home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


October 28, 1998

Zeljko Franulovic

Udo Iwannek

Hans-Jurgen Kaufhold

Claudia Merzbach

Stuttgart, Germany

HANS-JURGEN KAUFHOLD: Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleagues, good morning. On behalf of Expo 2000 Hannover, it is my pleasure to welcome you to this news conference for the ATP Tour World Championship taking place in Hannover from the 24th-29th in this Expo 2000 town of Hannover. This autumn season is traditionally the one where the major indoor tournaments take place in this world, the best tournaments, the 20 best players are here in Stuttgart. The next tournament will be in Paris, Bercy, and then the season's highlight, the ATP World Championship in Hannover taking place in Germany for the ninth time this year and in Hannover for the third time. And it is going to be the absolute highlight of this tennis season. Now, before talking with this tournament, could I briefly introduce the lady and the gentleman sitting here with me here - Mrs. Claudia Merzbach from the Daimler Benz Company in charge of sports communication and the press department with view to the sports and tennis commitment of Daimler Benz. Mr. Iwannek who is the communications officer of the Expo 2000 and especially in charge of the ATP World Championship. Then we have Mr. Hans-Jurgen Kaufhold who is the head of press of the German journalists. Zeljko Franulovic, the vice-president of the ATP and tournament director in Hannover as he has been the tournament director six times before in Frankfurt. First question for Mr. Iwannek: It is the third time that this tournament is going to be played in Hannover. What did the first two additions bring to the Expo City of Hannover? Also, I have to explain that you would normally expect to see Ion Tiriac with us for this press conference. On very short notice he had to leave for Bucharest this morning to assist in a funeral. So he asked you to excuse him.

UDO IWANNEK: Well, it is the third time that the ATP World Championship takes place and this being organized by the Expo 2000 in Hannover, we are very pleased to carry on this excellent cooperation not only with Ion Tiriac but with the ATP Tour. There are many reasons why this event is extremely attractive and remains attractive for our Expo 2000 because this World Championship is part and parcel of our marketing strategy with view to the Expo 2000 exhibition. It is an ideal way to highlight this event where 180 nations and international organizations are going to take part. Thanks to the ATP World Championship, we have been able to raise the awareness of our Expo 2000 event and of the City of Hannover hosting this event. Thanks to television coverage since 1996, not only the World Championship, but also the City of Hannover are very well known worldwide and we like to think that this ATP World Championship is sort of the appetizer to the Expo 2000 and the City of Hannover where this worldwide event will be held from the 1st of June in the year 2000 until the 31st of October. We are expecting particularly 40 million visitors to come to Hannover from all over the world. The first event in 1996, the first ATP World Championship has shown that we do have very expert crowd in Hannover - people who are excited about tennis and are very openminded and they have very largely contributed to the excellent atmosphere of these World Championships. As of the first year, players, as you know, like Becker and Sampras, as you may remember these great finals between them, have said that the people, they were very excited about the crowd in Hannover. And you may know that some of the people say that the people in northern Germany are less excited about things than other Germans, but this turned out to be wrong. Now, Hannover is an excellent place for a major sport event, also for our Expo 2000. And we are absolutely confident that the people of Hannover are going to be excellent hosts for both events. The event is again taking place in the Expo hall which is the largest in the world in this type of construction where the Expo 2000 will be held. And, this year it is going to be a very unique season final because we are not only talking about the title for World Champion of the ATP Tour but also about who is going to be No. 1 in the world ranking at the end of this year. I am certain that we are going to see some excellent tennis. All the players are going to do their best and every one of them really has a unique character able to attract a lot of people to the tennis hall. We are focusing on the tennis sport, if we use the framework quite a bit, because we think that we are going to see some sport at the highest possible level. We have reduced the number of seats by 2000 and people used to complain about the rather long ways in Hannover and so we changed this center court. It will be more readily accessible. Now, the framework, I am certain, is going to be up to the expectations of the players and of the crowd for this World Championship. Of course, we would have been delighted to have some German player or players there, people like Becker and Haas, of course are always good for attracting people. We have to recognize that these are rather exceptional athletes and you don't have them once a year or once a decade and this is simply something we have to accept. The World Championship is an event where the eight best players have to perform. Now, people talk about a crisis in tennis and I would not agree to this because I think what we are witnessing right now some sort of normalization of tennis after the few years of sort of overheating. Tennis is still the third popular sport in Germany and this is also shown by the fact that we have some very excellent and high ranking sponsors for our event like Tui, Warsteiner, Fila, the German fair Company and so on. So we are looking forward to this World Championship and to seeing you in Hannover.

