends and family.

The players had no support from the Greek Tennis Federation?

– I’ve spoken to them and they have hardly received any help, just a couple of plane tickets.

Do you get any financial support from the Greek Tennis Federation?

– No, but I’m already sponsored.

(The problems Tsitsipas are talking about are unfortunately something normal for many of the players on the Futures and Challenger Tours. Without financial support, it is almost impossible to take the steps into the ATP level, and some players thus have much greater ability to go all the way. While there is no guarantee at all of success whether you have financial support or not, the probability is of course much higher if you don’t.  That Economidis and Angelinos completely lacked financial support from the Greek Tennis Federation is of course shocking, but is at the same time says something about the country’s dismal status as a tennis nation.)

You finished third in the U18 European Championship in Switzerland a few weeks ago, was it the highlight of your career?

– It was a good experience, certainly, but I can not say it was the highlight of my career right away. A good tournament simply.

What does a typical day look like for you as a tennis player?

– I wake up, eat breakfast and then go and practice tennis. After that I go to the gym, lunch, rest, once again tennis, swimming, rest and sleep. I forgot dinner as well.

It sounds like a very hectic schedule?

– It is, absolutely. On Sundays I go to the movies though!

Have you dropped out of school or are you studying at a distance?

– I do all my courses through the Internet.

What have you to say about Mikael Ymer who is the same age as you, and additionally won the U18 European Championships?

– Mikael is a very good player with a great attitude. He really gives everything on the court and he’s always tough to face.

How does your schedule look for the rest of the year?

– I leave tomorrow for a 15,000 dollar tournament in Italy and then several Futures tournaments and Challenger-qualies are waiting for me.

We at Tennisportalen wish Stefanos the best of luck in his future tennis career and we want to thank him for taking the time to speak with us!

~

Translation of his original interview by Alex Theodoridis from tennisportalen.se  – https://twitter.com/tennisguru100

Interview with Alessandro Motti

Original: http://tennisportalen.se/alessandro-motti-i-oppenhjartig-intervju-med-tennisportalen/

The Italian doubles specialist Alessandro Motti was at the centre of controversy yesterday (Wednesday) when he and partner Albert Ramos were robbed of victory against Lindstedt /Brunström .  Alex Theodoridis from the Swedish tennis site Tennisportalen.se chats with Motti a day after the game.

Alessandro Motti is a 36 year old doubles specialist who is a regular face of the Challenger Tour, but who had sufficient ranking to get into the week’s doubles tournament in Båstad. Motti lined up with Spaniard Albert Ramos and the couple went out after a very questionable verdict in the final supertiebreak, where Motti afterwards could not understand how a judge could make such mistakes at the ATP level. We sat down in nearby café in the harbour just steps away from the center court.  Despite the disappointing loss from yesterday the Italian was in a good mood.

How is it that you played with Albert Ramos during this week’s tournament?

– Me and Albert know each other, and since my ranking made it possible to compete this week we talked and decided to play.

How is the process when finding doubles partners on the tour?

– We use WhatsApp, emails and social media. I have after many years on the tour bumped in into a lot of people and since I play a lot of the tournaments in Italy, I already know most of the players.

Motti turned pro in 2003 and during his 12-year-long career, has made a little over two million Swedish crowns – a salary that works out below the average cut of what a Swede earns in a month, and, when adding all expenses over the years on trips and hotels, the amount isn’t something to show off with.  Motti quickly becomes depressed when he describes the low prizes at the Challenger Tour.

– I am pleased that we have so many Challenger tournaments in Italy because I then travel by car and stay with acquaintances and thus save money. I also play a lot of national tournaments in both singles and doubles and it provides an extra income. Something must be done about the low prizes!

How often do you practice as a doubles player compared to single player?

– Really, it’s almost the same but in recent years I have been focusing less on tennis in the pre-season and more on taking care of my body in the gym – because it becomes more important the older I get.

How often do you think fixed matches on the challenger tour occur?

  • Sure there are, absolutely. It is a big problem on the Challenger circuit because of the low amounts of prize money and if they raise the amount in the future, we will find a solution to this problem. You have to understand why the problem occurs though, people do it to survive. It happens everywhere, look at football for example. Rich people do it to find new incomes.

