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November 19, 2016
London, England, United Kingdom
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for joining us for the announcement of the Next Gen ATP Finals. We'll let Chris take it from there.
CHRIS KERMODE: Welcome, everybody. Thank you very much for coming. This is one of the most exciting announcements we're making. It's probably the worst-kept secret in tennis that we're doing this event, but to sort of formalize it.
This is an event we've worked on for a couple of years. The emphasis comes from a couple of points. One is we had an idea of we took -- everybody in the sport, the ATP, everybody involved, ITF, media, TV, everybody has promoted heavily the sort of top players as the big four for the last 10 years. As a result, we've had quite a top-heavy period in our game. Quite rightly, because they've won a huge amount of events.
What we need to do as the ATP, we have a responsibility to market many more players to a much wider audience. The big focus for us is we're at this incredible time in tennis where we're at almost the changing of the guard. We have superstars in the game that have transcended the sport over the last 10 years, reached beyond tennis and become global sporting icons, Roger, Rafa, Novak and Andy in particular.
But the changing of the guard is coming. We have a duty to start highlighting and really bringing to life characters in the game that are coming through with immense, immense talent. One of them happens to be sitting right next to me here.
This is the future of the game. There are many of them. The exciting thing for me is we need to tell their story to a much bigger audience. We need to tell their backstory to a much bigger audience. Therefore, when they start walking on the piece of theater that is the big stage, that people know about them, something interesting about them, something personal about them. That is our job.
The second part of this is that we are going to use this event as a test case for any new innovation that we want to try. This has been a fascinating couple of years. The great thing about sport is everyone is an armchair expert. We all are so passionate about the game. Anyone who watches the game is passionate about the sport and has a very strong view of where the game should go.
People throw out ideas, getting rid of this, making it quicker, longer, whatever you have to say. I think we have to put it in an event and test case all this stuff. Until you see it, it's difficult to see whether some ideas work or not.
We have a duty as the ATP World Tour to be looking not just at the next generation of players but the next generation of fans and how we are going to interact with millennials who are viewing any entertainment product in a completely different way, different formats, different styles. How can our product still be relevant in the next 10, 15 years?
All sport is going to face it. I want the ATP World Tour to be at the forefront of that because I do believe men's professional tennis, the ATP World Tour, is the greatest global sports entertainment product in the world, and we need to keep that going into the future.
We're just going to show a short video right now I think.
CHRIS KERMODE: There we go. Last word from me on this is people talk about the greatest generation of players that is coming to an end. So many people say to me, Are you concerned? Where is tennis going? I have heard this for all my life. When a generation finishes, when Stefan was playing, McEnroe and Borg finished, everyone said, Tennis is finished, it will never be the same again.
This sport has an uncanny ability to produce new stars. The excitement is we never know where they're going to come from.
I do believe two things. This is the most exciting group of sort of Next Gen kids that I've seen in the game, just in pure talent, personality, that mixture. The last point is one of the keys for a global sport is that the sport has to have a geographically diverse spread of players. Whatever sport you're in, if you're trying to be global, but they're all coming from a specific region, it's tough to sell it globally.
Now we have Americans back in the frame. We have Australians. We have Europeans. We have Asians. We have South Americans. That's why this event is so exciting.
I was speaking to a couple of journalists over the last couple of months. It was amazing how there was one journalist in particular who had been onto me, What is the ATP going to make changing to the game?
This event is going to be produce a lot of changes.
When I told him what we're looking at, these changes, I wouldn't do that, I wouldn't do this.
I said, You're the guy that has been telling me to make changes in the game.
When you make changes, most people hate change. What we're trying to do is say, Let's put this in the open, see what we can do. We're looking open-minded and seeing the future of the sport.
THE MODERATOR: Sergio, a few words from you.
SERGIO PALMIERI: When Chris and myself, we talk first time, I don't know, maybe a year ago, I really believe in this idea, I believe is a non-stop process. We don't need to worry if some of the stars are leaving because every time we have a new star coming up, unfortunately I saw that many times in my life.
I think this time is going to be the same. The plus, as Chris said, we want to introduce some innovation. We are talking about that already. We're going to make pretty soon the announcement also about which innovation the ATP has in mind, which innovation we would like to have in our event.
