New round-robin format at 13 events in 2007, ATP says
MELBOURNE, Oct 26 (Reuters) Thirteen men's tournaments will be fought out over three different round-robin formats in the 2007 season, the ATP Tour said today.
The Adelaide International, starting on Sunday December 31 and running through eight days, will be the first to trial one of the new formats aimed at increasing spectator value for money and boosting interest from the media and sponsors, the ATP said.
''Our research with fans, tournaments and media indicate a preference for round-robin,'' ATP Executive Chairman Etienne De Villiers said in announcing the one-year trial.
''We are going to test different formats and see which ones we will introduce and into what type of event for 2008. It is the 'do it, try it, fix it' approach.
''I recognise some players are opposed or indifferent but we will dilligently build our research based on the results and do what's best for the fans,'' he added.
The ATP said 24-, 36- and 48-player round-robin events were organised throughout the year debuting in Adelaide and including Delray Beach, the Stella Artois Championships at Queen's Club, London and the RCA Championships in Indianapolis.
Critics of the new plans, among them former women's world number one Lindsay Davenport, say the new set-up could lead to players not trying if they knew they would not be eliminated with a defeat.
GUINEA PIGS But organisers of the Adelaide event said they were proud to be the guinea pigs for the ATP drive.
''The tournament's fans will receive fantastic value for money with the opportunity to see the top players more than once. We can now showcase the game over eight days in a format where every match counts,'' co-tournament director Peter Johnston said.
The initial entry for Adelaide will be 32 players, with 16 going into qualifying and the remaining 16 automatically entering the round-robin stage.
The 16 from qualifying will be whittled down to eight, who will join the automatic qualifiers in eight groups of three. The players will play each other once and the top player in each group will progress to the quarter-finals.
In the event of all three players winning one group game, the quarter-finalist will be decided by number of sets won and then number of games won, an ATP spokesman told Reuters.
The top seed is placed in Group One, the second seed in Group Eight with one of the other six leading seeds in a group each.
World number two Rafael Nadal gave his support to the one-year trial.
''I have said it at our meetings with Etienne, I think this is a great idea. Finally we really move forward and we do something really good for our sport,'' he said in a statement.
''This will be good for our tournaments, for us the players and especially for fans and television since they will be able to have and see their favourite players more than once for sure.'' The ATP said some tournaments would move from a traditional Monday start to the Sunday and no Masters Series events would be trialling the new formats.
It did, however, add that the Masters Series events at Monte Carlo and Montreal would start on a Sunday.
REUTERS PM VV0948