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August 26, 2006
NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT
MIKE DAVIES: Welcome, everybody, on this wonderful morning. Obviously beginning of the week I felt we were going to have a great week weather-wise, and we did right up until yesterday.
It's amazing how many things -- what happens, it's a domino effect when you have weather like this. It affects the players, the fans, the television, the sponsors. It affects everything that we do when we're in a rain delay, when we have these kind of things.
Nothing we can do about it except the best you can. Sometimes the best you can is not very good. Sometimes the best you can is the best you can, I guess.
We plan right now to start playing at 12:00. Apart from this weather, I think the tournament has been going great. We've been very happy with it. We just hope that we can keep dry for this afternoon, this evening, get the matches done, get the players to the US Open, get our event finished on time.
That's about it.
ANNE WORCESTER: I just got a message from Jim Curley, tournament director of the US Open, "Get those matches in today, please." We had already looked into whether we could play tomorrow. The rules on the women's side say that you can play tomorrow if and only if the players don't have to play the first day of the US Open, or if the players agree to extend the tournament by a day.
As of yesterday, it looked like all of our players in singles and doubles are in the lower half of the draw, and it looked like the US Open was going to play the lower half of the draw on Monday. We are under a lot of pressure to get this tournament finished today. Not to mention the significant expense of extending everything a full day.
MIKE DAVIES: Not to mention the weather forecast, which the last I heard, Ron Shore and I were talking a little bit, was 80% chance of rain tomorrow. We could put it off -- obviously, we could put it off in terms of saying we can't play today. We're going to do it tomorrow. We'd be faced with the same thing tomorrow. So we got to get it done today. That's our goal.
Q. If you couldn't get it done today, there is rain tomorrow, do you announce them as co-champions? What is the premise for that?
MIKE DAVIES: Basically that's it.
ANNE WORCESTER: I think they would share the ranking points.
MIKE DAVIES: They share the ranking points and they share the prize money.
ANNE WORCESTER: But we're going to get it in today.
Q. Has that happened before? Do you know of any tournament where they couldn't finish?
ANNE WORCESTER: I think it's finished. Craig, where has it happened?
CRAIG GABRIEL: Stratton Mountain.
ANNE WORCESTER: How ironic is that?
Apart from the rain, let's all remind ourselves that we had seven picture perfect days of 70 to 80 degrees, no humidity, very low humidity. I think what struck me most of all is, after having had 12 months to promote this combined event, compared to 12 weeks last year, what really strikes, I think all of the staff, is what a bigger business it is.
It's more marketing; it's more PR; it's more fans; it's more of staff; it's more expenses; it's more innovations; it's more special events; it's more entertainment; it's more of everything.
Sometimes we feel like we're running to catch up, to keep up. But it also reminds us of the continued opportunity that there is with having this combined men's and women's tournament in this time slot.
From a player perspective, I never thought in 2006 we'd have seven of the top 10 women in the world, including three of the top five. I never thought we'd have Justine Henin-Hardenne, French Open champion, who hasn't played here in four years, playing against Lindsay Davenport, our defending champion and fan favorite here at the Pilot Pen. It's a dream final today.
On the men's side, I think we were all surprised we had three of the top 10. I know we told you guys last year we were never going to have top 10 players. That was a surprise. It was certainly a surprise that James rose meteorically from 186 to 5 in the world. It was a surprise he lost here in the second round.
Many of you asked us on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning about the situation of losing James Blake. While that was certainly not in the cards or in the script, the attendance this week has really spoken for the fans. We're up 4800 spectators going into today, before today and tonight's sessions.
I think that has a lot to do with the fact that people can still see men and women here at the same time. Obviously, the extraordinary strength of the women's field this year, as well as the fact that Mother Nature was very, very good to us for the first seven days of the tournament.
I also think our attendance numbers have a lot to do -- our attendance increases have a lot to do with the fact that we try and provide something for everyone here at the Pilot Pen. It's not just world class tennis on the court, but we try and do a lot of different things off the court, things like our very popular Kids Day, Girl Scouts nights, Junior Team Day. Things we've done for years and years. Then the new features this year of wine tasting, celebrity chef cooking lessons, our now infamous fashion show.
I think that's a very important strategy. I think we shared that with you nine years ago, that we were always going to try and bring new audiences to tennis, not just rely on tennis, because we knew that Venus Williams wasn't always going to be playing on center court.
