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January 18, 2012

Brad Drewett


NICOLA ARZANI:  Thanks, everyone, for being here early this morning after a late match last night.  Thanks to Tennis Australia, our hosts.
As you know, the end of last year, Brad Drewett was appointed ATP Executive Chairman and President.  Many of you know him already, but we thought it would be nice if we have an introductory press conference here at the Australian Open.
Brad will say a few opening remarks, but before that I would like to invite Graeme Agars, who has known Brad for over 30 years.  Graeme has a long relationship with the ATP.
GRAEME AGARS:  Good morning, everybody.  As I said, it's a great pleasure for me as an Australian who has had an affiliation with the ATP and covered Brad's illustrious career going way, way back ‑ longer than both of us‑ to introduce him.  It gives me great pleasure to be able to do this.  I'm pleased Brad asked me to do it.
As many of you know, Brad spent 12 years playing on the tour.  I'd like to take an opportunity to give you a few of his career highlights:
Brad reached a career high singles ranking of 34 and he won two ATP titles.  He represented Australia in Davis Cup.  He's got an impressive record here at the Australian Open.  In fact, he's a two‑time former Junior Champion at this event.  And in main draw action, he became the youngest Australian Open men's quarterfinalist at the time, reaching the last eight at the age of 17 in 1976.
While still playing on of the tour, he served on the ATP Player Council and since ending his playing career has served as an ATP Board member and lately as the CEO of the ATP's international region.
In addition, he's also served as the tournament director of the highly successful ATP Tour World Finals.  I think you'll agree with me when I say he brings a vast amount of experience to his new role.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce Brad Drewett.
BRAD DREWETT:  Thanks, Graeme, for those very kind remarks.
Once again, thank you for being here.  I know you had a late night last night.
It's been a while since I've been in a player press conference room, probably about 30 years, but it is great to be here in Melbourne at the first Grand Slam of the year.  From what I can see, I've been around the last few days, it's been a great start to the tournament.
As Graeme just outlined, as long as I can remember, tennis has been a huge part of my life, since I was a kid, and then I went on to be a player.  Graeme used the word 'illustrious.'  I was a player who had a ranking in the 30s and 40s at its peak.  But they were great years, and years I look back on with very fond memories.
Since retiring, I did stay in the business of tennis one way or the other, firstly back in Sydney in my own personal affairs, then as Graeme outlined, since then with the ATP.
So for all those reasons, it's both a great honor and a privilege to be appointed by the Board as the ATP Executive Chairman and President.
I feel confident about this role from the point of view that I go into it with my eyes wide open.  I've been around a while in senior management.  I know what the job entails.  I know it's not at all times easy.
I also know it comes we enormous responsibility, and that responsibility is to the entire organization.  It includes the tournaments and also, importantly, the players.
The reality is right now, and I know you've heard this a hundred times before, but it is true:  the men's game is in an unbelievable position, arguably the best ever.  We've had a great crop of players in terms of names that drive the sport over the years.  Men's tennis has a good habit of doing that, whether it be back in the '90s, Becker, Edberg, Lendl, and then later Sampras, Agassi, Courier.  But really this current crop of players is something really, really special for a number of reasons.
Firstly, Roger and Rafa over the last six or seven years have really driven an amazing amount of interest towards the sport.  With Novak hot on their heels for a number of years at No.3, all of a sudden last year has a year right out of the box, one of the great years of all time.  Then obviously Andy Murray is right there behind them and I think will win his first slam sooner than later.
But what really encourages me, you've got those four guys, but the next crop of guys after them, Del Potro, Tsonga, David Ferrer, Gaël Monfils.  These are all not only great players, they're guys that can fill any stadium in the world.  I think that really is part of the great strength of our sport today, not just the top four players, but also the names behind them, the personalities behind those players.  So we really are in an incredible position right now.
That's reflected in our business.  We have a great number of sponsors, well‑respected global brands that are associated with the tour.  Last year we added two more at the end of the year, Moët & Chandon, and also Rio de Janeiro joined the likes of Corona, Enel and RICOH.
The success on the court has also been reflected in our business.  Once again, talk about being reflected in our business, the Finals last year, I think many of you if not all were there last year.  You've seen what's happened there the last three years.  It's been quite incredible to go to a market like London, a big market, a tough market when it comes to taking any entertainment product to such a market.  You have to be good.  It's a true test of how good your product is when you go to a New York or London.  It's been a resounding success.  That's given us a lot of confidence about just how good the men's game is.  We had 250,000 people plus again in London.  I'm sure that will continue.
Just a moment now in 2012.
There's every reason to believe the success and the interest in our sport will continue in 2012.  A couple of interesting developments this year which I just want to highlight.  Firstly, this year we will have a shorter season, two weeks shorter.  You obviously all know there's been lots of debate for a long time about the length of season, et cetera, et cetera.  This year we will have a shorter season, which means the guys will have a longer off‑season by two weeks.
The other thing is prize money.  I've talked about the commercial success, the sponsorship coming into the sport.  At our tournaments last year we had in excess of 4.3 million people again come through the gates.  That success is going to be reflected this year by an increase in prize money.  In fact, over the next three years, each year there will be an increase, which in total will be approximately a 20% increase, which I think the players thoroughly deserve given that they are driving a lot of the success of this sport.
So 2012 I think we have to look forward to another great, great year.
Just a few more comments:
My goal is to continue to actively promote this sport.  There's always some negative comments around.  Those who know me, I'm someone who likes to look at the positives.  I sure know we've got plenty of those to talk about.  So that's what you're going to hear from me as the chairman of this organization.  I got plenty of good reason to talk about all the good things in this sport.
As I said, I know this job, I've seen this job through other chairmen, it's not always easy.  I'm not someone who is naïve to the point where I know there aren't going to be issues.  But I think I'm well‑placed to handle those.  There's not too much I haven't seen before and I'm looking forward to the next few years.
I'm also looking forward to working with all of you.  I understand the media.  I did a little bit of television myself.  Not that that's a lot, but I spent three or four years hustling around the media rooms.  For that reason I know a lot of you and I'm looking forward to spending time with you.
I'm going to be available.  I enjoy this sport immensely.  I enjoy all the people, all the stakeholders, whether it be the players or the tournaments.  I have an enormous amount of respect for them.  I understand the importance of the media and what you do.  Our sponsors, our television partners, it's all part of one big group which all comes together to make this sport what it is.  I'm looking forward to spending more time with all of you over the next few years.
At this point I'd be happy to take any questions.

