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July 31, 2016

Eugene Lapierre

Montreal, Quebec, Canada

An interview with:


THE MODERATOR: Questions in English for Mr. Lapierre.

Q. We've heard about the idea that maybe in 10 years' time there will be a roof on every tournament. More in the short-term, what do you think you can do to improve the Rogers Cup, improve the site, and maybe beat those records that have been a few years old now?
EUGENE LAPIERRE: Yes, it's interesting, your question. We have started to think about that more and more.

The importance of the quality of services that we give the fans when they come on-site, it's important that we satisfy the fans. Being a Federation, I always think, and my team does the same, what is going to be the ROI for our job, for developing the game.

Sometimes we make choices. We've made choices over the years and have said, If we spend more on this, we can have better chairs all over the site. But if we do that, it's going to be $50,000 less we have to develop the game. We're always caught into these types of decisions. Other tournaments don't have that.

Indian Wells, Larry Ellison, multi-billionaire, doesn't care about developing the game, but he likes to have a nice event. He puts $70 million to build a restaurant, to build this, to build that over a year. We cannot do that.

Up to a certain point, me and my colleague in Toronto, we told our organization, Hey, listen, we cannot lose ground to the other tournaments. We have to compete. So we voted ourselves for the next five years to improve the site and maintain the site. We put $2 million a year. It's nothing compared to Dubai, Doha, Shanghai, Stuttgart, some of these places.

It shows this year. We built a mezzanine. We put more flowers. We changed the chairs and tables. We did this and that. There's so much to do on our list, it's a very long list we think we should do with our event. We're starting to do it more and more. That's one area, and we want to improve the services to the fans more and more.

The success of the event is basically the players. If we want a top event in the world, both on the men's and women's sides, we attract the top players. We have to keep doing that. We'll take every means necessary to keep doing that, to remain into the Masters Series group, and to remain in the Premier group, and to follow any prize money increase, help the tours to be even stronger.

That's the way we see it and that's the way we collaborate with the tours.

Q. Overall how do you think the week went?
EUGENE LAPIERRE: The week went very well. As I was saying earlier in French, we reached 172,000, more than that, spectators. Our record is 175,000. We're very proud. We didn't have the same buzz coming into this year as two years ago when Genie had done the final at Wimbledon and a couple semifinals in Grand Slams before that. So there was a huge buzz, huge presale. That was not the case. Suddenly Serena Williams withdraws at the start of the event. What is going to happen? It went well.

We had good performances all week long, good performances by our Canadian players. Eugenie won three matches. I think she could have gone more and it would been fantastic. She probably thinks the same.

All in all, we're very happy with the end result of the week, yeah.

Q. We had the impression that Eugenie Bouchard cannot be stopped. After the first two matches, she showed a lot of determination and inspiration. What happened? Do you think it was emotional or maybe the expectation of the public?
EUGENE LAPIERRE: I think the expectations. Really it's her to answer that question. I think she did after her match when she lost. She explained that she did not enter into that match with the same state of mind as the first two matches. She was more thinking about the environment and the expectation, and not focusing enough on the match. She was trying to finish points too quick.

I remember one point in the second game of the match. She's up 1-0. She's going to win the second game. Long rally, boom, boom, rally, rally, rally. She can win that point if she hangs in there. Suddenly she decides to do a dropshot. Misses it in the bottom of the net. I thought, Whoa, that's not good. She should show that girl, If you want to beat me from the backcourt, you should stay out there and you'll see. But that didn't happen.

After that, the match sort of went that way. She was trying to finish early. We say in French, cut corners. Her mind was not set as good as the first two. Hey, I'm sure she's going to find a solution to that because she showed us a very good level, a top-10 level for sure, this week.

Q. How about the Romanian public today? It's unusual with so many flags here in Montréal. What is your perception about this?
EUGENE LAPIERRE: I was very happy. I was very happy to have Halep in the tournament this week. We sent massive promotions to the Romanian crowd out there. We know they're there because we played against Romania last year in Fed Cup, and there were more Romanians in the stands than Canadians. We should have elected to play over there.

But we knew there was a good crowd, a number of good fans coming to support Romania. It was a good week for them.

Q. Karl Hale said at the beginning of the week they're already talking to the ATP about what can be done in 2020 for the Olympics in terms of the calendar. We know the Masters 1000 contract is coming to an end at the end of 2018 and it has to be renegotiated. On the WTA side, are you looking that far ahead in terms of the calendar?
EUGENE LAPIERRE: We are. Yes, we are. It's not really the ATP or the WTA that's going to solve that, or it's both of them with the players. It's really something we need to discuss with the ITF and bring the ITF to propose something when it comes to Olympic years. We need to discuss about that.

To me, I think there are too many tournaments already. Summer season, it's very simple. You have Wimbledon, you have a break for the top players, you have two important tournaments in the middle of the summer, one week off, US Open. That's it.

Talk to Federer, talk to Nadal, talk to Serena, they're going to tell you that. The game's not going very well, you're going to try to play maybe a little more. If it's going well, that's all you're going to play.