A tennis player in Umag gets ten times more money if he loses in the first round compared to the Challenger tournament in Scheveningen this week, a frightful difference where the level of the players aren’t significantly different.

How is it that you mostly play doubles?

– I played a lot of singles earlier in the Futures tour and tried to regularly qualify in various Challengers but since my ranking rose fairly quickly in doubles and I started making money on it, I simply continued with it.

What can you tell us about Bolleli, Seppi and Fognini?

– Bolelli is more reserved and keeps mostly to himself. Seppi is a good friend of mine and we have known each other since we were young. A very nice and funny guy. Fognini is a bit younger and I do not know him so well but I know he’s a different person off the court.

Which players do you hang out with from the tour?

– Cipolla, Robert, Starace. I was very good friends with Di Mauro, Vagnozzi in the past but they are no longer competing at a professional level.

You met Enrico Becuzzi, a player that we have previously written about, in qualifying for the San Benedetto a few weeks ago. What was it like to play against him?

– (Laughs) Well, he’s wonderful. In training, he is good but the game unlocks it for him. He is not used to winning matches and does not know how he should act when things go bad. He is a very nice guy though, says Motti.

What do you think should be improved on the Challenger tour in the future?

– Hospitality for the players should be improved significantly – it has been improved in recent years but there is still opportunity for more.  Expenses need to be lessened for players to avoid such match-fixing, I mean, this is my job and I want to be able to have good conditions. I realize myself that Challenger players do not need to earn millions but still enough to be able to live a normal life. The pressure on the tour is very tough because you don’t want to lose in in the first round in a Challenger and thus not be making any money. I daily compete against players who are ranked within the top-150 in both single and doubles and the prize money in such a 250-tournament on the ATP level, where the level does not differ much from the Challenger, is striking. It’s not right. Something must be done.

Italy as a tennis nation has a bright future ahead with talented players like Matteo Donati (172), Gianluigi Quinzi (398), Stefano Napolitano (377) and Marco Cecchinato (99). Motti looks ahead at the bright future for the country in tennis.

– Donati is undoubtedly the one that has the most potential and he is also the one that is most consistent. Quinzi is very promising but he has had trouble finding the right coach and if he will only overcome the problem, it will end very well. Cecchinato is ranked within the top 100 today and is very talented.

Paolo Lorenzi is considered a living legend on the challenger tour, what have you to say about him?

(Laughs) – Paolo is a good friend of mine and he’s very professional with his tennis. He trains very hard every day and is a player who has improved a lot over the years. He is a smart player who constantly thinks out on the court. I like Paolo a lot.

“The umpire was afraid.”

The Italian was just a few measly points from the win with Albert Ramos against the all-Swedish couple Brunstrom / Lindstedt in the first round.  For a doubles specialist such as Motti, a win would mean a lot, not least financially when the prizes, as said, differ enormously on the ATP level as compared to the Challenger level where he is normally. Motti was mildly frustrated when he had the chance to describe yesterday’s situation.

– We have a ball as clear as day sitting on the line but the umpire chose to impose his call, despite all the players on the field agreeing that it is actually in. I didn’t know such mistakes occurred on the ATP tour. On the Futures and Challenger level, I can certainly understand it and some marks, regardless of level of umpires, can be very difficult to judge – but this was certainly not a mark in that category. The umpire was afraid during the match and felt the pressure. He was afraid to change the decision even though both Brunstrom and Lindstedt admitted afterwards that the mark was on the line. It should not be possible.

Motti traveled home to Italy a few hours after the interview was taking place for some well-needed rest and will compete at a challenger tournament in Biella next week. He lines up in the men’s doubles in Biella with Alessandro Giannessi.

Alessandro Motti suffered from food poisoning during the interview after he had eaten a pizza in the area the night before.  We are very thankful that he took the time to speak with us. A lovely man, Alessandro Motti.

