Luxury car maker Mercedes has welcomed the streamlining of the “confusing” Association Tennis Professional (ATP) Tour which it supports with 25m of sponsorship money over four years, but it has yet to confirm that it will take part in the new system.
The ATP proposes to cut down the amount of top-flight tennis played each year so sponsors, broad-casters, and the public can pick out the key tournaments. There are more than 80 major championships a year.
The ATP Tour Board of directors approved slimming down its Top Tier tournaments, which are sponsored by Mercedes, from nine to seven from the year 2000. Mercedes’ current four-year contract with the ATP ends in 1999.
Mercedes head of sports com-munications Martin Geers says: “This will settle a lot of the confusing elements in the sport at the moment. The big players should all now appear in about 20 tourn-aments around the world.”
However, Mercedes declines to comment on whether it will remain part of the new-look tour even though it has been heavily involved in talks with the ATP.
Geers says: “We will make that decision towards the end of next year.”
Players will be encouraged through a bonus points system to play in what the ATP considers the most important tournaments. Grand Slam tournaments, like Wimbledon, which arrange their own sponsor-ships, will remain largely unaffected. Top Tier matches fall just below Grand Slam championships.
The ATP aims to persuade the Women’s Tennis Association to adopt the same system.