To start, let’s just say that not all 250-level ATP Tour events are created equal.
There’s Marseille, where the tournament director says fans have gotten used to top-10 players. Then there is … Memphis. And others.
Marseille tournament director Jean-François Caujolle has some opinions about this, which he shared in an interview with local newspaper La Provence.
From the original list of 20 main-draw entries (four of the top-11), eight won’t see the light of day (three of those top-11):
*Stanislas Wawrinka*Milos Raonic
You could run it through Google translate, but here are accurate translations of some of the more cogent points about the struggles of the smaller tournaments that make up two-thirds of the ATP Tour calendar, its lifeblood.
“It’s sad. Fifty-one weeks during which we try to put something together and, in three hours – I wouldn’t say that it all falls apart because Gasquet and Tsonga are still there, but it’s hard. We’ve gotten the fans used to having four top-10 players and this year, we have a weaker draw and only two.”
He said the ATP is pondering how to solve the problem, and that Marseille’s case will surely serve as an example because the ATP 250s cannot become super-Challengers. But as it stands, there’s no real benefit to the top players to play them, because the number of ranking points won’t make a difference to a top 10 player at the end of the day. In Caujolle’s case, his good relationship with Tsonga and Gasquet (and the fact that they’re French, obviously), saves him.
Caujolle said the ability to pull out of a tournament for “personal reasons” was given to the players by the ATP via negotiation, tit-for-tat at the time when the Masters 1000s became mandatory. But he said the players, who are just playing by the rules, must consider the consequences. A player like Jerzy Janowicz, for example, might sign up. But he has to play all the Masters 1000s or he gets fined. He has to play a minimum of four 500s. But a player like him only has to play two 250-level events a year.
His mindset is going to be that he’ll play if all is well but if he’s not 100 per cent, he’ll pull out without the least consequence – whereas in a 500, he might play even if he’s not in top, top shape.
Caujolle also said that in the cases of Raonic and Wawrinka, the injuries were legit. Monfils, who is “a little bit injured” (what’s new?), is another matter. He also said that Berdych called him and explained, saying that if he’d lost against Janowicz, he would have been there but he had to think of his season as a whole.
Caujolle said the ATP has to re-think the points and ranking system.
“In golf, it works very well. There are only slight point differences between the Grand Slams and other tournaments and the best are still on top. (In tennis) there was always the fear of having a No. 1 who hasn’t won a Grand Slam (hello, WTA!). But I think that if we had a ranking system with the same points attributed to a Slam as a Masters 1000 and an ATP 500, we’d still have Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray at the top of the rankings.”
Also probably true.
Food for thought.