If you walked around this year, I hope you all did, you'll also see a lot of new features. Certainly instant replay has been wildly popular with the fans. I think it's just so cool when the player calls for the challenge, that all eyes go to the video boards. It was a very big investment for us. It's great to see that the fans enjoyed it so much, have enjoyed it so much all week.
Other changes in the site, we moved the restaurant to be inside the stadium. Last year we came into the tournament with 52 reservations for the Racquet Club restaurant. This year we came into the tournament with 800 reservations for the Racquet Club restaurant. Obviously, people are enjoying the fact it's in this new location overlooking center court.
By popular demand, we finally brought Lenny & Joe's Seafood Restaurant to the food court. Hope you all have had a lobster roll. You guys have been asking us to bring back Lenny & Joe's for years and years.
Q. Just one?
ANNE WORCESTER: I haven't gotten there yet. I'm hoping to get there today.
New bells and whistles like the Nexxus Hairstyling Lounge, the Mercedes-Benz Lifestyle Center, the new Aces Lounge Bar. Everything has been well-received and well-utilized by the fans.
Those are the things that you do just in case you lose your top seed, or just in case you lose a lot of your men's top seeds by Wednesday. So I think it's working. I think the attendance numbers show that it's working.
Q. For us, though, who cover tennis, we don't cover the food court. We don't cover the fashion shows, per se.
ANNE WORCESTER: You did this morning.
Q. You mentioned the extraordinary women's field. That's great. How do you go about -- is there maybe a commitment now for next year to try and get a second name men's player to kind of avoid what happened with James here, not having a named men's player to fall back on?
ANNE WORCESTER: I think you know better than anyone, we try to have a hundred names. We never, ever just thought it was going to be the James Blake Show. That was one of the reasons we were particularly delighted when Marcos Baghdatis entered. It's not that he's 10 in the world. It's not that he's an Australian Open finalist. He has a major following, and he has got real charisma. Had he gotten past Wednesday, we were planning on really featuring him in the stadium and in more ads.
But, yeah, I mean, as you guys know, we could have had Roddick here this year. We could have had Nadal here this year. I'm not sure Agassi was ever a real possibility. But we saw a little bit of a culture shift where it went from, "No way will I ever play the week before the US Open," to, "Well, maybe," or, "Please quietly hold me a wildcard."
I'd like to think that's laying the groundwork for the future. I think it was great we had Rafael Nadal here. He definitely liked what he saw. He was surprised at how easy it was to get here from the airport. He liked the courts. His friends are all here. The Spanish Armada will be here next year. If he wants to be with his friends, that won't change. As you can well imagine, I'll be following up with him at the US Open.
As Mike always says, It takes 10 years to build an overnight success. We've been running a women's tournament for nine years. I don't think it's a coincidence that the women have become so loyal to this tournament. It's time. It's locker room buzz over time.
I think James Blake told you guys when he came here in July that he thinks it's beginning to get some traction. The Pilot Pen is beginning to get some traction with the guys, with the male players, and that it will just continue to grow.
You have our assurances that we will do everything possible to get not, just one more men's name, but a handful of men's names.
MIKE DAVIES: Let me just add to that.
One of the things that we did, which is a very significant thing, is we decided that we were not going to play Sunday. We were not going to play Sunday final session for the men. That was a conscious decision to do that in order to give the men enough time between the Pilot Pen and the US Open. Give them a couple of days. We gave up a session.
Now, a session is money. Those are ticket sales. But we did that because we felt in the long run the players will get to know that Pilot Pen is a good place to play. "Why should I play Pilot Pen if I'm a tennis player?"
One, it's damn near New York, and you get driven down there. It's very easy. I don't have to get on another plane.
Two, I got exactly the same conditions, exactly the same tennis ball.
Three, it's not a tough week in terms of five sets and everything else. It's three sets.
So those are the reasons. And also, if I get to the final, I got a couple of days off before I have to play the US Open, best-of-five sets.
This is going to take a little while for the players to understand that, the men players. The women have already got the picture. They know that this is a good place to play, and they get treated well. We've got to do the same thing now with the men.
Q. Did you get any pressure to get away from a Sunday final from anyone from the US Open or USTA, or is it your decision?
MIKE DAVIES: No, it was completely our call.
ANNE WORCESTER: We talked to players. We talked to agents. We talked to the ATP. We sort of did a little analysis of whether it was worthwhile giving up a Sunday session of revenue in order to upgrade our player field.
