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November 8, 2015

Guy Forget

Paris, France

GUY FORGET: Good morning, everyone. Thank you for coming here. I know it's a bit early. I think on second thought we should have done this press conference at 2:30. That was a joke.
Just to give you the results of this tournament, which is going to end in apotheosis I hope in a few hours, so before answering your question, I would like to tell you that this 2015 edition is a great success for several reasons.
First, we discovered this new stadium called Accor Arena. Of course we had some problems with this. We saw the works were gigantic and we had thousands of workers working day and night on the site. I believe it was really a great feat that everyone was able to end the work in time, and as soon as Monday we could use the stadium.
The players were very enthusiastic about the welcome that was prepared for them, especially for center court, but also for everything that is behind the scenes. I'm talking about the locker rooms, the warmup rooms, the physio room, and the catering and the players lounge. I was also thinking about this particular space that was improved compared with last year, too.
So as tournament director, I only had positive comments from the players. So there were new things this year with the presentation of the players. Of course there were the posters, augmented tennis. People were asking me, What is augmented tennis? But for young people, the teenagers all know about it.
I believe this was a success because of all the projections we have seen on the screens when the players came out of the tunnel, which is something new, too. And I believe it's really great, show that we have been very innovative here.
I would like to congratulate our team for this remarkable work. They are always able to find new things and to propose different things, something modern, flashy. So at the beginning, when the players had to wait in front of the white screen, after they were really impressed and they were complimentary about this way to put them onstage, because they are actors. They are showmen. They are very well aware of that. So when they are highlighted in that way, they always appreciate. And you, too, I am sure. You were surprised by this very different staging.
As to the crowd, we offered them different things also between the matches. I remember all the lead panels and the new lighting that contributed to make the show even more interesting, more exciting, the suspense was highlighted, and I believe this was spectacular. So this is for the positive side.
As to the game itself, this year we had all the top players. You know, what is our week in the ATP calendar, and with everyone in the Federation and myself, are a bit tense when we see the players play in Valencia or in Basel, because we're afraid that a player might get hurt or injured because we know it's the end of the season. And Djokovic, for example, and other players played a lot over several continents, and they are 10 days away from the London Masters, so our position is a bit dangerous.
So really, I would like to congratulate the players for their professionalism and also the ATP because on this ATP Masters, they all came with a very high physical condition and level of game. I think I am specialist in tennis, and I have seen the most beautiful matches ever during this tournament. We had real confrontations between the top players and the final opposing No. 1 and No. 2 show how professional the players have been about this tournament.
So before giving the trophy to the winner later on, I would like to tell you how myself and the whole team of the Federation are happy, very happy of the way this tournament took place and from the sports point of view, too.
I also heard that there were some mishaps, so to say. For different reasons, I don't know if you want to talk about it now, but we know that everything is not totally perfect. We had some concerns, some issues from the start of the tournament. We started taking notes and making a list of all the things we can still improve with the tournament management, with the Federation, with our partners, our sponsors, in this Accor Arena stadium.
We want to make sure that as of next year, some improvements will be made. We want to be the best, but as I was saying in the beginning, it was really difficult to finish the work on time. Maybe that can explain that for the radio areas or the welcoming of the crowds, there are things that can be improved. We need to make some adjustments there. When you aim at the highest level, sometimes the little details can become very important.
I am happy of the overall work that has been done, but we have to take care of some details to be even better next year. If you have questions about this, if I am able to, I will be very delighted and very happy to answer them. So in spite of those little mishaps, I think this 2015 edition was a great success, and I would like to congratulate everybody.
Vincent, I'm listening to you. I know you're going to ask the first question.

Q. What feedback did you get from the players precisely about the center court? I'm thinking about the black background, the speed of the surface. What did they say, the top players?
GUY FORGET: What's very pleasant was spontaneously was Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray came in the beginning of the tournament to speak to the press, and even before they were asked, spontaneously they were very complimentary on the stadium.
Visually I believe that the fact that this dark color everywhere makes a sort of beautiful contrast with, for example, the yellow ball. Before it was red, it was original, but it was not very convenient for the game. Especially when the stadium was not full.
We can talk about this, too. But sometimes in the beginning of the tournament on the Monday morning there are many empty seats, especially this year, because we were not in a vacation period. So some days were more difficult than others.
So the players were pleasantly surprised by the fact that because of the dark around, they could focus on the game. The seats are bigger, more comfortable for the spectators. We didn't gain many extra seats, but again, I can tell you that the players were enthusiastic about the court.
And also, as I was saying earlier, they really appreciated the way we were staging their appearance on the court.

