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November 22, 2014
FRANCESCO RICCI BITTI:Â Good morning.Â This is just called as tradition on the occasion of these finals, more than a press conference, just a friendly meeting with the press that is interested to know what is our view honestly about the evolution of the Davis Cup first, the evolution of the game, and also wider I'm open to wider questions about Olympics, so on.
First of all, I say a few words about this final.Â I believe everybody agrees with me that we have already had a great day of tennis yesterday and we are looking forward to having more today and tomorrow.
We had a record crowd ‑Â I want to underline this ‑ for a sanctioned tennis tournament match with 27,432 people attending this day of tennis yesterday, beating even the 27,200 of a Davis Cup final some time ago.
As you know, we have three more important crowds.Â One was in Australia a long time ago, and two in the recent 10 years.Â This is good that we achieve this record.Â It will remain obviously in our records.
All the numbers are very good, so I don't want to waste a lot of time.Â For the website, 200% more than usual.Â I want to mention television because we had a record again.Â France 2, the news is that we had more than 2.2 million viewers, for an audience of 20.8% for the match yesterday between 1:45 and 7:15.Â We had a peak of 4.3 million during the match of Monfils and Federer, with an average of this match of 2.8 million.Â It was a little bit more watched the second match, 2.8 million.Â These are big numbers, and I believe it's good, not only for Davis Cup, for us, but for tennis.
As I said, I don't want to expand too much on the website and social media because all the numbers are not comparable with the previous ones.Â We are up about 200% more than previous numbers, and there is a lot of interest.
If you add to our website, there is another website that is very visited like the French one, the numbers are even more impressive for an event of one day.Â So this is my consideration.
I make some general comments of Davis Cup.Â I'm very proud to feel the responsibility to protect Davis Cup.Â As you know, tennis has changed.Â We know, like many other people, but we don't have vested interests.Â We are the institution.Â We represent the basic value of the sport.Â Then we have to protect what is the value that we believe is vital for the progress of our sport, in spite of the evolution.
It's clear the calendar is busy.Â It's clear that the players have a more demanding season.Â It's clear we have to accept that some people are not participating.Â In any case, the value that Davis Cup brings to many nations is vital for the development of the sport, more than many other activities.
I would say that we had this year, just to give you some numbers about Davis Cup, in terms of competition, I want to summarize, we had ties in 58 countries.Â 30 of these 58 countries do not have any professional tennis.Â I think this is a very important point.
We played 82 ties, seven zonal group events, 122 nations participating.Â 570 professional players played.Â More or less all the professional players were involved.Â We have an attendance for the year of more than 600,000 people on‑site.Â So I believe that these are the numbers that encourage us to go forward.
We are not complacent.Â We are people that study our competition and what could we do to improve.Â So we are not close to any change, but some principles should be kept.
We try, we consider, we have done many, many activities behind the scenes.Â We have done a big questionnaire and investigation with the players in the last years.
We never had conclusive indication and direction other than our direction.Â Our direction at the moment is based on the basic principles of the annuality of the competition, and the nomination of the team by the national body.Â This is the most important thing.Â If you have some comments on this, I can expand even more.Â This is vital because of the relationship between the player and professional athlete and his own basic institution, his own country, the Federation.
As I said, this last one has been considered, is perhaps the most considerable one, at least for some points of view.Â The day we are sure this will be an improvement to change, we are considering the length of the match.Â We consider many things.Â We are discussing this.Â It's an ongoing discussion.
But, again, we should stick on what Davis Cup represents and we should not change for changing, but we should only change when we are convinced that the analogy pros and cons is favorable.Â We have to be very, very prudent with the risk to be considered sometimes overly conservative.
This was my, more or less, introduction.Â I can talk about, as I said, other initiatives of the ITF at this time.Â I can talk about the ITF positioning in the Olympic movement.Â Whatever you want, I am ready to answer any questions.
Q.Â Why do you think a World Cup concept where you had three weeks of tennis, like you do in other sports, now you're calling Davis Cup the World Cup of Tennis, why would that not be superior to what you have now?
