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March 31, 2008

Butch Buchholz

Alan Mills


BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: We just called this sort of impromptu press conference to talk about what I think is a great day of tennis tomorrow. Sometimes the stars just sort of get lined up, and we got very lucky in what the schedule -- if it all works out that way, I think it will be a very special day in tennis and a very special day in the history of this tournament.
I've asked Alan to join me and share with you the schedule for tomorrow. Also I think if anybody's got some credibility about special days in tennis, this man has seen all of it for the last what, 30, 40 years.
ALAN MILLS: Something like that.
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: Anyway, you all know the tournament referee, Alan Mills.
ALAN MILLS: Well this is, it's an incredible day of tennis, starting at 11:00 with Stepanek against James Blake, and then it's the quarterfinal of the women's singles, not before 1:00, and is Henin against Serena Williams; followed by the No. 1 player, Federer against Acasuso; following that, the No. 2 player in the world, Nadal against Mathieu.
In the evening, 7:00, we have the other quarterfinal of the women's single, which is Kuznetsova against Venus Williams; and then not before 9:00, Benneteau against Menar or Roddick.
So if you look at all those names, look at their rankings or whatever, I don't think you'll find a better program anywhere.
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: The stars lined up very well for the tournament.
ALAN MILLS: The Grandstand is not a bad program there either. You've got Cãnas/Andreev, Tursunov/Berdych and Youzhny or Almagro against Tipsarevic or Johansson; and then Davydenko against Monaco or Ancic.
As we said, I don't think there will be too many grand passes issued tomorrow.
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: It is a special day. I can't remember any time in the 24 years that you've had a day quite like that.
ALAN MILLS: No, we haven't. The women's singles have sort of panned out to be the right four names. All the seeded names have come through there, so it's absolutely incredible.

Q. When you do have so many, obviously those are all marquis matches, almost equal, any of them. How do you decide which goes at 1:00, which goes after, what goes at night? What goes into those decisions?
ALAN MILLS: A lot of it depends on television requests. Certainly the women's quarterfinals were all set in stone at 1:00 and 7:00, and then there's requests from television for the particular players, and then they come to us and say, Well, this is what this particular country would like for their players, a time, and we have to put the time differences into attention.
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: It's always a battle, but he's the No. 1 diplomat. He gets us through that stuff.

Q. While we're talking about scheduling, could I ask what the rationale went into putting Murray on as late as he was.
ALAN MILLS: Request from Sky, believe it or not.

Q. Sky didn't broadcast on Saturday night.
ALAN MILLS: Exactly. We found out afterwards they were taping it, do it again. You can do it later. But we had a request that came in from supposedly from Sky.

Q. That effectively ruled out four million copies of newspaper coverage.
ALAN MILLS: Yeah, I can understand that, actually. You know, but we got this request that came in from Sky, that came in from Steve, who deals with the television. His request, and we all said this, Time-Wise it's the wrong time of the day. We thought it would have earlier rather than later. They said, No, definitely it's Sky's request, and if we can do it we will do it.

Q. But did you not weigh out newspaper coverage?
ALAN MILLS: Oh, yeah. Yes, of course we do. Unfortunately, I think television seemed to have a little bit more sway, actually.
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: I think there's always a balance of that and the local crowd. There's always the pulling and tugging of this. You know, you've got two broadcasters doing this tennis tournament, and it's insane.
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: It's absolutely insane.

Q. Last year, Butch, you talked about a multi-million dollar contract with television networks over here which demanded a best-of-five set final. What's going to be the case this year?
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: ATP has ruled that there will be no more five-set matches in ATP tournaments.

Q. So what's happened to your contract?
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: Well, thankfully CBS stayed with us.

Q. You're obviously disappointed. You like the five-set final?
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: I think our fans like the five-set finals.
ALAN MILLS: We had some superb five-set finals, didn't we?
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: Not too long ago, Nadal and Federer was one of the classic matches the 24 years we have been doing this.

Q. What's your take on the ESPN situation?
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: Well, you know, they had been such a strong proponent of tennis. You know, they did the Davis Cup for something like 25 years. They were going to cut us from, I can't remember, 25, 30 hours down to 8, and we thought it was better to try Fox SportNet to see how that works.
You know, it was pretty clear that -- it looks like ESPN is primarily interested in the four Grand Slams. We don't have it yet, but I know they're working on it. They got three now.

Q. You've bucked ATP certainly in keeping your sponsor name and things. Did you even think about saying, well, we're having a five-set final regardless?
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: They changed the rule.
ALAN MILLS: Yeah. Find it very difficult to get ATP players to play if you go against ATP rules.
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: They changed the rules, and they're doing it for the finals in London. Anyway, we just wanted to share that. Thanks.