Q. Was the surface slower than previous years?
GUY FORGET: It's strange you're asking that question, because when you talk with the players, they are so sensitive to the speed of the surface that some of them say it was totally identical.
If you talk with Javier Sanchez, the owner of GreenSet, he's the one who is preparing the court here in Basel, in Valencia, and in the ATP Tour Finals in London, and he certifies that the resins were from the same origin and the speed is exactly the same.
Of course when you play in Basel, you are at 500 meters altitude, so you might have some differences because of that. So what I heard is Basel was a bit faster. Valencia was a bit slower than Basel. If there was a difference from last year, it might not exceed 5%. I know the players are able to feel that, but it was no intentional, anyway.
Our concern is to propose the same type of surface than the one they are going to have in London. I spoke with Roger Federer about this, and he said that when you play indoors, you could have sometimes faster surface indoors. In Key Biscayne the courts are slow. That's what they have been saying for the past year, and this is coming out of the new policy of the ATP. But courts are extremely slow.
We had a final between in Miami between Murray and David Ferrer that lasted more than three hours in the heat, and the players can't attack, be aggressive anymore, because they are indefensible, I believe, or in defense all the time.
So, maybe, yes, we could allow ourselves to accelerate 5 or 10% to the speed of the game, and then matches would be a bit shorter and players could take more initiatives. We can discuss about this with the ATP.
This year with Andy Murray, in particular, I thought he made very offensive shots. He was very sharp. And Richard Gasquet also was more daring than usual. So this type of surface can work. Isner, who beat Federer in three sets, also wouldn't have won that match if the court was a lot slower. And when Isner serves well on that surface, it's tough to return.

Q. Isn't there a frustration that you have to copy, so to speak, the London surface, because indoors you would like maybe to have a faster surface? So aren't you thinking, Well, you don't have a choice because you have to do like they are going to do in London? So aren't you frustrated that this indoor court is a bit slow?
GUY FORGET: This is a choice we made with the teams of the French Tennis Federation. We wanted to have an intermediate surface. But this is not an extremely slow surface. It is still fast. We want to offer our spectators a good quality show, so we have to find a medium term between too slow and too fast. I remember sometimes it was too fast, and it was tough playing from the baseline. It's only a small percentage that makes a difference.
So this year we are not disappointed by the quality of the game. I believe the matches were at a very high level this year. If one day you will have Karlovic or Raonic making 45 aces per match and being in the final just hitting winners, you are going to tell me, Isn't that boring? Remember when Goran Ivanisevic won here? People were bored. The game was not varied.
So we have to adjust the surface little by little, and maybe next year we'll make a slight change. But we are talking about a very slight change. I believe, generally speaking, the players were happy this year. We are not going to make a revolution.

Q. This is the third year in a row without a French player in the final. Isn't it frustrating for you as a tournament director?
GUY FORGET: No, it's just an anecdote. If you look at all the Masters 1000 in the world, you don't have French players very often in the semifinals. You need to be among the top 5 to do that. Of course sometimes there is a surprise and one of our players is able to sneak in. We saw Jo in that position. Some players do that. But, well, it's not exceptional, but it is not very frequent, either.
In this tournament, sometimes and it's good that it's in Paris there is the support of the crowd, and some French players can use that. I remember Tsonga, I remember Gaƫl Monfils and Michael Llodra reaching the semis. So French players usually play better here than in other Masters 1000.
Now, Richard Gasquet played extremely well this year and Gilles Simon played well, too. He really made it difficult for the No. 1 in the world. And Jo lost to Berdych. We knew it was going to be a difficult match, but we can't accuse any of them coming here unprepared. This is really one of their priorities with the Grand Slams and Davis Cup.
This Masters here in Paris is, for them, a very important tournament. Every year they have their family, their friends watching them, and it's on TV every day, so when you see them in the players lounge, you can feel their motivation. Unfortunately the results are not always in compliance with their expectations.

Q. You were talking about the professionalism of players, and in particular, for Novak. What do you think about this?
GUY FORGET: I think everyone who plays tennis and likes tennis would like to be in the shoes of Novak Djokovic, who has this capacity of flowing on the court and who is impossible to overrun. I remember Wawrinka playing right and left, and every time getting the ball back. It's impressive to see an individual just be close to perfection in that way.
And when you see the statistics of Novak, it's impressive. He had very few injuries, very few moments when he was unfit or in bad shape, and he seems always full of ambitions. His ratio between wins and losses is impressive. Vincent knows the figures, but McEnroe, I don't remember if it was '84, '85, or one year of Roger Federer, with that kind of stats. Rafa Nadal also had that one year.
So there is only four or five players over the past 40 years who were able to have that kind of ratio. It's a sort of unbearable confidence. Sometimes you see Novak playing, and you think he's playing in a dream. He just places his shots in very precise points on the court. We are lucky to see a player do that.
We need that kind of player, because now, all the other players say, If I want to beat Novak, I have to play the perfect match. I believe Andy is going to approach that final taking many risks, even if he makes mistakes. I think he will try to bring Novak to become less confident, and he can do that. He has the shots.

Q. Still about Novak, don't you believe he was not recognized for his talent? Maybe now? Before we were talking about Roger, the perfect player of all times, maybe now people are talking about Novak?
GUY FORGET: Well, why is Roger so famous and so respected? It's because he's been on the tour for 15 years. And year after year, he's been winning tournaments, and he's been impressing people with his game.
Serena is the same. It is her career and all her results that are talking for her. She is able to have those unprecedented seasons. Novak is in the process of writing his own history, but he's younger. Every time we think maybe Novak is going to play not as good, and every year he shows that he plays better.
Maybe in three or four years or for the next three or four years Novak will be able to win two, three, four Grand Slams per year. So he will be at the level of Sampras, Nadal, I mean, he might even be better than them.
He's an exceptional champion. He still has time for you, for the press, he's smiling. He's nice with the ball boys. He's nice with everyone around his sport. You know, it is his duty as an ambassador for tennis, and he does that incredibly well. So we compare him with Nadal, with Federer.
Of course for the time being, those players did a bit more than he did right now, but let's see. When time comes, I believe he might even overcome them and be better than them in the future.

Q. What new things can we expect for 2016, for next year? What will you keep improving?
GUY FORGET: Well, to improve the tournament, we are dependent on the participation of the top players, on the quality of the show they are going to do on the court. That is the No. 1 factor. Of course, we'll do everything we can to make sure the matches can take place in the best conditions with the better balls and with the best conditions. But now as to the presentation of the players, we already started working on new things in terms of lighting or just to surprise our spectators and television viewers.
Our teams have invented things that will go even a bit further than what we have this year, and I sort of had an overview of it, and I was impressed. We have a whole year also to find new ideas, and this is what we are going to try to do. Sometimes other tournaments are imitating us because we are precursors, innovative. And sometimes we do something, and six months later, we see something similar in another tournament.
But the Federation teams, I believe, are extremely dynamic and open to new things. Technology is also helping a lot. The presentation ceremonies and awarding the trophy will be even more impressive. I can't give you all the details now because then there will be no surprise.

Q. What do you think about Michael Llodra's role in the Belgium Davis Cup team and awarding the trophy?
GUY FORGET: Well, the Belgium team, very intelligently, like the British, is thinking that they have their best chance ever to win that trophy this year. So they want to make sure they do everything they can to do that. They know they don't have the best doubles team, and they only have a few weeks to prepare this final. So using the experience of someone who has played several Davis Cup finals and won major tournaments in doubles is a very wise idea, especially also that they have a good, friendly relationship with Mika.
So I think it's a very intelligent initiative to have approached Mika, and Mika can bring his experience. But he can't do miracles, because if the players are not good doubles players, Mika will not be able to change that in two weeks.
But they can give them good advice for the mental approach, for simple combinations on the court, and they can bring something. It's just an extra percentage. But sometimes at this level some details can make a difference, and he's going to make them better on the court, if he can.
The Swiss Davis Cup team had done that in Lille with Macpherson, I don't know what was his impact on the doubles, but Roger was very good in the doubles match and it inspired, I guess, the Belgium team.

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