But, again, players need to be told things 25 times before they hear it for the first time. The USTA actually went a step further and said, "We will guarantee your men's finalists that they don't have to play at the US Open before Tuesday at minimum."
This is where it's really beneficial to have the US Open organizers as the owner of this tournament, because they really care and they want our player field to be the best it can be.
They said for those guys who are going to finish late on Saturday night, they can be assured that they're going to have two days off.
I've been promoting that since March. I have my top 10 list. I talk to every player I can. I talk to every agent I can. I talk to the ATP. Last night both players came to me and asked me about it 'cause they still weren't clear. That, too, will take time, emphasizing that. If the US Open goes to a Sunday final, that's not as sweet of a deal.
Q. You talked about attendance being up. How key is it to have, last night, where you have a great women's match? Nikolay is not a household name. How does that help you to have a good women's match and a men's match after that you're not relying on to draw all the fans?
ANNE WORCESTER: You mean having both men and women in one session?
Q. If you had just had a men's tournament like they used to have, if it were Soderling, Calleri, those guys, I'm sure your attendance would have taken a hit. Talk about the difference of having Justine, Lindsay, Amélie.
MIKE DAVIES: You're talking about "what if." I could probably tell you it won't happen. It wouldn't happen, because I wouldn't have a men's tournament, an international series men's tournament, a week where the US Open.
ANNE WORCESTER: On its own.
MIKE DAVIES: It wouldn't happen. We wouldn't do it. Two weeks before, we had the men two weeks before, remember? That was okay until, all of a sudden, our date was going to be changed and we were going against Indianapolis.
When you say, How important? It wouldn't be. We wouldn't have it. I'm not going to have just a men's-only international series tournament a week before the US Open. It won't work for us.
ANNE WORCESTER: Just to add on to that, I think the fans, Connecticut fans have really fallen in love with women's tennis over the past nine years. One of the reasons we did make the decision, the affirmative decision to go forward with women's only tennis, is because it was post 1996 Atlanta Olympics where women's sports in general took on a whole new popularity in this country, and the UConn Huskies really laid the groundwork for extraordinary popularity for women's sports here in this state.
Those two things really gave us a lot of encouragement to go forward with a women's only tournament, even though nine years ago people said the top women won't play the week before. Thank goodness they were wrong.
MIKE DAVIES: One other thing I want to say, and, Chris, you said it, you're interested in covering the tennis. Let me tell you what, those two tennis players out there, those two men tennis players, they played some great tennis. I've seen almost every player for the last 50 years play. Those two guys hit the ball as well as a lot of people in the history of tennis. They played great tennis.
No, they're not great names. No, they haven't won Grand Slams. But they're damn good tennis players.
ANNE WORCESTER: Don't quote him on the curses, okay (smiling)?
MIKE DAVIES: Quality of tennis, let's be pure about it. Pure tennis is damn good, damn good.
ANNE WORCESTER: You know, I've never seen Calleri play until this week. He's a really interesting player to watch. I think he has a really good game. You know, when the bigger names fall and the top seeds fall, it makes the way for lesser-known players to be on a big stage. We'll be introducing a lot of fans to Agustin Calleri today as well as Nikolay Davydenko, who has been in the top 10 for a while and still is not a household name.
MIKE DAVIES: We see some guys around here that you don't know. In a week's time, you may know them.
ANNE WORCESTER: James Blake became the story of the US Open last year.
MIKE DAVIES: Go to the US Open, they may do it. They may do something there. We don't know.
I tell you what, they've got the ability and the talent to do it. It's just, you know, that particular day, who they're playing, best-of-five sets. It's a big occasion. Yes, you know, the cream rises to the top like in most sports. You know, we got Federers, Nadals out there. You got a lot of other good tennis players. There's no easy first-round matches anymore. There used to be easy first-round matches. Not anymore.
Q. What are the long-term goals of this tournament? What do you want to see happening here maybe five years from now?
MIKE DAVIES: Bigger, bigger, better, more exciting, more entertainment, sold-out stadium, great TV coverage. We've got all of those elements in place. We'd like to see them be maximized now.
Obviously, we got a huge challenge with that stadium in there. It's big. Third biggest in the country. Getting that full, sometimes we have 6,000 people. Some of the tournaments on the tour the capacity is 4,000, 5,000. We got 6,000 out there, and everybody says, "Boy, you didn't have a very good crowd on Wednesday afternoon," or whenever it was.