FRANCESCO RICCI BITTI:Â The first point is the three weeks.Â The second week is home‑and‑away is very rooted in our competition.Â If you provide me three weeks in the calendar now, perhaps I can consider it.Â But three weeks are not available, in general.
As a second matter, as I said, the home‑and‑away is very rooted.Â Even if you are considering this point for the final stage of our competition, it's been one of the final considerations, and in the ITF, this is one point we are considering.Â But, again, we have to make an analysis if the pros and cons is a good balance.
We have an experience with the four teams in Fed Cup.Â It was a disaster, I have to say.Â I always joke saying that I have a memory of Fed Cup in Canary Islands.Â If the Spanish team is in the final, after having won after having four, five match points, Barbara Schett, they lost in one, the other side was Arantxa and Conchita, but the end of their career.Â If Spain would not have won, I always said the spectators on the crowd would have been me, my partner, the relatives of the players and Prince Philip that were there.Â We would have been five people.
But this is a little bit tennis.Â In the United States, when we had the experience in Las Vegas, it was quite the same.Â Not so dramatic, but I would say it didn't work out.Â So the people are very happy to have the home tie.
Obviously this is a complication from a business model point of view.Â But the main point is the weeks that we need, I don't see now any possibility, except the end of the season.Â The end of the season, as you see, the people are saying the season has to be shorter.Â They find a way to fill the season with easy competition.
Q.Â Why couldn't you fill that spot instead of letting them play India or exhibitions?
FRANCESCO RICCI BITTI:Â We try.Â I think the length that is needed to have a serious competition is too much.Â We try to discuss with the tour again.Â But we surely don't get the support.Â We are not getting support in this.
Exhibition is something else.Â The demand of a team competition like Davis Cup for the players is very serious, very high level.Â This is a consideration.Â This is the stage.Â I could not assume that we receive support for this.
Q.Â Years ago you had a written request by several great players about the week between the Grand Slam and the Davis Cup, Masters and the Davis Cup.Â Seeing what happened this week here, do you somehow regret this because next week you could have had a better Federer?
FRANCESCO RICCI BITTI:Â I don't know if is a better Federer because I think we should not take away so much from Monfils yesterday, for the Monfils performance.Â But we will see.
Having said that, yes, we received a request to change the date signed by the top player, except one or two, I don't remember.Â But I remember Hewitt, two players didn't sign it.Â I remember receiving this letter.
We, after a long, long negotiation, accepted the point of view again on a pro and con evaluation of the players, because the players are a very important component of the success of the competition.
But now what I can say in terms of the calendar is so crowded that to jump obviously two weeks after the Grand Slam or two weeks after the Masters would create a lot of problems.Â We have a lot of logistical problems, I would say.Â Sometimes you have to sacrifice what is perfect.
I always believe that the third week was the key week, not this one.Â The final, the Masters, involves eight players.Â What was important for us, we have to accept this.Â What I always felt was the third week, after the US Open, is the key one, eight players, two semifinals.Â That means the best 30, 40 players of the world potentially are busy.Â This was a very important week.Â The final obviously is eight players, being a little bit less risky.
Q.Â You said you've studied the competition.Â The team commitment is something big for the players.Â What do you think of the IPTL, what the WTA is talking about, other team competitions that seem to be sprouting up alongside your own?
FRANCESCO RICCI BITTI:Â In fact, it's very easy to answer to the concept in general, the World Cup, two‑week, three‑week concept.Â These are a little bit different concept.
We recognize that our model is from a business point of view complicated.Â But it serves much better to have a development function to our members.Â Our members are the people that develop tennis and the players, the National Federations.Â We should not forget that.Â The players are of basic importance, but we have to recognize that a business model that is perhaps a little bit more complicated serves better our purpose.
Having said that we felt already to do something different, and we have not given up.Â We have many ideas.Â Even maybe from the promoters we can be better.Â Obviously we cannot come out since we have a consensus.
IPTL, we discussed long, at length.Â It's an exhibition.Â Is a competition that has all the right to exist.Â We cannot stop anybody.Â We see it as something very different from what I say, representing your country in the top competition in the world.Â It's a way to give players opportunities to play.Â They don't need so much, but perhaps the money.
