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November 21, 2010

Adam Helfant


GRAEME AGARS: Ladies and gentlemen, I have Adam Helfant, president and executive chairman of the ATP to make an announcement on the off-season that a lot of you have been talking about. The board met here in London, and Adam has an announcement to make, can take a few questions afterwards.
ADAM HELFANT: Hello, everyone. I know ordinarily press between the sessions of a tournament like the Barclays ATP World Finals is a time for you to talk to the players and prepare for the next session. I appreciate your indulgence as we attend to some significant ATP business.
For the better part of this year, I've had conversations with many of you about our calendar. I've been open with you about the fact that we recognize our off-season is too short. That is, that we have a problem. Our players do not have adequate time to rest, work on their fitness and work on their game during our off-season.
I have acknowledged that it is our responsibility as the governing body of the tour to see if we can find a way to address this issue, which arguably has been one of the biggest issues confronting our sport.
The health and well-being of our players is a tour-wide issue and preserving and extending the playing careers of our top players is critical for the long-term good of the game.
I've been honest with you, as you have been with me, about how difficult making progress in this area would be given how long the problem has been around and how, if there were a quick fix, someone would have made it already. Despite all of the difficulties, I think you will agree, I've spoken optimistically about the prospects of the ATP addressing the issue this year.
I'm pleased to be before you today to announce that yesterday at a meeting of its board of directors, the ATP approved and issued calendaring for the 2012 and 2013 ATP World Tour seasons that extend the off-season to seven weeks.
To be clear, our 2011 calendar, which was approved and issued earlier this year, provides for a five-week off-season, which is the period from the end of the 2011 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, until the beginning of the first week of the 2012 ATP World Tour season.
Our 2012 and 2013 calendars each provide for the seven-week off-season, meaning that our players will have an additional two weeks to spend away from the rigors of life on tour before taking up the cause again in the following year.
I'm happy to say that these new calendars and the expanded off-season reflect the broad consensus among our members that the players, and really the sport as a whole, needed a longer break. It didn't take long to find that consensus.
We looked at historical playing habits of our top players, as well as detailed comparisons of playing and traveling commitments of ours compared to others in other sports. We had anecdotal information from players and trainers and we had the very clear view of our medical services community that lengthening the off-season would, one, better allow our players to recover from injuries which they sustain and from which they're unable to recover during the season, and, two, improve the players' strength and fitness throughout the season, thus allowing the players to play at higher levels for more seasons.
After achieving that product consensus, it was about getting down to the details which, of course, is always the most difficult and time-consuming part. There were a number of different calendar options on the table at various times of the year. We engaged in detailed conversations with our members to fully understand their views on those options, and then the ATP board weighed the different considerations and came together and acted on the calendar as you have before you.
Essentially in order to achieve the two-week longer off-season, we found a way to remove a week of 250 events during the latter part of our season, meaning after the US Open, and remove the off week between our Paris Masters 1000 event and the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. We did by moving events earlier in the season without reducing the number of events on tour.
We were successful in achieving this result precisely because we did not chase a result that required more than we could reasonably expect to achieve in a workable time frame. Yes, we took a practical approach, focusing on changes within the ATP's control in an effort to make real progress this year.
We took the view that with the increasing physical and mental demanding on our game, standing still was actually more like moving backwards. Doing nothing today, because some think there might be a more complete solution, including aspects outside our control sometime in the future, didn't feel right or responsible for that matter.
We chose to make meaningful progress on a significant issue that has been facing the tour for a long time. I'm certainly very pleased that we did so.
GRAEME AGARS: Questions, please.

Q. Are you happy that the ATP World Tour Finals, the biggest event in the ATP's calendar, that players aren't going to have any preparation time for it? Will you be insisting that Paris has the same surface as you use at the Finals?
ADAM HELFANT: We're very happy with the result. As you know, this issue has been around a long time. As you can imagine, there were quite a few options that were on the table, dozens of options. And the board weighed all the different considerations, including what you have just referred to, and ultimately decided that the calendar as you see before you reflects our best options for achieving our goal, which was to create a more meaningful off-season.
We have not yet had any conversations about surface for Paris in 2012.

