The ATP gets serious

ATPComing off the most exciting year of professional tennis in nearly a decade, the ATP has updated the general public on what the new season will bring.

* New Structure: New tiers of tournaments have been created — ATP World Tour Masters 1000, ATP World Tour 500 and ATP World Tour 250 — leading to the season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London where the ATP World Tour Champion will be officially crowned. The number represents the points awarded to the winner in each respective tournament.

* Tour Calendar: The ATP World Tour will feature 63 tournaments in 31 countries with the following breakdown of tiers — Nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events, 11 ATP World Tour 500 events and 39 ATP World Tour 250 events.

* Net Branding: At each of the different level of tournaments, fans will recognize the level of event as indicated by the net branding on court.

* Promotion: An enhanced TV package and web streaming proposition of ATP World Tour Masters 1000s, 500s and other key regional tournaments will allow fans to follow their favorite players from week to week around the globe. The multi-million dollar ATP advertising campaign, FEEL IT, will assist tournaments in promotion of the sport.

* Player Requirements: In 2009, players in the 2008 year-end Top 30 will be required to compete in four Grand Slam tournaments and eight ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments. In addition, the Best four ATP World Tour 500 and Best two other events (ATP World Tour 250 and Challengers) will be counted towards a player’s ranking. All direct acceptance players at the time of the entry deadline who do not play will receive a 0-pointer in their ranking.

* Bonus Pool: A $6 million bonus pool for the Top 12 players in the South African Airways 2009 ATP Rankings will be awarded based on fulfilling their commitment. The season will also feature a 20% increase in player compensation and a profit sharing model that will for the first time invite players to share in the sport’s growth.

* Facility Improvements: The largest ever facility investment of $800 million, including new stadia in Brisbane, Madrid, Shanghai, Valencia and Paris will be made in 2009. In addition, upgrades in Cincinnati, Rome, Acapulco, Rotterdam and Montreal deliver world class facilities.

* Tour Swings: The 2009 ATP World Tour calendar will also offer several cohesive swings within the full season. Each of these swings builds to a mini-crescendo along the way to the season’s grand finale in London. Improvements to the calendar include an uninterrupted European clay season, with a new ATP World Tour 1000 Masters event in Madrid (moving from indoor to clay). In addition, a revamped Asian swing in the fall leads to a new ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Shanghai.

Wow. Being a professional tennis player sounds pretty sweet. Not only do you get a three-month break, but when you are “working,” you travel around the globe. And look how generous the ATP is being with the Bonus Pool category. Aside from that extra $6 million, players can essentially become part-owners of the Tour by way of the profit sharing model.

Although the season kicks off January 4, the first Grand Slam takes place at the Australian Open from January 19-February 2. Rafael Nadal will be defending the #1 ranking, while Roger Federer will attempt to regain it.

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