~

Translation of his original interview by Alex Theodoridis from tennisportalen.se

Eduardo Schwank talks injury, comeback, goals

Original source:  http://www.ole.com.ar/tenis/Arranco-cero_0_1348665421.html

“I’m starting from scratch”

Eduardo Schwank will make his comeback at the Villa María Futures Tournament after nine months of inactivity, product of the fractures he suffered on his left arm in a bicycle accident in Gstaad. “I felt like giving up, but I miss the adrenaline of tennis, and I have a lot of energy”, he said to Olé.

His last match was on July 24th 2014, a defeat in doubles with Marcel Granollers in Gstaad, the same place where a few hours later he fell from his bike while training in the mountains, turning his tennis career  into a huge question mark. The fractures on his left arm kept Eduardo Schwank away from a racket for too long… nine months.

“At the beginning I didn’t wanna deal with it. I was pretty depressed, and I was constantly remembering the accident. But everything happens for a reason. Inactivity made me realise the important things. Right now I have a lot of energy, and I really appreciate this return to the courts,” says the 29-year-old while preparing to play the Villa María Future in Córdoba, starting on Monday.

-How are you preparing your comeback?

-I’m feeling better every day, I started to train eight weeks ago, and in the last two weeks I started hitting backhands. I’m lacking competition, but I’ll start with some Futures to get some rhythm. I wont be looking for results, I just want to be fine and feel no pain.

-What is it that you missed the most during this nine months?

-I missed the adrenaline of tennis. I’ve been doing some other activities, but I couldn’t find anything like it. The tension before a match… those things that when you’re on the tour you take naturally, and you don’t really appreciate.

-Do you see the tour differently from the outside?

-Yes. You get used to packing your bags, getting on a plane, living in hotels. You don’t have time for anything else. The first two months without playing went by really slow for me. I miss that too… having your head wrapped around the competition.

What are your targets now? You are starting without ranking in singles…

-If everything goes well in Futures in this country, I’m thinking about traveling to the Challengers in Europe, playing quallies and trying to gain points. That’s the only way to start. When I start getting rhythm I’m dangerous. Results will come as I feel better.

-You turned pro in 2005. Is it hard to set up your mind to start again?

-Yes, it’s like starting a new career. I’m starting from scratch. But I have the support of a team, and I’m also doing this for self-pride, because I want to go back to play ATP tournaments. I know it will take time. But I’m going to do this with more professionalism than I did before.

-How do you stand the daily struggle with the body? Del Potro is living the same thing.

-It’s hard when there’s a retrogression. I was well in December, but then in January I had to have surgery on my elbow, that delayed the comeback and got into my head. Everything fell apart for me when the doctor told me it was going to take four more months. It’s frustrating to not be 100% phisically. It must be really ugly to have to retire from your career because of an injury.

-Did you ever think of quitting tennis?
-Many times. I thought of leaving everything and moving forward with my Academy (Schwank Tennis Center) and having more time for my Fundation (Estar Eduardo Schwank) that keeps opening schools for disabled kids. But I still think that tennis can give me things. I thinl I have a lot of years ahead in my career. [Nowadays] players stay longer on the tour.

-What goals do you still have?
-Tennis gave me more than I ever expected. I’ve done great things in doubles (N: He was a finalist at Roland Garros 2011 with Colombian Juan Sebastian Cabal), but I neglected singles, and that’s something I want to fix. I want to have a good ranking again (48th in the world in June 2010). My head was not 100% at the time.

-Does Davis Cup motivate you? You played some great battles with Nalbandian, and you went to watch the tie against Brazil.

-Yes, that’s one of the main reasons I want to return. I’ve never felt anything quite like representing my country, it’s a huge responsibility and it’s not the same as playing on the tour, mainly when the crowd is in your favour. It’s one of my targets. I hope I can play it, even if it is just once more.

~

Translation by @WTAenespanol

Interview with Dominic Thiem: “I’m a good guy and I like to show it, unlike Gulbis”

Translation of this Punto del Break piece by Juanma Muñoz

Dominic Thiem has granted an interview with Punto de Break in Barcelona, where he will compete in the Conde de Godó, starting on Tuesday.