We are pretty confident. The Italian Federation is very happy to be the one that received this opportunity. I believe, with the ATP, we are going to make the best effort we can to have this event be successful.
THE MODERATOR: We can take questions.
Q. I still remember we had some news of Stefan Edberg playing in Birmingham against Boris Becker years ago. Is it going to be TV coverage, the way to get the money? The idea is great.
CHRIS KERMODE: Did you say is there going to be TV coverage?
CHRIS KERMODE: ATP Media is selling this. The week we're putting this is after the Paris Masters 1000 and The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. In January, it's the Road to Milan. It's a quiet Tennis Week. So that is going to be sold, yeah, globally.
Q. Will this tournament give ATP points?
CHRIS KERMODE: No. We did think long and hard about the points. Actually we came to the conclusion that we are going to test case lots of this stuff, if you throw points in, I think it's a little bit unreasonable. If players have been playing in a certain format throughout the whole year, I say you're going to play best of one point, Frances may not think that is a good idea.
When we carry on with this event, we've done the test case, then down the future I think we will, yes.
Q. I'd like to know where it will be exactly in Milan. Also, is there doubles or not?
CHRIS KERMODE: No doubles.
Q. You play two matches per day for how many days?
SERGIO PALMIERI: Four.
Q. What is the prize money? And the round-robin will be the format like the ATP World Tour Finals or not?
DIEGO NEPI: The venue is at Fiera di Milano which is in front of the entrance of the metro, transportation of Milano very well.
Q. How many seats?
DIEGO NEPI: 4,000, 5,000 seats. We are working for not the capacity, but about our strategies. Other activities downtown in Milan as teasers for the events, then also during the event, a millennial city, perfect for our target and focus.
SERGIO PALMIERI: The format is going to be exactly the same we have here for the ATP World Tour Finals. It's two groups with four players. Same system, four matches a day as singles because we don't have doubles. The event is going to take place in five days. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday is the group, then Friday is the semi, and Saturday is the final.
We have no doubles, as I said. I think that's it.
The prize money, we agree with the ATP, is a million five, but we probably work something out to put some of that money, maybe $250,000, for promotion with the players. We like to have some of the young players, maybe the ones that are going to qualify, to promote our event and the ATP event all year long. This is something we have to discuss, but we all agree to do something like that.
Q. Chris, for a player to qualify, I'm assuming it's going to go on rankings. Also as far as city is concerned, is this going to move around the world? Frances, your thoughts on being part of something like this.
CHRIS KERMODE: Yes, ranking points.
Again, just like this event, it's players picking up the points January through to November. It will be the top seven, and a wild card, 21 and unders, based on the ranking. We also on our website will run a parallel Next Gen Finals Race to Milan. You'll be able to see that storyline progress throughout the year.
Currently we'll be staying in Milan for five years, then we'll see what we do after that. Potentially it could move. Obviously I have huge trust in the Italian tennis Federation, it may stay there for life. At the moment it's a five-year deal.
FRANCES TIAFOE: We're incredibly excited about the event. Definitely it's going to be a great event. I want to thank the ATP for everything they've done launching the Next Gen. It was a huge deal for us, a bunch of different personalities. I think it's going to be a really good turnout, really excited for it.
Q. You said the ATP tennis is the most powerful brand in the world. Explain the uniqueness or factor compared to FIFA or golf which is also popular.
CHRIS KERMODE: The one thing tennis has is there are actually very few global sports. There are some huge sports that are huge in certain regions, obviously the American sports, but quite domestic. Tennis is one of the few global sports.
Secondly, it's one of the few sports, if the only sport, that has a demographic split of 50/50 split between men and women that watch the sport, which is a huge attractive selling point. It's gladiatorial, one-on-one. A lot of people are talking about on-court coaching at the moment. I'm not a fan of it. That's one of the unique points, it's guys battling it out on their own. It's also a physical sport and a highly mental sport as well.
It's that combination. That gladiatorial factor is key.
Q. Let's say in the end of 2017, Zverev or Frances will reach 10th place in the world. Will you allow him to substitute in London?
CHRIS KERMODE: I knew someone was going to ask that.
