Reigning two-time Monte-Carlo Masters champion Stefanos Tsitsipas recently met with ATP President Andrea Gaudenzi in Rome to discuss three key principles of OneVision, the ATP’s transformative game plan for building the future of the sport.
The pair discussed the opportunity tennis has to generate revenue commensurate with its global appeal, the benefits of unifying the sport and the need to offer a better product for fans to compete effectively within the entertainment industry.
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Measured by the number of global fans, tennis is the fourth most popular sport in the world, but shares only 1.3 percent of the value of global media rights. By comparison, golf is the 11th most popular sport in the world, but attracts 2.5 per cent of global media rights revenue, nearly double the share claimed by tennis.
“We have over a billion fans and we undervalue, we monetize,” Gaudenzi told Tsitsipas. “Tennis has a great competitive advantage because we are global. We have a very strong product for men and women and I think we are in a very, very good position to attract a new generation.”
Uniting as a sport is another key tenet of the plan, a broad goal that includes adding media rights, optimizing product offerings and increasing the number of premium tournaments where men and women play side by side.
“Ultimately putting everything under one umbrella,” Tsitsipas said.
“Under an umbrella, a guide,” said Gaudenzi. “Really optimize the product and offer a better experience to the fans, which is the third principle of this plan. We need to change the culture and mindset to focus on the fans. Providing a better and richer experience.”
Fundamental for that is to recalibrate the calendar.
“The calendar is about strengthening the premium product, which is the main interest for the fans,” said Gaudenzi. “See the best players in the best events in the main cities of the world. So the idea is to farm them similar to Indian Wells and Miami at 96 draws, 12 days. Then you will have Madrid, Rome, two weeks, two weeks. You would have Shanghai, two weeks. Canada, Cincy sharing three weeks. So we’re trying to expand, giving more days, more prize money, bigger stages.”
Tsitsipas continued: “In a way, that also means that the top 100 players receive good financial support for their efforts annually.”
“Exactly,” Gaudenzi said. “Now if you are guaranteed a stable income, where you can cover your expenses, pay the salaries to your team. It will be much better.”
Gaudenzi, a former Top 20 player, asked Tsitsipas for his opinion on the combined events, an important part of OneVision.
“It’s a better structure, having tournaments together,” the Greek said. “It allows more fans to attend and see their favorite players, whether it’s a woman or a man. They can get the whole package in one place.”
With ATP Masters 1000 in Madrid, Rome and Shanghai expanding to 12-day events in 2023 and Canada and Cincinnati in 2025, a recalibration of the calendar is required. “What is the plan to support 250 when the weeks will be stretched out by 1000?” Tsitsipas asked.
“Good question,” Gaudenzi said. “We don’t have a plan now to reduce the number to 250. We think they are very important. We will reschedule them and we will also likely have strong Challengers in the second week of the Masters for those who lose early to give the players work.”
Gaudenzi and Tsitsipas also spoke of the significant growth potential of the media. Compared to other sports, tennis is disproportionately reliant on ticket sales, where growth is limited due to the size of the stadium. The largest and most scalable growth opportunity is in media and data, including producing short, off-court, non-live content that appeals to younger audiences and casual fans. Tennis underperforms in these areas relative to other sports.
“How about content and social exposure for athletes?” Tsitsipas asked the president.
“As you know, we are now working on the Netflix documentary all together. Our research shows that, right now, live sports take up about 50 percent of fans’ time. Non-live content, in addition to tennis matches, becomes more and more important to participate. Especially the younger generations.
“That’s why I think having players and tournaments sharing success will also give players a different mindset. So guys like you who contribute so well to our sport, with everything you do on and off the pitch, you will actually contribute to more revenue, ticket sales, sponsorship, etc. and they will get a direct benefit from that.”
“I love that idea,” Tsistipas said. “Finding solutions for a better future.”
OneVision includes two phases. Phase One, which has been approved by the ATP Board, is focused on aligning the interests of all tournaments and players and enhancing the Tour’s premium product.
Phase Two, in collaboration with the WTA, ITF and all four Grand Slams, will focus on a new unified governance for the sport and unlocking the best fan experience.