At 21 years old, Dominic Thiem (No. 43 in the ATP rankings) is one of the players with the highest projection in world tennis. One day before his first match in the Conde de Godó against Victor Estrella Burgos, the young Austrian granted an interview with Punto de Break in the area reserved for players and coaches of the Royal Tennis Club of Barcelona.
A frequent user of social networks, he smiles when we ask him about the term “Bamos” which he frequently uses in his posts. “I know that’s not how it’s spelled,” he tells us while heading to the tables by around the pool.

What memories do you have of Spain in and away from the competition?

The majority are good memories. The first time that I came to Spain was to play junior tournaments. Last year, I came to Barcelona and Madrid where I had some very successful weeks. In Madrid, I beat Wawrinka, which was the first victory of my career against a top 10 player.

How long ago did you start doing your pre-season training in Tenerife?

Since four years ago. Tenerife is a great place, and it was a great time in December. It’s the perfect place to do pre-season training and it’s not too far from Europe (continental).

Why did you choose Tenerife?

Because Michal Novotny, the physiotherapist of Ernests Gulbis (with whom I shared a coach until a few months ago), had a centre there. It’s a good place.

I would like for you to explain to me what you military service in Austria consisted of. Have you already finished it?

Still no. I will finish it on April 31st. The first four weeks were very hard, because I had to be there all the time. Now, it’s fine because I can leave to play all the tournaments.

What did your military service consist of after the first four weeks?

If I’m in Vienna, I have to present myself at 7:30 in the morning.

Did you receive any special treatment for being an elite athlete?

No, I probably received worse treatment (laughing). I didn’t receive any special treatment.

You’ve changed your racquet this season (from Head Prestige to Babolat Pure Strike). Why?

I started to try out the new one in December, because I finished my contract with Head. I liked the new racquet a lot from the start. I started to play more with it and now I enjoy it a lot.

Your results in the first weeks of the year weren’t good. Have you completely adapted to the new racquet?

Yeah, it’s always difficult to change your racket and stringing, but now I’m completely adapted and I like it.

Have you noticed any change in your relationship with your coach Gunter Bresnik since the split with Gulbis and now he only coaches you?

I don’t think there is anything different, because I’ve been with him 11 or 12 years and in the first 9 or 10 I was also the only one with him.

He doesn’t dedicate more time to coach just one player?

Yes, of course, but we always practice all together, so it is the same.

You know Gulbis well. How would you describe his personality away from the court?

He is a good guy, but maybe he doesn’t want to show it. He has an interesting personality. I’ve learned a lot from him. It’s great sharing time with him.

And how is Thiem away from the court?

I think I’m a good guy and I like to show it, unlike Ernests (Gulbis). I have easy-going character. I don’t like complications.

When you were a kid, you used to play with a two-handed backhand. You changed it to a one-hander with Gunter. Was it a successful decision considering the way tennis has evolved?

Now I think it was a successful decision. It was difficult during the first years. I think that now I have a very good backhand. Maybe it made sense to change precisely because in modern tennis there is, mostly, two-handed backhands. That is an advantage for those of us that have one-handed backhands, because we have more variety, an easier effort, and can get to more balls… Each time there are less players with one-handed backhands and those of us that maintain it have an advantage.

It wasn’t long ago that you were playing junior tournaments. What are the most important differences that you noticed in the jump to professionalism?

It’s very hard, because as a junior, if you are good, you are already a star. You go to nice hotels… Then you got to play Futures and it’s completely different. You have to live by yourself. It’s not easy.

What is your main goal in tennis?

I think the main goal of any player is to win a Grand Slam. It’s the biggest thing that you can get in tennis.

Which is your favorite Grand Slam?

Roland Garros

And what do you think you need to improve to reach this goal?

Everything. There is nothing that I can’t improve. I should work hard each day so that I will be able to reach my goals.

And that’s Dominic Thiem, the good guy that writes “Bamos” and dreams of winning Roland Garros.

Translated by jpine

“It ends up getting depressing” – Antoine Benneteau, Julien’s younger brother on life on the Futures tour

Article in l’Équipe print edition April 7 2015 by Julien Reboullet

“It ends up getting depressing.” Antoine Benneteau, Julien’s younger brother and once ranked 370 in the world, talks about his experience at tennis’ bottom echelon between 2011 and 2014, “a world of scraping by.”

