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Grand Slams Are Urged to Spread the Wealth

ATP asks tennis' richest events to share profits with lesser tournaments; initial response is tepid.

June 08, 2003|Lauren Peterson | Times Staff Writer

The richest tournaments in professional tennis have been asked to share profits to boost other parts of the tour.

The ATP, in meetings at the French Open in the past week, has asked that some $50 million in profits from the four lucrative Grand Slam events be used to fund increased prize money and pension plans, and to promote the tour and its players.

The idea was met less than enthusiastically by a committee representing the Grand Slam tournaments.

In a statement released Saturday, Grand Slam officials said each of their events had "re-confirmed its individual right to continue determining levels of player compensation and unanimously rejected as unacceptable the player compensation proposal...."

An ATP spokesman declined to comment about the statement, saying discussions were ongoing and they were "not going to negotiate in the press." The issue may be revisited at Wimbledon later this month.

As pressing for the ATP, perhaps, is the need to soothe dissension within its ranks.

The ATP's request was made by Chief Executive Mark Miles, who is being pressured to strengthen the tour's secondary events by a fledgling players-only trade association that was organized in March.

The group, the International Men's Tennis Assn., was organized to address long-festering but only recently voiced concerns of some tour players.

Among its members are twins Bob and Mike Bryan of Camarillo, who won their first Grand Slam doubles championship Saturday at the French Open.

Mike Bryan said he and his brother signed on with IMTA hoping to help institute a process whereby the richer tournaments -- the Grand Slam events -- reinvest some of their proceeds in a way that would benefit players who make most of their money in tournaments below the Grand Slam level.

"Just pass it down," Bryan said in a telephone interview Saturday. "I think this should have been done a long time ago. We just want to put pressure on them."

The IMTA, which claims to comprise 62 players, on Wednesday had its own meeting with the Grand Slam committee, after which Henri-James Tieleman, the IMTA's administrative director, said he was "pleasantly surprised" at how well his group was received.

Among players, IMTA counts No. 1-ranked Leyton Hewitt of Australia and Grand Slam tournament winners Marat Safin of Russia and Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia as supporters.

However, the ATP has bluntly questioned the strength of conviction among some of those who have signed on with IMTA, noting that none has given up membership in the ATP and switched allegiances to the new organization.

In a statement, the ATP said, "We question what, if any, real commitment many players on the list have made to IMTA," adding that the ATP "will not be deterred in pursuing our goal of achieving a fair investment in our sport from the Grand Slams."

Laurence Tieleman, a 10-year tour veteran and a member of IMTA's board of directors, was less than convinced.

He said the ATP often caters to only the highly ranked, with the others following along.

"It's not just for top players," he said of the tour. "It's for everybody."

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