Q. It's difficult to see how you haven't damaged both Paris and London by doing this. There's going to be all sorts of possibilities for players who haven't qualified for here by Thursday in Paris, not knowing when they're in, the publicity for this tournament being almost impossible, because you don't know who's playing. Wasn't there a way of putting the Basel/Valencia week in before so that the players playing here wouldn't necessarily be involved with one obvious exception? Was that a consideration?
ADAM HELFANT: We've looked at literally dozens of options and went back to our membership, got their feedback. There are many different views. I was waiting for the question and your statement. We're very pleased with the result we have. There's lots of speculation on players' playing habits, what that might mean. But the board weighed all of that in making their decision.
One thing you mentioned about the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, we promote this tournament all year long. In fact, when you leave the arena on Sunday after the finals, we will be promoting next year's finals. The success of this event does not depend on a couple of promotional activities that have traditionally taken place in the week before our last Masters 1000s and the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. We're very confident in that.

Q. Having said that, you made the draw this week on Tuesday, and a conscious effort to release the order of play early in the week so you could sell more tickets. If next season is as close as undoubtedly you would hope it would be, it could come down to the day before the tournament that the field it set. How can that be a good thing?
ADAM HELFANT: We sold an awful lot of tickets before we had our draw ceremony. We've discussed that issue, among many others, with our partners in the event, certainly our tournament director. We're confident that the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals will be a success in 2012 and 2013.

Q. Have you spoken to the ITF about moving the Davis Cup finals?
ADAM HELFANT: We've talked to the ITF, as we've talked to the WTA and others in the tennis family. It's really up to the ITF to decide what they want to do. It seems like a sensible thing to do, however.

Q. Firstly, do you think Paris could finish on a Saturday to give that day between the two events? Which were the events that were moved forward to the earlier part of the year? And any consideration of actually buying back some of those events in an effort to try to reduce things?
ADAM HELFANT: You'll help me if I don't hit all three of the questions.
On the first one, there haven't been any discussions about changing the scheduling of Paris.
In terms of the events that have been moved, we've moved Montpellier from after the US Open to the time period roughly between the Australian Open and Indian Wells. We moved Bucharest up from the week after Davis Cup to the Barcelona week. We've moved St. Petersburg up still within the period after the US Open. We have moved Vienna up a week, as well as removing the week between the Paris Masters event and the finals.
The only event that we actually own as the ATP is the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. The other events we sanction. So if a tournament wants to hold its event, they have a right to do so.

Q. You said earlier this year that you would be in favor of stopping players from playing in exhibitions during any extended off-season. Has the board agreed to that?
ADAM HELFANT: The changes you have before you do not include a change to our special event rule. I've had a very open dialogue with you and others about what my views have been about a few of the options that have been on the table. But there were dozens of options on the table. We obviously didn't talk about all of them. The board weighed all the different considerations with the different options.
We went to the membership and were able to reach a broad consensus among our player and tournament members to do what's right for the sport and make meaningful progress on a very significant issue that's been plaguing our sport for a very long time.

Q. So players will be able to play exhibitions in their off-season?
ADAM HELFANT: They currently have the ability to play special events, charity events, practice matches in their off-season. There are certain times that they're not under our current rules, and we've not changed our rules.

Q. What about in these years?
ADAM HELFANT: The rules are unchanged. I'll be happy to get you information on what the rules are. There are some times when there are geographical limits. There are times when it's in connection with our Masters events when they can't play at all within the week. We can get you more information on it. But those rules remain the same.

Q. That also means if you want to move the finals out of Europe, you're going to have to change the whole schedule again. Does that mean in the foreseeable, the finals have to be held in Europe?
ADAM HELFANT: First of all, we're thrilled to be here in London. We have a commitment to be here, having the finals at the O2, through at least 2013. We have not even begun to think about what post 2013 could start to look like. When we start to have those conversations, which could be next year, we can of course look at our calendars.
We just announced calendars for 2012 and 2013. We're here, and happy to be here in London at the O2.
Thank you all.

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