After studying in the United states, Andtoine Benneteau, at the age of twenty-five, tried his hand at playing professional tennis in 2011. He shared hotel rooms with Élie Rousset [see this piece for more on Élie] . But, after three years, drained by a system that obliges you to count every penny, he gave up on his dream. Today he’s an intern at L’Équipe 21 and hopes to become a sports journalist. He reviews his first career.

Of course you’re a professional when you play on the Futures tour because you put in the same number of hours training as the best players and you invest the same amount in personal sacrifices, clean living, family ties, friends etc. The difference is that even when you do it to earn a living, you end up doing it for as little cost as possible. When you say you’re leaving to play a $10K, it doesn’t mean the winner gets $10,000. That’s the total prize money. The winner gets something like $1,000 [€911]. When you decide to go on a several week road trip at the other end of world, that’s not a lot. In May 2012 I left for Mexico and put together, in three tournaments, title-final-final. Even though the cost of living isn’t very high there, even though you try and find the least expensive flights, ones with multiple flight changes, even though you have five hour trips in unlikely vehicles in the middle of the night … In short, even if you’re very careful with  every expense, you hardly make ends meet. On this trip I had to make do with winnings of 200 or 300 euros maximum.

“You really get to know yourself”

Obviously it’s nothing like the “big” tour. For example, while the best get six or eight racquets strung for every match, even ones they don’t use, I had one racquet strung for every tournament because it’s 15 dollars each. At this level you never get anything from equipment sponsors. I was lucky enough to get my shoes, my clothing, my racquets and and my stringing, which wasn’t too bad. French players at that level can rely on some brands. But how many ‘foreign’ players get free tee-shirts? It’s a world of scraping by.

Before a long journey you always look to see if there are other Frenchmen signed up for those ‘exotic’ tournaments. That way you can share rooms [accommodation is almost never paid by the tournaments any more], we co-ordinate flights, we can play doubles together. And we have someone we can train and eat with. The week gets easier.

At twenty-five, in the summer of 2011, I started off from zero after my university thing and I got up to a ranking of 700 in my first year. The second year, 370. I had some matches then that could have turned things around, brought me higher. There were missed match points etc. The real markers are 500, 350 and 250. Once you’re at 250, you can play Challengers, get a shot at Slam qualies. You get a glimpse of what you’re looking for a bit. You have to be gripped by the system. But the system ends up wearing down your passion. At some point you look at the number of hours spent on court, how much money you’ve spent and how much you’ve made …and it ends up getting depressing. I quit, but I have no regrets; I travelled around the world, you really get to know yourself and you learn ten thousand times more. It’s a school of life.

~

Translation by MAN

“A pro tennis team costs a fortune”: Gilles Simon on money distribution in pro tennis

From the print edition of l’Équipe April 7, 2015. Interview by Vincent Cognet.

“A pro tennis team costs a fortune,” – Gilles Simon, vice-president of the ATP Players’ Council, says what he thinks about the the money distribution in tennis and the difficulty of balancing a three-tiered tour.

Does the pro tour have different tiers?

“I’d say it has three tiers: there are those who make a lot, those who make enough to live on, and those who are still investing. It doesn’t shock me that there are three tiers. The question is: at which tier do we want to point fingers? Everyone agrees that the ATP number 1000 shouldn’t make a living.”

Why not?

Because it’s not professional. Every player will give you a different number: one will say the top 200 deserve to earn a living, another the top 300. The only certainty is that there’ll always be a three-tiered tour.

Unless it’s changed in a way that everyone can make a living!

There are more than 2000 guys on the ATP tour. That would be difficult. Of course, I’m in favour of the maximum number of players being able to make a living. But what I find more shocking is that there’s too big a gap between players at the same category of tournament.

Which means?

The best in the world travel with their coach [sometimes two], their stringer, their doctor, sometimes their hitting partner. On the other hand, you have number 80 in the world who gets there without being able to afford a coach. Those two types of players face each other in the first round of a Grand Slam. To me that shouldn’t be possible. That’s what I was teasing Roger [Federer] with: “Under these conditions, isn’t it a little easier to win?” It’s even worse on the women’s circuit. By not offering enough money, they don’t have a chance to train and improve. So, obviously, the best, who are already stronger, will stay the strongest! They changed that by getting more prize money for the first rounds of a Grand Slam. To clarify, that pays for your coach.