Q.  I know you watched the job closely for a long time.  Do you feel there's a learning curve, things you still need to learn to do it well?  And what are those things?
BRAD DREWETT:  I think having been in senior management for 12 years, previously on the Board as a Board representative for five, that's 16, 17 years.  So, as I said before, I don't think there's not too much I haven't seen.  But you never know.  This job can throw up all sorts of surprises.  I'm pretty confident that I know all the in and outs.
Having said that, you step up into the Chairman's role.  I've gone from having responsibility for part of the organization to having responsibility for the entire organization.  I'm aware of that.  There's certain adjustments to be made.  I think that's true of anyone who steps up within any company, from a Vice President or in our case a CEO's role to a Chairman's role.  But I'm confident that I've got also a great group of people around me.
One thing about the ATP, for quite some time now, we've had a great group ‑ not only in senior management but also just in general.  The people have been around for a long time, so there's a lot of experience for me to draw upon in every way.

Q.  Brad, you talked just now about what a fantastic state men's tennis is in.  How do you think it's come to a situation where there's a lot of talk amongst the top players about striking?  I'm not asking about the issues themselves, but why do you think it's got to this situation when everything else does appear to be in such a good state?
BRAD DREWETT:  Well, I've read the articles.  I think they're quite sensational in lots of ways.  I'm obviously not going to go there.
We had a player meeting the other night, as you know.  It's not often the players get together in one room.  Personally, whether I was on that side, now on this side of the player meeting, I've always seen them as a great opportunity for the players to openly and honestly give their opinions.  That's the reason we have those meetings.
Certainly the other day, just like we've had any number of times, the players are very vocal about what's on their mind.
I saw it as a very constructive meeting where I want to encourage guys to speak openly in that forum, speak openly with me.
I think, as I said, there's always some issues around.  There is some frustration on certain points within the game.  Nothing's ever perfect in any world, and certainly not in the tennis world.  As I said, I think the game is clearly in a great spot.
That doesn't mean there's not always going to be some issues on the side.  That's for me to listen.  I heard the players loud and clear the other night about their issues.
They're obviously a very, very important part of this organization.  As a former player, I hope I understand their issues as much as anyone.  My plan is to represent their opinions wherever it needs to be represented and make sure they're heard.

Q.  The constitution of the ATP being a partnership of tournaments and players, do you think in its current situation it can carry on in that way?  Obviously you have two sorts of vested interests that are always going to be conflicting.  Do you see there's a way this can continue to carry on and we muddy along with tournaments and players apparently working together?
BRAD DREWETT:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  I have no doubt.  I'm a great believer in the ATP.  When you go back to ‑ what was it ‑ '71 when the players had a Players' Association, it actually evolved into the structure we have now.  The players now have a voice actually inside the house.  That means debates you might have outside the house now take place inside the house.
I think if you look at what's happened over the last ‑ what is it, 1989 I think it was the tour was formed, '89 or '90, over 20 years the sport is ‑ I think we all agree ‑ in great shape.
Once again, whenever you have players and tournaments at the table, you're always going to have a number of different views and opinions.  What happens now is that debate takes place, as I call it, inside the house.
The players actually are owners of half this organization.  There's not too many other player and sports leagues that can say that.
Once again, no organization, no structure in any company, not just the ATP, could ever say it's absolutely perfect.  There are issues.  I'm not saying there's not.  But I believe, when you look at the last 20 plus years, that's a long time.  Things have worked well.