Q. Can I ask one more thing about attendance? I think it's up like 6,000 already. Can you just talk about, is it the weather, is it better marketing? What do you think is the reason?
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: We've all been sort of playing with this. I think one of the things you would think about when you read about the economy, why is our retail sales way up? Why is our food and beverage way up? I honestly think it's some residue from last year, because we had so many new things on-site.
You know, I think Sony Ericsson's marketing efforts, a site change last year, new product with the VIP, the Collectors Restaurant. I think a lot of it is just, you know, I think a lot of people had a good time last year, saw new things, and it's just word of mouth.
Plus, I think people make their plans to come down six months, year in advance, and, you know, I think our crowd probably aren't as affected by the economy as maybe some other things.
ALAN MILLS: I think we have a lot more local people coming than they have been coming in the past and they can come and sort of make the whole day of it here, sit down, sit down, sit in the food court, go and have a drink if they want to. If they want to watch tennis they can go watch tennis. They can just make a day out.
It seems to be, apart from the tourists that come, people that make their plans six months in advance, I think there are more local people coming and sort of staying all day.

Q. But a lot is said and pontificated about marketing of this sport?

Q. Of tennis. What is the prime? What is the most important sell? Is it selling a TV deal or is it making the experience for the paying customer that walks through the gates?
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: I think it's a combination. I think, one, the sport is star driven, so obviously we've got a lot of stars here. And two, I really think it's the total experience.
We've worked very hard at trying to make it an entertainment event. It's a tennis tournament, but we also try to have a lot of things going on. We want everybody to have a good food and beverage experience. We want them to have a good retail experience. We hope that our people that work here treat everybody nicely.
You know, we see our volunteers as ambassadors for our sport and for our community. I think it's a combination of things. I really do.

Q. But television is right up there, isn't it?
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: Well, television is important because that's what our sponsors look at, and that's how they determine what they're going to spend on sponsorship.
So, you know, if that back wall is significant and with our international telecasts going to over 200 countries, when we go try and sell to television, we're talking about lots of eyeballs, which translates to a sponsor saying this makes sense for me or it doesn't make sense for me.
So that's the important part for -- from television's point of view.

Q. How much is a good value? I mean what percentage of the time, if you don't like a match, it's a dud, you can move on where with a ticket to a baseball or basketball game. That's it. If it's a dud, it's a dud
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: I always thought that's was the plus for the men and women together. You have years that the men are strong and the women aren't that strong and the women are strong and the men aren't that strong.
When a customer or fan comes to the tournament, he's going to see the best that we have. I think that's what the sport should do, put our assets in one basket.

Q. One of the things I notice that you did was a little bit different than last year, and I want your comment if that's something you're going to do in the future. You have a lot of off-site activities: The Lincoln Road congregation and the salute to the Israeli players. I saw a lot of familiar faces, and I wonder if that's going to be something held in the future.
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: Very much so. I think that's a Sony Ericsson initiative, and we're fortunate that our philosophies just, you know, fit like a glove. We believe with Miami and all the glamour and all the stuff, the tournament should be a part of that and we are.
So, yes, we are reaching out to CocoWalk. We had tennis on Lincoln Boulevard, which is one of the main streets here. Yeah, I think it's good, good for the sport. Maybe we'll get some more fans out there.

Q. Andy Roddick had an issue in his recent match Saturday with the Hawk-Eye replay system. Are you aware of any glitches that have occurred with that during the week?
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: That's the first one I'm aware of.
ALAN MILLS: I mean, the players themselves take Hawk-Eye as it is, you know, and they have to accept it. There's no, Well, that's wrong. Hawk-Eye is wrong. They have to accept it.
It's only if they become one or two or three or four doubtful ones with Hawk-Eye that something happens. You know, we talk to Hawk-Eye. Hawk-Eye themselves said they are 100% accurate. Therefore, the players really can't complain about it.
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: Alan, wasn't it the case they lost the ball or something?
ALAN MILLS: If they lose the ball then they can't do it, and then the call stands, whatever it is, the umpire says. If it's not definitive from Hawk-Eye, then the call stands.

Q. Do you know how rare that is that that would occur?
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: That's the only time I've ever heard of it.
ALAN MILLS: It's really really really rare. I mean, for instance, Federer, for example, doesn't like Hawk-Eye. He doesn't think Hawk-Eye should be there. But you can see the way he challenges things.
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: Actually, one thing I noticed is they don't challenge as much as they used to, and they'll hold their challenges now. Where before they were kind of cavalier with them.
ALAN MILLS: But if you also notice, the chair umpires don't overrule as much as they used to.

Q. True.
ALAN MILLS: Because if that happens, then the player that has been overruled is automatically going to challenge. And then if the umpire is wrong the overruler has lost a little bit of credibility.
BUTCH BUCHHOLZ: In the days Alan and I were playing, the umpire used to be able to go to the linesmen and say, Would you yield to the chair? Which was basically like saying to the guy, You made a terrible mistake. (laughter.)
Sometimes they do. You see them, umpires saying to Hawk-Eye, Yield to the chair.

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