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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tennis: Too Much of a Good Thing?

ANTWERP, Belgium -- About 100 tournaments a year are vying for attention. German couch potatoes can watch some nine hours of tennis a day. Scheduling is so tight that the best players drop some of the finest events.


The glut is diluting the sport, and fans, furtively searching for guidance from compelling personalities and rivalries, are lost in the maze.


With all the television tennis around, ratings for majors like Wimbledon and the U.S. Open are down in the United States and the equipment industry is going through rough times.


The ATP Tour opened its season-ending World Championship in Frankfurt on Tuesday with the knowledge that "we certainly have challenges," said Tim Mayotte, who is on the ATP Tour Board of Directors.


But do not start messing with the fundamentals of the game, says the Association of Tennis Professionals. The age-old rectangle, that some critics say has failed to grow up with those 30-aces-a-match wonders and high-tech rackets, is not the core of the problem.


The ATP hopes the European Community Championship, which finished here Sunday with Pete Sampras retaining his title, will be part of the solution.


The ECC will become a Super Nine tournament next year, an attempt of the ATP to put some focus in the calendar.


With the current drone of weekly events, "the fans are seeing so much tennis, they are not sure what match means what," said Mayotte.


Together with the four Grand Slam tournaments, the nine events -- further including the Italian, German, Canadian and Monte Carlo Open, Indian Wells, Key Biscayne, Cincinnati and Paris indoor -- must provide the peaks in the forthcoming seasons. "The Super Nine is the cornerstone" of all future planning, said Mayotte. The top 10 players must take part in eight of the nine events, which will have about $2 million in prize money and a slew of ranking points on offer.


And with tennis more and more part of the entertainment industry, television should reflect the importance of such tournaments, at the expense of others.


Last year, 3,200 hours of tennis were broadcast in Germany, a prime market for tennis. ATP CEO Mark Miles called the exposure "a prime example of how tennis is not properly presented."


Even players would like to see the calendar revamped to give them some more time to recover from big events.


Now, Sampras and Andre Agassi have all but slammed the door on the Davis Cup for next year, with the world's No. 1 calling the scheduling "impossible," because he would have to be playing in the United States five days after the Australian Open final.


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U.S. and French Open champion Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, unbeaten in 21 straight matches during a sweep of four tournaments, succumbed to Julie Halard in the first round of the Virginia Slims Championships in New York.


Halard's 6-2, 1-6, 7-6 (6-2) win Monday derailed Sanchez Vicario's bid to overtake Steffi Graf for the No. 1 ranking and opened a golden opportunity for retiring Martina Navratilova, playing in her last tournament. Navratilova faced a tough challenge in her first-round match Tuesday night against Gabriela Sabatini.