Q.  Brad, you mentioned the fact that you want to talk more about the positive aspect, the success and everything else.  What today do you think is the major problem, if there is any problem?  There must be some problems because we have heard the players, what they said.  What is the first thing you would like to do, apart from saying in general that 'I want to develop the success of tennis.'  Is there one single point you would like to solve sooner than others, Davis Cup problems, Indian Wells, prize money, whatever?
BRAD DREWETT:  I perfectly understand the question in terms of why you're asking it.  I hope you can all appreciate that I've been in the job now ‑ it feels like a lot longer ‑ but about 15 days.  Honestly, as I said earlier, I do understand the issues.  I know I'm someone who can, I'll use the term 'hit the ground running.'
I also have a Board, Player Councils, a number of ideas, a number of things I want to address.  But I need first to spend time with those groups within our organization before I start talking publicly about what my plans are.
I hope next time we talk I can be more specific.  But at this point I don't want to get ahead of the important groups within our organization by saying what I would like to achieve.

Q.  We have seen three Chinese women players qualify for the second round.  Some people call it the 'Rise of Asia'.  What changes have Chinese players brought to the world tennis industry?
BRAD DREWETT:  Look, I mean, the impact of China the last 10 years on our sport has been unbelievable.  Since we had the Finals there in 2002, an interest in the world's largest growing economy, growing at an amazing rate, which is a positive thing for everybody in the sport, whether it be the players, the ATP, the WTA, the industry, manufacturers.  Their numbers in China have grown exponentially over the last 10 years.
I don't think that is going to stop.  We're like any company in the world.  China is a focus in terms of growth.  The ATP is very well‑placed in that we have major events in both Beijing and Shanghai.
I think the success of Li Na and the other women's players, I couldn't be more happy.  I think it's great not just for women's tennis and Li Na, the WTA, but it's great for everyone in the game, including the ATP.
I get asked this question a lot when I'm in China:  When are we going to have the first great Chinese male player?  My answer is, It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when.  China has a history of great athletes, in the Olympics, whether it be running, gymnastics.  It's just a matter of time before some of those great athletes pick up a tennis racquet and hit the world stage.
I'm very positive about the future of China in our game.

Q.  Hearing from the players over the last few months, there's a lot of issues, as you say, but it's unclear what their main issue is, Davis Cup, tournament revenue.  As I understand it, their grievance is less with the ATP but with the Grand Slams.  So where do you come into that, bridging that gap?  And do you think you have sufficient relations with the Grand Slam Committee to find a solution there?
BRAD DREWETT:  Well, a lot of the issues that are around now have been around for a while.  They're not new issues.  You hear discussion about scheduling, about prize money.  I heard the players very clearly the other night about that topic.  It's my responsibility to represent them.
As I said earlier, they're an important part of this organization.  I plan to make sure that their views are heard and represented at every level of the game.

Q.  You mentioned lots of these issues have been bubbling away for a long time.  Do you not get a sense that frustrations are coming to a head among the players?
BRAD DREWETT:  Look, as I said, the player meetings are a very rare opportunity for these guys to get into one room.  You have 150, 200 players.  That only happens once, maybe twice a year.
Last weekend they were very vocal about a number of issues, but that is not new.  I mean, I've been in plenty of player meetings where the guys get in there and voice frustrations.
They all know how good the game is.  I have a great appreciation for that.  But on a night like that, you go into the room, the guys might say, It's great, but...  That's their opportunity to talk about their issues, more than us sitting around saying how wonderful things are.  So by definition the emphasis in that meeting is about what the issues are.
There are frustrations out there.  As I said, I plan to take them onboard.  I've heard them.
To finish the answer here, I think I do have very good relationships with the slams.  I've dealt with all the slams for a long time in various manners.  I'm very confident that my relationships across the board with the tournaments, our players, are ones which, when it comes to having any sort of discussion about any sort of issue, they're going to be constructive.  That's the way I like to operate, in a constructive way.  Hopefully that's the way people have seen me operate in the past, and that's not going to change.

Q.  Obviously you've been around the sport a long time.  You can see the big picture of everything that goes around in tennis worldwide.  Do you get the sense that the players have an understanding that the Grand Slams and the ITF fund recreational developmental programs and are not just taking massive profits into their pockets?  If the players are going to ask for more prize money, should the ATP and WTA actually step up and start developing developmental programs themselves?
BRAD DREWETT:  Well, firstly, on the point about players understanding the detail behind governance.  I feel very fortunate coming into this job having such an engaged group of top players.  I can't remember ever in the history of the game, maybe right back at the beginning of pro tennis it was different, but certainly in the last 20 or 30 years, when you've had a player like Roger Federer as the President, Rafa as the Vice President.  You have people like Novak and Andy, they're all engaged.  I've just been around the last few days.  They all want to talk.  They want to talk in great detail about the issues.
These guys, because they're engaged and they care, their level of understanding about the detail of any issue, whether it be the Grand Slams, scheduling, calendar, prize money, is like it's never been before.  I see that as a positive.  It's great to be able to sit down with players who really get it.  They really do get it.  They understand.
I think whatever debate we're going to be having moving forward, I'm sitting in a room with these guys.  It's not a matter of having to help them understand the issues.  They get it already.  I think that's a great starting point for me dealing with these issues.
NICOLA ARZANI:  Thank you very much.
BRAD DREWETT:  Thank you.

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