HANS-JURGEN KAUFHOLD: Question to Mrs. Merzbach: What about the Mercedes commitment to the ATP Tour and to this tennis event and what about the Daimler event, the Mercedes junior team, what is this event going to bring this year?

CLAUDIA MERZBACH: As the sponsor of the International ATP Tour, of course, we are quite aware of talking about referring to crisis in tennis, is tennis going to go up or down? I have to say that our market research is quite to the contrary because we feel and our research tells us that tennis is still one of the major trends in international sport. Of course, in Germany, it is the time where the great heroes are starting to step down or have just stepped down and so our concept is very much focusing right now on the young players, our junior team. And as you know last year, again this year, there will be a final in Hannover after the selection tournament in Frankfurt, the four best winners will play in Hannover and this will add an additional highlight to these World Championships. The final, as you remember, last year, the junior final will take place right after the semifinal in Hannover on Saturday in the presence of Boris Becker, of course, and he will have a close look at the young players to see who might qualify for the Mercedes junior team. The junior team, Coach Hofsaess will also be there. As far as a sponsor is concerned, we try and take advantage of this event, of course, in terms of product placement. We take advantage of the awareness of this tournament and the television coverage and the fact that the eight best players of the world are going to play in Hannover.

ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: Hello, everybody. May name is Zeljko Franulovic. I am executive vice-president of the ATP Tour. I am responsible for the European region of the ATP Tour and from this year, tournament director of the world ATP Tour World Championship. Some of you that are a little younger might remember me from Frankfurt. I was tournament director there for six years and for the past two years, Mr. Riglewski was tournament director in Hannover. This year he was looking at some other opportunities and he left the ATP Tour -- direction of the ATP Tour World Championship and I took over. All I can say is that we at the ATP Tour -- we care very much, to put it in simple words, about the ATP Tour World Championship for a simple reason that that is -- we call it, between us, our crown-jewel event. The ATP Tour is structured that we basically don't own all events. We are the governing body of the men's professional tennis, but as you know, each event is run by a local, promotor, or national federation and the only two events that ATP really sticks to them and wants to use them to actually project the positive and the healthy picture of our sport and the whole ATP Tour is the World Championship. I hope that through six years in Frankfurt and the past two years in Hannover, we were successful in doing it. Mr. Iwannek, people at this table, already spoke about the organization and about the Mercedes involvement in the event. I'd just like to give you a short overview about the players that qualified so far, the players that have a chance to qualify and some details about the event, about the organization. Before that, I will just like to emphasize how proud we are and I am personally to be working with Expo 2000 and with the Ion Tiriac organization, the organization of the event, and how proud we are, at the ATP, with our relationship with Mercedes, with our other partners such as Mercedes-Benz, ZDF, Eurosport and other important partners. Through the World Championship, we foster our relationship with them. As I was saying, there are six players qualified, 100% up, to this moment and I will go down the list. First one is Marcelo Rios followed by Patrick Rafter, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Carlos Moya, and Alex Corretja. All these players, I don't have to promote and present them. I can only say that this year we have been lucky with the qualifiers, not that other players are less good, they are almost as popular, but we have-except for a German player, we have six, I think, very, very popular players. And down the list, if we go further with the changes to the qualifier would be Karol Kucera and Tim Henman. Tim Henman could do it here already if he wins the event. Karol has to wait maybe another week. So these eight players, I would say, these two have the most chances to join the six others. An interesting thing here in Stuttgart and I must compliment the organizers of the Eurocard Open, that six out of six of the players qualified for Hannover for the World Championship are playing one after another today on center court. So if some of you really want to get a first-feel and check their form, you have to spend some time on the center court today and see them all in action. Some technical details about the court will be the same as last year, Green Set, the balls used, Penn. We had very positive feedback from the players in the past. So we intend to keep it this way. The draw ceremony will take place on Monday afternoon at 5:00 and as traditionally was done in the past, it will be a chance for you to meet the players after that, half an hour, 45 minutes, after the draw ceremony in the traditional get-together press-meet-players kind of get together in the press area of the World Championship event. Match schedule will be the same as last year, from Tuesday as you know, event starts on Tuesday through Friday. The first match will be played at 2:00 followed by the second match and then the third match not before half past seven in the evening. On Saturday, the semifinals will take place at 1:30 in the afternoon. And the Finals are Sunday at 2:00. Another, I would say positive development in the world of tennis and the ATP Tour scene was the introduction of the Stars Program this year. As you may have already realized, the players are more willing to talk to the press, to do different activities and as in the other events if you might have already benefited from that, in Hannover we will try to have a very, very consistent, very compact Stars Program for media as well because the players don't have to only do it for sponsors, partners, tournament directors, tournament as well. So I hope that you will all be able to benefit from this Stars Program in Hannover as well. I would say that for the moment if you have any questions I will be glad to answer. Before the questions, important information for you members of the press and media: Official press hotel is Maritim Stadt in the center of the city. Transportation will be provided for you by our partner Mercedes, transportation of the World Championship. I hope you already sent for a credential request - for the international press, Nicola in our international office and German and international press through Mr. Kaufhold. Hope to see you in Hannover in a couple of weeks. If you have any questions, I will be glad to answer them.

Q. Mr. Iwannek, as I understood it, you were saying access to the center court is going to be easy. Is it still in the same hall and secondly are there any other changes that we will notice when we go there this year as opposed to last?

UDO IWANNEK: It is going to be, all 13, the same, the Expo 2000 hall and there is no change to this respect. Hall 11 won't be there anymore. That was last year's fun and fitness hall. We are not going to have it and the V.I.P. and merchandising hall is going to be hall No. 12. As journalists could access hall No. 13 directly, previous years the visitors will be able to do this this year. They will not have to pass through hall 11 to get to haul 13. The press center is slightly shifted but there is not really a change. You will find it in almost exactly the same place as before.

Q. The actual where people it is within the press working area, is it possible to keep the photographers who need their chemicals for their processing stuff with the phones away from the written press because - no fault of photographers, they have to do their work - but I was sitting right next to a guy last year and the fumes nearly killed me by the end of the week.

HANS-JURGEN KAUFHOLD: Well, this, of course, will be changed this year. The steps have been taken to make sure and there will be some larger facilities, too for photographers to facilitate their work. Something that the non-smokers are going to be pleased about - we have decided to make the entire press area non-smoking zone this year.

Q. Zeljko, the court itself, the hard court you have the Green Set, I remember a few years ago where Alberto Berasategui qualified. He found that the court was so fast. Do you find now that this hard court is the answer having the Spanish players there, do you think it is the fairest court you are producing (inaudible)....

ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: If I remember well, you were talking about three or four years ago in Frankfurt and most important difference from that court and this one here that, was the same company manufactured the both courts, but the one in Frankfurt was a carpet laid down on wooden floor which automatically is faster than this surface which is kind of a resin painted on a wooden floor. Hannover it is painted over the asphalt on the surface which is more or less the same type of technical manufacturer of the court. Carpet can never be that slow as the resin that you can paint and give as many coats as you want. Having said this, I don't want to be contradictory and say that, you know, ATP Tour World Championship should be played on a slow court because then, you know, we will get complaints from other type of players. But on the other hand, ever since we moved to Frankfurt, we looked and worked on a perfect court which maybe we haven't found yet. But I think this court, which is very similar to this one, if Berasategui was here, I am sure he would be happy the way the court is played because you can play a clay-court game; stay back; you can serve and volley and this is what we have been looking for ever since we came and started organizing the World Championship. Another element that you can - again, I hate to say slow down the game because having witnessed the matches here, you have seen so many beautiful rallies, long rallies, we are using the slightly different type of ball as well which is the Penn - we call it the championship, the World Championship, which is an indoor type of ball with again European versus American type of play, we call it European felt which is a bit heavier, heavier felt over the ball. So these things slow down the play a little bit. But big servers and fast court players are still, you know, they are not affected by this. But I would say if Berasategui were here, he would play well with a lot of rallies. We haven't got a complaint neither from the television or from public in a long time ever since starting these type of courts and our type of balls.

Q. There are a few injuries right now. Do you have any fears for the Hannover event because especially given the fact that the eight best players are playing, it is always a bit embarrassing and awkward to have to replace some players at short notice.

ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: Unfortunately, we are in the month of October, almost November and the season has been long, the players started in mid-January in Australia; played almost every week, not only the Tour event, the Davis Cup, the Grand Slams, and we are aware that the season is long. That is one of our ideas in the beginning maybe to have a longer off-season, but again, there is always a conflict. We would like to have players play as many events, they like to play more, they are chasing the points and prize money and so on and so on. So that is -- they are all only human. So the end of the year we realize that some of them get injured more than at the beginning of the year. Unfortunately, maybe they don't manage their program as carefully as at the beginning because the race is heating up. At the end they are chasing last points to qualify for Hannover. And maybe they don't take care of the small injury which becomes a heavier injury and more serious injury. That is why last couple of weeks we had even Rios and Sampras injured in Lyon. Some other players before that in Vienna, but nothing unusual. If you followed last couple of years, there have always been injuries and even withdrawals from the World Championship, you know, players like, in my times, Edberg and Lendl had to pull out because of a bizarre injury, not even that was because of the long season, you know, pulled a muscle and that is one thing we haven't learned how to protect ourselves, how to protect the Tour. And, as I said again, it is only human. But if one or two players pull out, which is not abnormal, there are players on the list that will replace them. They are as good as them and I just hope that none of them will have to pull out and that they will all be healthy for Hannover.

Q. But what about some players entering the tournament the second or third matches, not to be unfair to the others?

ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: Talking about the alternates how they replace the players?

Q. Yeah, the whole qualification system changes, I'd say.....

ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: I would say that you will be right if that was a knockout competition. But as you know, World Championship is, I guess, one and only maybe one of the few events that are organized on the round robin system. So the players may lose a match and they still have a right to continue, so this maybe answers your questions, if the player is injured and pulls out, somebody takes the place, and has a chance to win, why not. Imagine if there is a hole in the round robin, that would be worse for the quality and the credibility of the competition if the other players were winning without playing, then we would have the other complaint. But I think I would take your argument if it was a knockout, if once the guy - the player loses, he shouldn't be replaced. It is not done in a knockout competition and normal events. But as I said, World Championship, it is a special end of year event with qualifying system, with qualifying rules and if the players pull out, somebody takes the place, of course, he already lost the match that he pulled out from, so he starts already, you know, negatively, but has a chance to win points and qualify later on which is very, very important for the whole event and for the draw and for the crowds and for the television that there is an alternate ready to play.

Q. Obviously in the round robin if somebody plays a match; gets injured; loses, the replacement then comes in with a 0-1 record. What happens if somebody wins a match, then has to pull out, does the replacement come in with a 1-Love record?

ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: That is the negative thing for the replacement because he doesn't -- he starts from zero point. He doesn't take the win from the other guy.

Q. He takes the loss, but not the win?

ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: Yes. But he has a chance to play and win.

Q. Is this round robin system meant to be exclusive to the World Championship or did you consider this as an alternative or did Ion Tiriac, what they mentioned it as a possible alternative to other tournaments because you could have smaller draws --

ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: Well, it is a big issue. I don't think we can discuss and debate it here. But for an end of year event as former Masters or ladies or now, the World Championship, I think it is a good idea. It has been very successful and as long as it is an exclusive, elite type of event, to have it introduced on the circuit and other type of events as our categories on the Tour Mercedes Super 9 World Series, it just wouldn't be in the spirit of the ATP Tour, in the spirit of the competition where the events are supposed to be 32, 48, 96 draws, knockout. You lose a match, you are out. You practice; you prepare for the other event, but you are not coming back. That is how we see the pro circuit and that is how it is going to continue and not only us, if you look at the other type of events, Grand Slams and others, they are all knockouts. But for one exceptional event, I think this format is working very good.

HANS-JURGEN KAUFHOLD: Since there are no further questions, could I thank you again for coming and let me tell you that we are very pleased to see you again in Hannover. Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts….

About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297