You know, it reflects, because that's the way it looks when you have a big stadium like that for tennis. We're not talking football here now.
Q. Possibilities of increasing the women's field, increasing the prize money, maybe going Tier I?
MIKE DAVIES: We said quite a few years back, you kept asking whether we were ever going to get the men back. I always said, "At the moment, nothing is on the horizon." But you never know what's on the horizon out there.
So when you say Tier I. I'll say the same thing, five years ago when you were asking me about a men's tournament. I didn't see that on the horizon either. But now, because in our week it's not feasible too have a "Tier I" tournament, whatever they're going to call them in the future.
Does that mean the week won't change? Does that mean that something might happen with the calendar that would put us into maybe a week earlier? I don't know. We certainly will be looking for any and all opportunities to make this a better and better event all the time.
Q. There's been some talk on the men's side that they're a little upset having two Masters Series events back to back right before your tournament.
MIKE DAVIES: I saw that.
Q. Looking in your crystal ball, if they start juggling that around, it would seem like that would only benefit your tournament because you wouldn't have them playing that block of tournaments right before your tournament.
MIKE DAVIES: Right. No, two Masters Series next to each other, they really need to tweak that calendar if they can. It's not an easy thing.
For the last 50 years, the game has been about the calendar, where you are on the calendar. It is a very, very tough job. It's easy to say, Let's wipe out Sydney or Doha or so-and-so. Very easy to say. You try doing it.
This game is so international. Let's face it, probably the United States is the least interested in tennis of any country in the world, yet we keep -- we're pushing for it. The USTA is pushing for it. We push for tennis in this country.
You know, it's not what -- the rest of the world are much bigger on tennis than the United States is. The rest of the world want tennis tournaments. If America gave up all its tournaments, believe me, they'd be absorbed into the rest of the world within a week.
There's cities out there throughout the world that would love to have those tournaments. If you don't want to have a tournament in Indianapolis or so-and-so, fine, we'll take it. With the (indiscernible) in Austria, Kitzbuhel, Gstaad.
ANNE WORCESTER: Stuttgart.
MIKE DAVIES: Stuttgart. There are tons of cities out there. They all want tennis tournaments.
Q. The increase in the ticket sales, is that more a function of more advanced sales because you had 12 months to promote, or is it walk-up because of the good weather early in the week?
ANNE WORCESTER: Yeah, I think both those things. I think having 12 months to promote this combined men's and women's tournament was key. I think James Blake's meteoric rise in rankings, James Blake becoming a household name, really helped. And I think the good weather helped.
But we had better advance sales. Our walk-up was slightly better than last year.
MIKE DAVIES: And we've had nine years.
ANNE WORCESTER: Right.
MIKE DAVIES: Year after year after year. It takes getting known. It takes people saying, "Hey, that week in August, that's the Pilot Pen. We're going to that." It's an event. Wimbledon doesn't have to go out and sell any tickets, you know (smiling).
Q. You always talk to the players. Just give us a sense of what you're hearing from them, both good and bad, what they liked about this year, what they didn't, and any changes you might consider after their feedback.
ANNE WORCESTER: Xavier Malisse didn't like the music. That's pretty clear.
MIKE DAVIES: What kind of music would he like?
ANNE WORCESTER: I don't think he liked the fact that we moved him off of stadium to the grandstand.
MIKE DAVIES: And I don't blame him.
ANNE WORCESTER: I don't blame him either. That wasn't in our plans.
MIKE DAVIES: Semifinalists don't like that.
ANNE WORCESTER: This morning I had coffee with Mary Carillo who is here to do the CBS broadcast. She said to me, "I really like the feel of this tournament. I really like how simple it is, how easy it is, especially for the players."
I said, "You know, Lindsay Davenport has always called New Haven, coming to the Pilot Pen, coming to New Haven, the calm before the storm of New York." Mary Carillo said, "I like that. I'm going to use it today."
You have reported that Lindsay continues to emphasize how easy it is to be here, how comfortable she is. Mary Carillo was talking about the 39 security guards she's going to have to get past starting Monday down at the Open.
Our goal has always been to make this a relaxing week for the players. Let's face it, it's stressful to begin with because it's the week before the fourth and final Grand Slam of the year. The women: Amélie, Elena, and Lindsay, our three regulars as I call them, have been nothing but positive. They love the conditions, the environment, and they also like the perks.