It's a mandatory event, this. So mandatory event and with the prize money, the fact that it's a huge marketing opportunity, makes it compelling for the players to play. We've said that if the a player makes the ATP World Tour Finals, they don't have to play.
I've spoken to two players that said they would play if they made both. I'll believe it when I see it, but they did say it.
Q. It was in the week after Paris. Presumably the same guys you expect to qualify may want to be playing in Paris and the preceding tournaments to qualify. Are you concerned, like the guys playing here this week, that they're going to be overplaying and not get any rest before they play this event?
CHRIS KERMODE: I think in reality it's possible that one of these players will play it. In reality, if they did make it here in London, I think it's highly unlikely they'll play Milan.
If you look statistically at all the numbers, the reason we actually started this event, one of the many, actually I grew up as a kid and watched this generation play, they would win a Grand Slam under 18. By 19 they'd be winning ATP events or really making their name known of ATP World Tour events.
What's happening now is kids are winning at 18, then seemingly going into wilderness, because it's so physical, actually these guys are breaking through at 23, 24, rather than 17 and 18.
If someone does break through into the top eight, there is a gap between the top eight and the rest, that would be exceptional and very, very rare. But it's possible.
Q. Chris, do you have a few words on what actually happened to the ATP challenger finals? Is it considered as a replacement?
CHRIS KERMODE: To be honest, I think so, certainly at this stage. The challenger finals was a good idea. It never established roots, to be honest. I think this is an opportunity to get a blend of what we were trying to do. It was my predecessors that did that. It's a blend of a seed of that idea.
I think this is going to be hugely successful because it has other elements. Enough said.
Q. You said it's a mandatory event. There's no ranking points. If someone does decide they don't want to come, what form of disciplinary action would there be if they don't play?
CHRIS KERMODE: Financial (smiling).
SERGIO PALMIERI: We do that in Italy, too.
CHRIS KERMODE: Yeah, financial.
Q. Sergio, will it stay for sure in Milan?
SERGIO PALMIERI: First of all, the event will stay in Milan. Our choice as we said to the ATP representative when they came to Milan, our first choice is the Palladio.
Q. So it could move?
SERGIO PALMIERI: For that reason we decide with the ATP we decide to go to the Fiera, which they have a great facility. Eventually from the second year we move to Palladio where we supposed to be.
DIEGO NEPI: Eventually.
Q. Stefan, what does it mean for you? You are here. What was the junior tournament like? A lot was based on you and Boris.
STEFAN EDBERG: I think we've heard a lot here around the table. I think they answered most of the questions.
I think this is a great idea. It's good for tennis. It's great to promote these young players. They're probably going to need more time to break into the top of the tennis game, so to say.
Obviously when you're young, you see just opportunities. This is going to be a great opportunity. It's a great format. I think a lot of these guys are really, really going to battle it out to get into this tournament because there's going to be attractive prize money and it's going to be a good way for them to promote themselves.
It's sort of more like a win-win situation here. It's definitely the right move to do it. If I was young, I would love to have this setup.
Q. How much money did you make, Stefan, when you played in Birmingham and Stuttgart? You lost to Becker.
STEFAN EDBERG: That was the first time I lost to someone younger than I. But he apparently got very good.
Q. Don't you think it's a lot of money for, like, the No. 8? Is that good for the education of a young player to spoil him so much or not? Who is going to bring out all this money?
CHRIS KERMODE: We're doing this as a partnership, the amount and the Italian tennis Federation.
In answer to your question, this is about prize money. Someone mentioned points. You have to have one or the other to make this event work. Events work, the slams works, the Masters 1000s work because the players play, right? If you have an event, you're saying this is the top players, and they don't play, then clearly it's not what it says on the tin. We need some mechanism. If we could have points, we could. With the test casing, we can't. That's number one.
Again, it's amazing, a type of question that comes negatively, which I get a lot about a lot, does money spoil the players. It's tough for these young guys to play on the tour, how expensive it is. We see this as an incredibly good thing. This is actually allowing players to earn money to be able to play on the tour at an incredibly tough transitional time. That's why it's a good idea.
STEFAN EDBERG: Chris explained it takes a while to get there. In order to get there, you need to be good in the ATP rankings. Somehow money has an attraction.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports