The first phase of the ATP’s new OneVision plan is the opening step in plans to improve the tour’s financial structure and overall organization. getty images
Producers from Box To Box Films asked the ATP Tour if they could shoot one of the tour’s board meetings this past spring for an upcoming Netflix tennis documentary. Given that it was deep into negotiations over the passing of the OneVision strategic plan that could significantly alter the tour’s future, the ATP politely declined the request.
“It probably would have been highly entertaining,” ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said, laughing. “But, please, something easier, something less controversial.”
The first phase of Gaudenzi’s new plan for the ATP Tour was debated during those meetings, and ultimately approved by a virtual Zoom call vote during the second week of Roland-Garros in May, a rare victory for the tour chairman. His two years in charge have been pockmarked by Australian wildfires, a global pandemic and war in Ukraine, not to mention a significant player revolt culminating in the Professional Tennis Players Association. So, the Italian could be forgiven for a moment of self-congratulation as Phase 1 was confirmed to go into effect for the 2023 season.
“I really believed it was always going to happen because it made so much sense. It was like, ‘they can’t not do it,’” Gaudenzi told Sports Business Journal. “I know it might sound a bit arrogant, but that also made me be extremely persistent. We had massive resistance from all sides.”
The 250s came out better than originally expected, but their future is still unclear
Winston-Salem Open Tournament Director Jeff Ryan called the Phase 1 process “very Masters 1000-centric,” but acknowledged that’s to be expected given the nine biggest ATP Tour tournaments’ importance to the tour. The idea to put some 250s, the tour’s third level of tournament, in the second week of Masters 1000 tournaments — an initial part of the Strategic Plan that was highly unpopular — was canned, but the tour’s smallest tournaments didn’t get the category protection they sought.
ATP’s OneVision: Phase 1 key aspects
Five ATP Masters 1000 tournaments expanded to 12-day events, including the Western & Southern Open, beginning in 2025. That leads to bigger draw sizes and more entertainment for fans and broadcasters; more opportunity and recuperation days for players; and more top players available on tournaments’ opening weekends.
Thirty-year category protection for ATP Masters 1000 tournaments and 15-year category protection for ATP 500s, which will lead to stability and investment. Still no category protection for 250s. The newly created Standards Committee, which includes player representatives, will conduct transparent evaluations of tournaments; tournaments can be fined for not meeting standards.
Prize money boost
A new 50-50 profit sharing system for when tournaments’ net income tops base prize money.
All ATP 500s and 250s agreed to pool their international media rights into ATP Media (joining the Masters 1000s) in exchange for an undisclosed ownership stake. And ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi wants to create one CRM for the entire tour, which will help tournaments share fan data and reduce costs for smaller events.
The ATP board of directors increased from seven to nine representatives, with four player and tournament reps each, plus Gaudenzi. Player reps come from geographic regions and include an at-large, while the tournament reps no longer are geographically based, but instead represent tournament categories (two Masters 1000, one ATP 500, one ATP 250). New checks and balances address conflicts of interest within the ATP board — individuals are ineligible to serve if the entities they are affiliated with 1) directly or indirectly serve the same function as the ATP or contrary to the interest of the sport, 2) have an active or material business relationship with the ATP or its affiliates, or 3) already have a seat on the board.
The 250s’ revenue streams get a boost from aggregated media and data rights, and equity stakes in ATP Media — ATP Media just paid out a $6 million dividend to each of its current shareholders, the nine Masters 1000s and the tour — which the 250s (as well as the 500s) begin receiving at the end of 2023. They also will receive revenue from Tennis Data Innovations, which the tour launched in 2021 to manage the tour’s data and streaming rights (data and streaming rights produced $31.67 million for the ATP in 2019, according to the tour’s financial results).
“I see some really good wins,” said Ryan. “These are all things you would want as a business owner.”
The 2023 calendar includes 11 weeks (out of 47) with three simultaneous events, many of which were 250s. Asked if the number of 250s (36 currently) could be reduced in the coming years, Bronwyn Greer, tournament director for the Fayez Sarofim and Co. U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championship, said, “All the 250s that have been on the calendar remain on the calendar for ’23. When it comes to ’24, ’25, ’26, there are ideas and suggestions but there is nothing set for the 250s as far as coming on and off the calendar.”
The players got some wins, too
A requirement for tournaments to fully share their finances, banning conflicts of interest on the board of directors, and the formation of a tournament standards committee are all responses to players’ desires. And a new prize money formula that splits profits 50-50 between players and tournaments when tournaments’ income tops base prize money doesn’t hurt either. This is expected to increase Masters 1000 tournaments’ prize money 35% from 2022 to 2025, the ATP said. How these changes will affect the future of the Novak Djokovic-led PTPA is unclear and worth watching.
Phase 2 will be harder. Much harder
The next phase of Gaudenzi’s plan — to combine commercial forces and media rights with the Grand Slams, WTA and ITF, long-standing separate entities that have rarely ever worked together — is considerably more ambitious. In Phase 1 negotiations, Gaudenzi convinced the Masters 1000s to give up equity stakes to the 500s and 250s in part because the overall pie would increase with all the tournaments included in the ATP’s media rights pools; he’ll likely revisit that tack during talks with the six peer organizations, which are already happening virtually on a regular basis.