Monday, August 12, 2002

Q&A with ATP Tour CEO Mark Miles

Tour, loaded with fresh talent, faces tough transition challenges

By Michael Perry,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ATP Tour CEO Mark Miles was in Cincinnati earlier in the week to take in some of the early-round matches at the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters. Miles became CEO in 1990 after a career in politics, business and sports. He was President of the Organizing Committee for the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis and also served as president of the ATP Tour event in Indianapolis.

        Miles talked with Enquirer reporter Michael Perry about the state of the men's tour, its strengths and responded to some criticisms.

        Question: What's your assessment of the Tour right now?

        Answer: I think of it as the sport itself on the court, and the business of the sport.

        In the first category, it's pretty obvious that men's tennis has never had a better product in terms of the quality of play. The Cincinnati tournament is a great example, where every match is a war.

        From the business perspective, there are a couple of things. One is related to that marvelous parity; it's almost a curse in some ways. We have a global structure, a global circuit, which means we're not going to be in any one country all year long or for an entire season to be able to sustain a kind of consistent coverage and interest for the fans. So when we are there, it's on a more limited basis. And with different guys winning, it means fewer guys are on television repeatedly and often, so it's very hard for the fan to really know the next generation of players. I think we're in transition in that regard.

        Q: Is it tough from your vantage point -- and this isn't just tennis -- that it's not enough to be good in your sport, you need to sell personalities, characters, story lines and rivalries?

        A: Well, we have great characters and personalities. But you have to have the medium to get it out. It's not like a team sport here in the States where you might cover the Reds every day. We have a very small cadre of international tennis writers who travel a lot and understand all that.

        Q: As you travel around, and read and hear what's said about men's tennis, what is the most valid criticism and what's the most unjustified thing you wish would be corrected?

        A: If there's any perception that men's tennis is not exciting to watch, it just kills me. Because I think it's just exactly the opposite. I've loved tennis my whole life, and I don't think there's ever been a time when it's been more exciting. And that comment we rarely see, except for in the States.

        Q: Is the ATP trying to work more with the Women's Tennis Association to bring things together?

        A: Yes, on lots of different levels. On one level, we can pull all the elements together as has been done in (Tennis Masters Series events in) Miami, for example, and Indian Wells. I think it's great, and we'd like to see more of it.

        We have a specific goal of getting to as many as four 10-day, combined men and women, Tier-1 events in world-class facilities. That will happen in 2004 in Indian Wells. We're working hard on the next opportunity in Europe, and I think we can have that by 2005. We're talking about huge investments in facilities. And the fourth one will take a little longer.

        Q: Is Cincinnati a candidate?

        A: I think a 10-day event is very difficult to fit in the summer and to match up with the women's calendar at the same time, but there are other ways, perhaps, for Cincinnati to have men and women together, either back to back or maybe, if it makes economic sense, in the same week.

        But it's a tremendous requirement in terms of facilities, and whether the economics work in a one-week format, I'm not sure. I know (tournament chairman) Paul (Flory) is working on it.

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- Q&A with ATP Tour CEO Mark Miles
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