ATP chief tells players to show fans some respect

ATP chairman Etienne de Villiers has appealed to his elite tennis players: start treating fans with more respect.

updated: March 22, 2007 06:37 IST
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ATP chairman Etienne de Villiers has appealed to his elite tennis players: start treating fans with more respect. In the past week, the Sydney International was hit by seven injury withdrawals, the most controversial by Russian player Nikolay Davydenko, who was later fined US$10,000 for making disrespectful comments - that it was a "small tournament" that "nobody cares about." De Villiers said he was concerned that 383 players had withdrawn from men's tournaments last year and was telling the players about it. "I'm saying, 'Let's make it a commitment guys'," de Villiers said on Sunday. "It's not a reservation or an option. Let's not defraud the fans. You are no different to rock stars." De Villiers said the ratio of pullouts last year to the tour's 2,000 players meant that on average, one in every five players had withdrawn from a tournament. "If you go see U2 at a concert, and at every single concert, one of the band decided not to play, how long would it take you to get teed off?" said de Villiers. "If The Edge didn't play, or Bono wasn't there, it would be unthinkable. "I tell the players, 'that's what we are doing to our tour'." De Villiers said the ATP would also introduce more stringent rules on players pulling out of tournaments ahead of the start, giving players just one "free" withdrawal per year before a range of fines or other sanctions take place. Difficult to judge But he admitted it was difficult to judge the degree of players' injuries when they pull out during a tournament or in a match. No 2-ranked Rafael Nadal pulled out of the Sydney tournament with a groin strain, saying he didn't want to risk his participation in the Australian Open beginning Monday. Dmitry Tursunov and Paradorn Srichaphan also withdrew during the tournament. De Villiers said he could not be the arbiter of how serious a player's injury was. "I don't really want to make that judgment call with an athlete that continues to play when they really are carrying an injury," he said. "You have to hope that they begin to understand they are part of the show. "It may take the younger generation to actually get that. A lot of the older guys are great, but they are who they are right now." De Villiers reiterated the ATP's need to fine Davydenko heavily. "He was disrespectful to the game," de Villiers said. "I said to him, 'if you think there is a real issue, and you want it sorted, you come to us'. "It's hard enough to get fans to come and enjoy this, and it's a lot worse when your own professionals are trashing tournaments. We put a lot of money and spend a lot of time and effort to get the best tournaments we can possibly have, and someone casually trashes it." When asked if Roger Federer would be fined if the Swiss star had criticised a tournament in the same way that Davydenko did, de Villiers quickly replied "yes." "But Roger wouldn't, and that's the difference," de Villiers said. "Roger doesn't like the round-robin (a new format for some tournaments this year), but when Roger is asked about the round-robin, he says: 'It's not important what I think. What's important is what the fan wants." "That's not being dishonest," added de Villiers. "It's being really professional."