Lindsay Davenport is coming in second in the mayor's passport to downtown dining contest. Liezel Huber always wins it. Lindsay Davenport, for the first time, has gone to five New Haven restaurants. I have to think she's enjoying that.
I saw more personality from Justine last night on the court than I see other places. I asked her about it this morning at the hotel. She said, "I felt really supported by the crowd. I felt really comfortable out there."
I said, "Will you come back next year?"
She said, "Maybe."
You know, she was also very complimentary of how she's been treated, how much she's enjoyed the week. I think she said that to you guys. I think she said it to the public.
The Spaniards would like to move here. I've appointed them our official PR department. Calleri's physio and coach came up to me last night after I apologized to the semifinalists and said, "Without any solicitation, that the Pilot Pen looks after details for the players that other tournaments simply do not."
There's been a lot of unsolicited compliments.
We always ask the players what we can do better because we always want to know. They'd love a bigger player lounge. Does get crowded in there. Thank God we didn't have rain early in the week when we had 200 qualifiers and main draw players. I think everyone brought their mother, father, and grandparents this week. Every player had three to five guests, which put an enormous strain on our player services desk. It's crowded in there.
We have an outdoor lounge as well as an indoor lounge. That really helped earlier in the week, especially with the weather being so nice. I think they'd like a bigger lounge, just like you guys would probably like a bigger media center.
Q. How about a window?
ANNE WORCESTER: Now you know why we move downtown during the winter. We had no windows for eight years. It got to us (smiling).
I'm trying to think. I mean, I'm always surprised with the extraordinary compliments that the players pay us. I guess we just do what we do because it's the right thing. It's always nice to then have positive affirmation. We hope it helps with future fields.
Q. Are there any plans to do any changes to the structure here, whether it be to expand the players lounge or put in luxury suites or something?
ANNE WORCESTER: We've been talking about that.
MIKE DAVIES: Yeah, we've been talking about it. It's certainly, you know, in our minds to take an overall look at the facilities, the situation. With that in mind, the first thing we've got to do is, like everybody who rents a house, if you're going to rent a house, which we're doing right now, I'm not sure we want to do too many -- spend too much money on improvements to that house while we're renting it.
We've got to get a long-term -- more of a long-term commitment in terms of the USTA, who owns these events. We've got to think in terms of whether we can go for a 10- or 15-year kind of long-term thing so we can invest in some of the things that maybe needed to be done here that we think will improve the stadium and will be beneficial.
Obviously, in the early years, especially when we lost money, we weren't too interested in investing money in something that we didn't know what was going to happen. So now we are comfortable enough that we feel we can start going ahead and maybe thinking about the long-term.
This literally has just been in the last few weeks that we've been looking at this thing now in those terms. It will take a while to do. Obviously, the political -- the WTA, ATP, USTA, tennis foundation here who looks after the stadium, we got to try and put all these things together to make this thing work over the next 12 months, two years, whatever, to see if we can't do that. That's sort of a goal we have in mind.
Q. It seems if you've spoken about it in the last couple weeks, you seem convinced this is really working well. Is it the last couple weeks you've been convinced?
MIKE DAVIES: No, no. We've had these thoughts in mind. It's not just the last couple of weeks we thought they were successful. We've started to think in -- we're doing a lot of things like the new Racquet Club, which first time is on the concourse. That's been a tremendous success. We are continually renting everything because we have to build a village here every year.
We have, for the last few years, say, if we're going to get (commitment?) into this event, we have to start to think about how to improve the facilities a bit more rather than renting all these things.
Can we do some construction? We've have thoughts about constructing a permanent restaurant out there, but the costs are prohibitive. But we may be able to do other things that can help us with that.
But obviously the goal of this thing is very positive, because our thinking and the investors' thinking, who are fellow bill payers with us, is let's think long-term. Instead of renting every year, maybe we can put some permanent stuff down that we can pay off in three, four years. That's the kind of feeling right now.
We're going to have to get moving because we are trying to get on before Tiger Woods gets on.
ANNE WORCESTER: This is sort of our annual opportunity to thank you guys. I think another reason attendance is up is because the media coverage continues to increase and improve every year. You guys are our conduit to the public. We understand that. We understand your importance. We hope we treat you right. We hope we show you how much we appreciate all you do.
Like I said the other night at the media happy hour, I'm also privileged to call many of you my friends. Thanks for that, too. Here is to a great final today and tonight.
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