PARIS (AP) – As discussions continue on whether the U.S. Open or French Open can even be held later this year, a new digitally friendly tennis tournament begins Saturday in the south of France with four players ranked in the top 10.
Co-founder Patrick Mouratoglou hopes that the Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS), whose first edition features ATP Finals winner Stefanos Tsitsipas, and US Open semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini, can change the way tennis is perceived by giving a younger audience access to players’ raw feelings.
“I would like the fans to have better access to the emotions of the players, especially on the field where the code of conduct is a major obstacle to this,” Mouratoglou said. “UTS aims to bring in a new, younger and more committed generation of fans to develop their fanbase community.”
Players compete every weekend for five weeks in a round-robin format, their matches broadcast on a live platform, with multiple screens, cameras and speakers capturing every view and sound, according to the organizers.
And that’s the whole point: to give viewers unprecedented access to everything that happens in a game. Ramping up to the rawness, rather than filtering it.
Mouratoglou, who is also the coach of Grand Slam winner Serena Williams, founded the UTS with Australian player Alexei Popyrin, who also plays.
They want to change the way tennis is experienced through a faster format with more interaction, where on-court coaching is encouraged rather than frowned upon.
” (Players) will interact in real time with their fans, share conversations with each other and coaches and move more freely on the court,” UTS said. “The spectators play a role in what is happening; they interact with players and can ask questions about changes, see what goes on behind the scenes of players’ lives, and hear every word exchanged between coaches and players.
This could well make Benoit Paire a global star of e-commerce.
The 30-year-old Frenchman, ranked number 22, is known as much for his explosive temperament and his diatribes on the court – often directed at himself – as for his erratic but sometimes ingenious racing game.
The event is held at the Mouratoglou Academy near Antibes on the sunny French Riviera. Due to coronavirus restrictions no ventilators are allowed on site. A security protocol with social distance and a limited number of staff has been established.
10th-ranked David Goffin is also playing and the latest member of the Top 10 will be announced this week. The other enscries are: Felix Auger-Aliassime, ranked 20th; No. 50 Richard Gasquet; No 58 Lucas Pouille; and No. 239 Dustin Brown.
Auger-Aliassime is the youngest at the age of 19 and is exactly half as old as 20 times Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, with whom he shares an August 8.
Brown, who beat 19-time major winner Rafael Nadal in the second round at Wimbledon five years ago, is the oldest player at 35.
Several players live in Monaco, which makes access convenient to the tournament given that it is only 30 miles (about 50 kilometers) along the coast.
The tournament is not part of the ATP circuit and the format and rules have not yet been officially announced, but the games themselves are likely to be shorter.
The prize money depends on a player’s ranking and performance – a winner receives 70% and the loser 30%. Players also receive a portion of advertising and broadcast revenue, UTS said on its website.
Tsitsipas, 21, is a flamboyant and emotionally expressive player who appeals to a younger audience, but is also a return to a bygone era when players like John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg wore headbands.
The long-time Greek player, who reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open last year and has five career titles, has been a member of Mouratoglou’s academy since 2015.
“In 2017, as the world’s number 203, I received a wild card in the Sophia Antipolis Challenger, held at the academy,” Tsitsipas said. “Three years later, I am grateful for how far I have come.”
Berrettini climbed the rankings last year thanks to a good run at the US Open, where he led a tiebreaker in the first set 4-0 against Nadal – the eventual champion – in the semi-finals.
The 24-year-old Italian is looking forward to returning to the court after playing just two competitive matches this year, both at the Australian Open – where he lost in the second round to Tennys Sandgren.
“After a period of endless inactivity, I’m really hungry to compete,” Berrettini said.
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