What have you done for the “second tier”, meaning the qualie players?

We haven’t forgotten those who are ranked between 100 and 300. Everyone says that we should increase the Challenger prize money. OK, but how do you do that? In ten years, from 2007 to 2017, their funding has already doubled. The paradox is that we can demand that the Grand Slams double their prize money (which is already huge), but can’t do anything about a Challenger.

Why?

Because a Grand Slam generates enormous revenue and a Challenger generates none. Because the players ranked between 100 and 300 generate none. So, logically, the same thing applies to them that applies to a world number 80: how to train and improve. We’ve increased the qualie prize money for Slams 120% in four years. In four years, you’ll make the same for the last round of qualifications as you did for the first round of the draw.

Does doubling the prize money for each round made make sense?

Doubling for each round is too much. That’s my own personal opinion. The general feeling in the locker room is that they agree with that. But, should a guy who wins a Slam earn twice what someone who makes the final does? We can discuss that ..

Why doesn’t the system change at the Futures level?

Guys competing there aren’t considered professionals. They’re considered to be players who are investing in their futures. Most importantly, we, the ATP, can’t do anything – it’s run by the ITF. We have zero hold, zero power with Futures. I love my sport, I want there to be competition, I fight for that, but I see how difficult it is.

Why is dividing the money differently so difficult?

If you function like a business, you base yourself on the ratio of highest paid to lowest paid. I know for example that Gilbert [Ysern, Director General of the French Federation of Tennis] wants to reduce it to 1:80. To clarify, that the winner of a Slam earns 80 times what the first round loser earns. Today, the Indian Wells winner earns 150 times what a guy who loses in the first round earns. For the tournament directors the logic is: “I want the big cheque at the end.”

Why not put a bit more money into the Challengers?

First of all, it’s already done. Next, we, the players, have already looked at taking, say, 3% of the profits of a Masters 1000 and put them into a small tournament.

And?

And now the ball is in the tournaments’ court.

OK, lets ask the question in a different way: are the top 100 players ready to give up some of their prize money to subsidise the lesser tours?

I may be wrong, but I’d say no. I know this will cause some screaming, but the players reckon that the Masters 1000’s make too much money compared to what they give us. The Slams were reproached for the same reason, though to a lesser extent. Everyone is interested in how much money the players make. No one talks about who’s pocketing the money at the end. Because no-one knows who that is. So, if you have to find money, the players will tell you that’s who should give to the Challengers.

There’s always a worry there …

I sometimes have a problem with players who ask for more money than they generate. Is it in our tour’s interests, seen as a whole, that those guys make more money? I’m pointing out that I use the same reasoning for the women’s tour and for doubles. It’s more of a general reflection than simply a question of money for the rich and the poor.

There isn’t a single player ranked outside the 100 in the world represented on the Players’ Council.That’s a clearly elitist composition …

I agree 200% in theory. We could take a doubles representative and give it to someone outside the 100. And then, what do we talk about on the Players’ council? The calendar, prize money for the ATP 250’s, 500’s, and 1000’s …Things that don’t directly concern them.

So you’re not the Players’ Council, you’re the Top 100 Council. And you only look at the problems that concern you.

-We’re the council for the Top 100 because we’re the council for the tour. Because, today, the tour is the ATP 250’s, the ATP 500’s and the Masters 1000. In fact, there is a Challengers section. I went there. We talked for two hours about that. Me, I say: instead of talking about prize money which, in any case, isn’t generated, let’s talk more about the expenses.That might move things along a bit. The only thing we can do is to make the transition between the three worlds less distinct, more fluid. A pro structure costs a fortune. It cost me 250,000 Euros last year. That’s for a coach, a physical trainer for around 20 weeks and a kinesiologist from time to time. If a guy who is 50 in the world had my structure, he’d be not far from earning zero.

Translated by MAN