Kevin Anderson, who is currently the vice president of the ATP Player Council, backed the many changes to be introduced in ATP World Tour from 2019, many of which have divided tennis fans and players alike.
Among them are shot clocks during matches and the restructuring of the ranking system. The South African said that this shake-up is necessary to develop the game as well as maintain the integrity of the sport.
“There are some interesting changes, on court the shot, some of the Grand Slams have changed the fifth-set tiebreak, transition tour,” he told reporters at the Maharashtra Open in Pune, where he is the top seed. “We [Player Council] speak a lot about it... it is all to keep developing the game, making it more attractive to fans and making it player friendly. It may not be ideal for everyone but we try to make the best possible decision which will have positive effects on the game.”
From next year, ATP and WTA ranking points will be awarded only during the Challenger Tour and events worth 25K and more and the rankings will end at 750. The other tournaments will be part of the Transition Tour with no ranking tour points, a change that could hit players from countries like India with the number of ranked players being significantly reduced.
But the world No 6 said that the move, which has received a mixed response from the tennis fraternity, will actually prove to be beneficial for players, echoing the thoughts of Indian tennis’s national observer Somdev Devvarman.
“I think the number of players making a living out of playing tennis is more than ever. Nobody at 800 or 900 is making a living anyway so it is not a goal for anybody. Before it was top 100 or maybe even top 75 [who were making a living playing tennis].
“I feel like now that is getting lower and lower so more people can support themselves playing tennis. That is what is ultimately going to drive more people to our sport. For the integrity and overall image of the ATP, in my opinion it is much better, to have the cut off.”
In fact, Anderson said the cut-off should have been higher, comparing it to the tour card in golf. “In my opinion, it could have been much higher, look at the PGA Tour, 750 people are not getting the tour card it is something you have to work for, earn the card,” he added. “It may not be ideal for everyone but we try to make the right decision for the game.”
Anderson also criticised the International Tennis Federation for the radical changes in the Davis Cup, which was taken without the involvement of the players. The ITF has changed the tournament to a one-week format instead of home and away ties through the season.
“They have been doing their own thing a little bit, they haven’t really collaborated with the players as closely as we would have liked. We don’t have any sort of say,” he said.
However, the ATP will be floating their own version of a world team event – the ATP Cup at the start of the season – from 2020.
“We have been focussed on making the World Team Cup a strong event as possible. I think it is great for the Tour, it is going to further increase the popularity, the exposure around the world. We are going to start the year with a great event and end it with a great event, it is very important for tennis,” he said.
Anderson bats for on-field coaching
The issue of on-field coaching has becoming a burning one since Serena Williams was penalised during the ill-tempered US Open final. Anderson said that while on-court coaching is already widely prevalent, an official structure will help streamline it.
“There are two sides, one where tennis is a one on one sport which I get but on the other hand, it is such a team… even though we are out there by ourselves, your coaches are talking about the math a lot and… It is very difficult to draw the line between coaching and support. If your coaches are out there saying come on stay positive, is that support or coaching? It could be interpreted either way.
“It is very hard to police, everyone knows that coaching does happen so in my opinion, I would like to see it being allowed but in a structured sense,” he said.
Anderson will begin his campaign on Wednesday after getting a first-round bye.