Now the Olympics comes into the mix. So what's the solution? In the best scenario, it takes up one more week. Most of the time it's at the other end of the world. It's tough for the players. It's really difficult.

To tell you frankly, the solution, we need to discuss it with the ITF, the players, the WTA and ATP together to find a solution to that problem. It's not easy. It's not going to be easy to solve.

Q. This year the Olympics are immediately after the Rogers Cup. Four years ago the Rogers Cup was immediately after the Olympics. For Tokyo, if everything stays the same, it will be as it was in London. The Rogers Cup should be after the Olympics. Do you prefer this year or do you prefer the London scenario?
EUGENE LAPIERRE: I prefer this year. Tokyo is going to be tough, just deciding which week of the Olympics we'll want to have the event. If we take the first week, they're going to have a week off. What are they going to do? Are they going to come right away to America or skip another week and say, We've had enough, we're going to come later.

It's not going to be an easy decision. Again, all tournaments are going to be at risk. You should see the others complaining, Stanford, Washington. All the tournaments had mail at the start of the summer saying, Look at our list. I saw at some point the list. Between the three tournaments, they had five top 10 before us. I was looking at it. I was looking at my list. The deadline was there and there was nobody. I don't usually look at the list prior, but now I look at it.

I started making calls. Don't worry, don't worry, it's like this usually and you'll get your players. The last couple of days everybody entered. Okay, whew, got it.

Who knows. Who knows how they will react in four years from now. So we need to find somewhat of a solution. I don't know what's going to be the solution. I know our situation is less of a problem because we can manage. We managed in 2012. We managed this year. We'll probably manage in 2020. The other tournaments are hurting much more than us. We'll see what all the bodies together will decide. It will be an ongoing discussion.

THE MODERATOR: Questions in French.

Q. Satisfied?
EUGENE LAPIERRE: Yes. Next question.

Yes, in general. Of course, if we had to rewrite the script of the tournament, we would make some little changes here and there, but overall the sales, for example, were incredible. We broke our record. We are at 175,000 for the women. We did even better this year. In spite of the fact that last year there was a lot of buzz with Genie, who had good results before coming into the tournament, which was not the case this year. Also we played two weeks earlier. We really didn't know what to expect for this tournament.

Many people were telling us they wanted to come to the tournament, but then they realized that dates changed, they were going on holidays. We expected trouble because it was two weeks earlier. Also the game by the players was incredible. I was impressed with what our Canadian players did. Aleksandra is back to her level. She really needed to have a good performance. Errani was a tough opponent. The match was tight, she did well. We'll see what she's going to do in Granby next week. I think this match will help her to get some victories under her belt.

Francoise, she played a very good Chinese opponent. That Chinese opponent had a lot to gain because she would have become No. 1 in China if she had won that match. But Francoise was totally in control of that match. It's incredible to see her play. She is an incredible athlete. We would like her to do that more regularly on the tour. Against Svitolina, she had openings, because 7-6, 7-6 is a tight score. Svitolina is considered as one of the next good players. She's coached by Justine Henin. Abanda showed us she can improve her ranking. She's not a top 200, she's a top 50, but she has to be more consistent and play like that on a more regular basis.

Of course, Genie, the crowd followed her. With all the pressure there was for that match against Safarova in Montréal, she played well. The way she played was extremely good. Safarova was playing really well. 7-5 in the third, three match points against her. I mean, anyone who knows tennis would have thought the match would be over. She won six points in a row and came out as the winner. It was incredible. The most beautiful match that I saw from Genie. The level was very high. It was great tennis.

The next match was surprising. I think, if I was allowed to bet, I would put $5 against Genie, and I wouldn't be wrong.

So, yes, I could tell you a lot about all the matches of this tournament.

Q. Kucova, it was a Cinderella story.
EUGENE LAPIERRE: Yes. That player came out of the quallies. It was already good for her to come out of the quallies. She needed to play at a high level for those two matches.

She beat Wickmayer, Genie, Suarez Navarro and all those players. It was surprising. If you look at her, you wonder what are her weapons. She doesn't hit very hard, but she moves very well. Also, she's a fighter. She returns every ball.

Konta could have been a problem for her. But it was good. I think once she beat Genie, the crowd was behind her. It was good for her to win the next match.

Q. In the beginning of your long answer, you were talking about your satisfaction. Can you elaborate?
EUGENE LAPIERRE: Well, if there were not the Olympics, maybe Serena wouldn't have pulled out. Muguruza was sick and pulled out just before playing her match. In the locker room, she said, I can't play the match. She came to see me. She seemed pale.

I said, Okay, I can't make you play that match.

The WTA was not as cool as I was. They were extremely upset. The supervisor really scolded Muguruza. I left the office. They were telling her, You can't do that in a tournament with 10,000 people waiting for your match in the stands, no way.

Of course, we would have liked Genie to have continued. Once she beat Cibulkova, I thought she had an open way maybe till the final, but it didn't happen.

You can want to change the tournament, but I'm pleased with the way it went.