About the WTA, I would say two things.Â Again, we don't know exactly what is the model yet.Â What I can say is a totally different animal from the Fed Cup, totally difficult because it's eight teams in one spot.
I want to say I was a little bit surprised about this announcement I have to say honestly for two reasons.Â This competition is totally inconsistent with what the WTA has put forth as the Roadmap, the health of the players.Â It's totally inconsistent with that because it's in the free time.Â It's also totally inconsistent because they mentioned a mandatory concept.Â These are the two things that surprised me.
The competition is different.Â It's not Fed Cup.Â It's gathering players to get some good money in one spot, in one place.Â The mandatory was also surprising me because they did a big fuss when we just discuss for the Olympic rule that is not really demanding.
The competition itself, okay, is something different.Â The concept behind this competition is a little bit surprising.
Q.Â I'd like to know, what do you think if this could be the really last great final of Davis Cup?Â Now there are two nations like France and Switzerland, with Federer, who is giving much importance to this final, and who knows if Federer will play Davis Cup next year.Â Do you think a future final between two other countries will interest only those two countries?Â Shouldn't we find a way that there will be at least four or eight countries involved in the same place, and probably would be enough to have two weeks for eight teams to play, not three weeks as was mentioned before?
FRANCESCO RICCI BITTI:Â As I said, there are many more than two countries interested in Davis Cup, many more.Â Your assumption that the country interest are two is not a right assumption.Â In Davis Cup, there are 100 countries at least that are very interested.
The second point that I would like to make is the same.Â You mention a format that has no proof except negative in the past that is successful for Davis Cup.
The third one is that you need to find the weeks.Â It's not only a matter of the physical weeks, but the consensus of the interested bodies.Â In tennis to change radically the calendar, you have to have a certain consensus.
I don't understand why you say 'the last successful Davis Cup.'Â There will be more players and more successes next year.Â Perhaps is the last for me.Â But for the Davis Cup, I am very confident there will be many, many more very successful.
The top players are very important.Â But the top players in general have played, perhaps not all together in the same years.Â But normally the Davis Cup has the big players.Â I can tell you, I know, they look at the draw, when the draw is coming out, is a very important moment.Â They take the decision.Â Normally we can count on the great support of the players in general.
Q.Â At the Masters in London, we had the feeling that the ATP, with all the players coming, like McEnroe, they want something more by players.Â Have you already started new talks with the ATP because something is moving?
FRANCESCO RICCI BITTI:Â Let me understand better because I don't understand what you mean.
Q.Â In London, they start to say that players would like to have more money, more part in the organization, more part in the Grand Slam prize money, something more.
FRANCESCO RICCI BITTI:Â Something more.
Q.Â Do you have this feeling or not yet?
FRANCESCO RICCI BITTI:Â I can tell you what I think.Â First of all, we can discuss distribution of the money.Â It's a big problem in tennis.Â These are discussions that would take one day.
I believe if you talk about the top players, because the ones in London were obviously the top players, I would say they have got a lot of money in these last years.Â The Grand Slams, more or less, has increased the prize money 40%.Â In this economic environment, if you believe it's not a lot, it is a lot of money.
Perhaps the distribution, the more players that could live professionally in our sport, may be a problem.Â We are discussing this with the ATP and the WTA in a working group, how to review and reform the small tournament.
But talking about the players that were in London, I think if they want more involvement, I think they are welcome.Â The ATP has just appointed an advisor.Â The ITF has suggested player representative, not to clash with the existing athletes, we obviously follow the Olympics.Â The days that the ITF in the general meeting will agree very soon, I think, the athletes representing the ITF board, will be players that have just retired.Â We don't want to clash with the tour's active players.
This could bring a lot of contribution to the experience, administrative body, of a top body like the International Tennis Federation.Â I believe the contribution of the players, the athletes, in any sport is welcome.Â But you should not always exaggerate because the administration of the sport is a different work than to be an athlete.
To be an athlete, a great athlete, is an advantage.Â Basically you start with a big knowledge, a deep knowledge of what you are talking about.Â But this doesn't mean automatically this will be successful.Â In the Olympics we have a lot of experience on that, a lot of successful experience, and some less.
Q.Â Could you tell us more about the projects you're working on?
