Tuesday, August 17, 1999

More players, slower courts next year


ATP event will feature new name, too

BY MICHAEL PERRY
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Great American Insurance ATP Championship never looks the same from year to year. There are always changes being made to the ATP Tennis Center in Mason, and that will happen again before next year's event.

        Some of the changes have been decided.

        • The name of the event will be different. The ATP Tour will rename the Super 9 tournaments and give them a uniformed title with identification by city.

        • It will be a 64-man draw, up from 56. No player will receive a bye; this year the top eight seeds did. Next year, the champion will have to win six matches, not five.

        • Prize money increases to $3 million from $2.45 million.

        • The top 50 players in the world are automatically entered next year.

        After Sunday's final — Pete Sampras defeated Patrick Rafter in two sets — both players suggested that the court was too quick and needed to be slowed. That way, points will be longer, which is better for fans and players.

        Tournament Chairman Paul Flory said Monday that will happen. When the main courts are painted for next year's tournament, sand will be added.

        “I did hear that (Gustavo) Kuerten was reported to have said he didn't want to practice on the Grandstand Court because it was slower than (Center) Court,” Flory said. “And he was getting ready for his match with (Andre) Agassi.

        “I talked to Sampras and Rafter afterward, and they both said the courts were quick.”

        ATP officials also will consider expanding the food court area and adding more awning for shaded seating. Flory will pursue the possibility of adding seats in the main stadium.

        “Every session was ahead of last year (in attendance),” he said. “When you're in a sold-out situation, it obviously sug gests you look for where you can put in more seats. That is going to be explored.

        “You can add a few where you walk in. It's possible that you can go higher. It would take some alterations to the structure. I would like to have 2,000 seats more. I think somewhere between 12,000 and 14,000 is ideal.”

        The main stadium holds 10,400. Sessions sold at 97 percent capacity for the week of the main draw.

        “We try to examine everything we do, and decide what we'd like to do and then do we have the money to do it?” Flory said.

        He also intends to bring back the mixed doubles seniors competition and will continue to pursue bringing a women's tour event to Cincinnati.

        As for this year, Flory said more than 1,000 fans passed through the new 100-year anniversary museum each day. The museum will return with some additions.

        He, of course, could not say enough about the mostly cooperative weather or the final four of the tournament, which consisted of the top four players in the world.

        “I just think it's one of those years where everything sort of fell into place,” he said. “And so much you have no control of. You don't control who ends up in the finals; you don't control whether that water comes down or not. It's a lot of good fortune.”

        The main draw is scheduled for Aug.7-13, 2000. Tickets are already on sale (call 651-0303).

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- More players, slower courts next year