Q. 172,000 spectators is good. The two semifinals and the final are the matches that are the most watched internationally. There were empty seats today, several hundred. Why? Did it disturb you?
EUGENE LAPIERRE: No, not really. I don't know if it's several hundred. I thought there were a lot of people. Maybe yesterday evening there were more empty seats. But I can tell you that as far as women's tennis is concerned, we are the best by far. We have a world record, breaking it by 70,000. The next one is Toronto, because we are changing over every year. But in other countries, there's no city able to do that. They don't alternate women and men.

We have been attracting people from the start of the tournament. Even the first weekend, in spite of the rain, the first weekend. We are a festival like any other festival in town, like jazz. That's why we open the doors on the first weekend, so the crowd can watch the players practice. They can also watch the qualification matches. Saturday, the whole day, we didn't have many people on the Saturday because of the rain. Usually we have more people and we would have made it 175,000 for the whole tournament.

Q. You talked about Eugenie Bouchard and her high level. How do you see Halep's victory?
EUGENE LAPIERRE: This tournament showed that in women's tennis, the new generation is taking over. Simona Halep has already good results. More and more she is confirming her position of a top player. Yesterday's matches were at a very high level, too. Kerber's match could have gone either way. These players are fast, and they have many weapons. For Halep, I'm sure she has had a lot of talent since she was a little girl. She's able to run all over the court. It was a good match.

Madison Keys has incredible power. She's going to be very dangerous. She's the one who imposes her own pace. You never know whether she's going to hit a winner or whether she's going to miss the ball. Halep was very good in causing her to make mistakes.

This week we saw players who are going to build the history of tennis in the following years.

Q. Do you believe the pressure from the crowd can cause a player to lose a match?
EUGENE LAPIERRE: For sure. We saw that two years ago with Genie. Everything was okay for her, and suddenly I am sure she didn't realize what was happening. It was impressive to see how she understood things. She said she didn't approach the match correctly because she was trying to respond to people's expectations instead of being focused on her own game. This is what she explained in her interview after the match. I hope she will find a solution to that.

Of course, we know that playing at home is more difficult. We hope she will be able to do that a bit better when she plays elsewhere, especially against lower-ranked players. We hope she'll be able to play her best tennis every time.

Q. We heard about a roof for this tournament. This year the weather was fine. What is the status of this project?
EUGENE LAPIERRE: We have no dates. We are studying the feasibility of having a roof. We like the idea, and we are seeing what is happening on the international scene.

Wimbledon, Australia have a roof, some several roofs. The US Open will inaugurate their own roof this year. The French Open is wanting to have a roof by 2018. Madrid, Shanghai have roofs. Even in the 500s, some have roofs. Some of them want to become a Masters, so they're trying.

My perspective is that between now and 10 years from now many tournaments will have a roof. Why? Well, because what we are trying to do with our sport, for it to survive, is to sell it to the media on every platform possible. We are in competition with other sports like soccer, golf, basketball, baseball, NASCAR. There is a demand right now from the broadcaster to have tennis. It's a beautiful sport. In the same tournament, you can sell on the same day the product to Asia, to South America, to the United States, to Europe because there are players from every market. We can do that more and more.

This is the product we are selling. When you broadcast in many countries, suddenly there's not anything to broadcast anymore because it's raining, this is bad. We have to improve the quality of what we have to offer internationally. In the next years the obvious answer will be a roof. As soon as a couple of tournaments will have a roof, I'm sure more and more will have a roof as well. If we want to keep our competitive edge, we will need a roof.

Often in sport people react when they have to. Sometimes it is too late. What I'm saying is why shouldn't we be quicker than the others, mark the importance of our tournament. A roof is important because we have a guarantee that we can do our mission all year round.

The tournament in Tennis Canada is a way of developing our sport. The work will start tomorrow morning. Thanks to the tournament's results, we will develop our sport. We've been doing that successfully in the past years. We want to continue. We want to make sure our tournament will last.

Now I'm getting to the core of this issue. It is for all those reasons that we need a roof, so that we can continue developing our sport for young Canadians. So, yes, it is important. We are studying it. But it's not a project as such yet. If it becomes one, the first ones we're going to show it to are the neighbors here from our park because here we are in a big Montréal park. It is important for the neighborhood. They need to know what is going to happen. So they'll be shown the project first.

We have good facilities here. Some promoters try to organize concerts or shows. But when it rains, everything can't take place, so they don't even try anymore. It's too complicated for them. So the idea of having a roof will guarantee them the possibility of holding an event or show that would be guaranteed. No other stage can do that. So it would be a positive thing for entertaining our citizens here.

For the time being it's too early to talk about any calendar or dates.

Q. Unless Tennis Canada pays for the whole thing and do not call on the government, because if the government pays for it the people from Montréal will pay for a one-week event.
EUGENE LAPIERRE: Well, we believe that developing the sport and offering a stage and show like this that has an international audience is extremely important. Every year we put $15 million back into the sport for the young players. Year after year we expect to do more than that.

So what we are doing, thanks to this tournament, and all the benefit for the young players, we are very proud of. I wouldn't be ashamed to ask for the help of our government to continue to do that, and I'm going to continue to do it.

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