FRANCESCO RICCI BITTI:Â My point of view, people know, is that tennis should be a little bit more experimenting.Â I believe the length of our game is an issue in general.Â I was supportive in 2002 of an experiment made with the ATP of the best‑of‑five at four. Â I am still convinced this could be a good test.Â Best‑of‑five ending at four, not at six.Â In my opinion, as a business‑oriented man, the peak of the attention of spectators is the end of the set.Â If you have more ends, it works better.
My partner in this great experiment.Â Gilbert, sorry he's not here, we were the two who were supportive of this great experiment, which was made in 2002 in a small tournament of the tour.Â It was reasonably successful, but the players didn't support it.Â The players were very conservative.Â If you talk about conservative with the ITF, talk with the players in our sport, they are even more conservative.
Is good because if something is good, why change?Â But I believe this could be tested.Â Length, something to control the length of our sport, because obviously we have a sport that the issue is television now is very important, media, and perhaps the length of our matches could be an issue.Â Not in Davis Cup, we have twoaday, but in tournaments, in all the competitions.
Q.Â Where are you at with the points, ranking points, for Davis Cup in the future?
FRANCESCO RICCI BITTI:Â The Davis Cup was introduced after negotiation about the dates.Â So now we added the points.Â We have a draft agreement for the next two, three years for the date.Â The points are still on surely in 2015.Â We don't know completely yet what will happen after that.
There are two positions.Â I could say that our position that make my assumption will not perhaps be easy to continue, this position with the ATP, for two reasons.Â There are top players on the ATP side that didn't like that because there were some years in which the small amount of Davis Cup points could have changed the leader of the rankings.Â This was not very popular between some top players.
On our side, I have to say we are relaxed enough.Â What we look is at the stability and the date.Â We don't think any players play for the points.
Q.Â What do you think of Tomas Berdych, who said it could be better to have Davis Cup every two years?
FRANCESCO RICCI BITTI:Â It's not the first one.Â It's not the last one.Â But it should be a little bit more documented.Â I believe there's no sense.Â Any sport has its own characteristic.Â The calendar of tennis is typically annual.Â The people that say that is not very deep.
If in one week of the year you put something else, it's difficult to take away the year after.Â We know how many problems we have, how big a headache we have just to locate the Olympics every four years.Â If you start changing the characteristics of tennis annually, then you can find solutions.Â But typically the tennis calendar, the tennis schedule, is annual, an annual activity.Â It's very difficult to talk about two years.
Many people have raised this point.Â I don't think it makes a lot of sense, but...
Q.Â You mentioned a moment ago the increased prize money from the Grand Slams that have come to the players in recent years, particularly at the lower echelons of the tournaments.Â The ITF obviously is responsible for promoting tennis around the world, which is part of Davis Cup, which you've adhered to that format very stringently.Â Are you satisfied with the level of funding you're getting from the Grand Slams for the ITF Development Fund?
FRANCESCO RICCI BITTI:Â This is a voluntary contribution, so I have to thank them anyhow.Â The money the Grand Slams is giving us in the range of $2 million per year.Â I am not used to just ourselves, but we do a reasonably good job for work in the developing countries.Â If you say more money would be welcome, I would say yes.Â But this started with contributions in 1987, with voluntary contribution at Wimbledon.Â We tried to manage at best with many projects with this contribution, together with investment that our budget is doing.Â We are in the range of $5 million per year.Â Could be seen as small money.Â Could be seen as big money.Â But if you put on top all the other activities of the ITF, I consider $5 million as pure development, development of the game.Â But junior, senior, wheelchair, they're all developing activities.Â You put all this together, we invest more than $10 million.
I believe that in general this is okay.Â You should not forget, it's not a political answer, but you should not forget the Grand Slam nations, including Wimbledon, Wimbledon is not a Federation, but you know they have an agreement and they give the money, the net profit to the LTA, so is the same.Â This country invests all the money to developing the tennis in their country.
So is your call.Â So they invest all the money, not only the $2 million for they give us for the international activities.Â They invest all the money back in tennis.Â This is very important.Â They are a not‑for‑profit organization.Â They invest all the money in their own country to develop our sport.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports