Masters finalists Stefanos Tsitsipas and Dominic Thiem are missing because Greece and Austria did not qualify for the final. Only Roger Federer is absent voluntarily from the top ten – although Switzerland is not qualified either, Federer's promise would certainly have given him a wildcard – and Alexander Zverev, who prefers an exhibition tour through South America.
"One year ago everyone said there's no one coming in. Now numbers 1 and 2 are here, that's not bad," says Rene Stammbach, President of Swiss Tennis and ITF Vice President. "Over 100,000 tickets have been sold in advance and the layout is fantastic." In May, the Masters 1000 and Premium Men's and Women's Championships will be held in Caja Magica and the adjacent courts.
A wealth of new competitions
Stammbach is not really satisfied with the current situation. The tennis world is in turmoil not only because of the changes in the Davis Cup. There is a real power struggle for dates and tournaments. Three years ago, the Laver Cup – a competition between Europe and the rest of the world – was launched. Leading are the agency Team8 and Tennis Australia, founded by Roger Federer and his manager Tony Godsick. Just five and a half weeks after the Davis Cup, the ATP Cup is another new team event in Australia.
If that's not already too much tennis, you'll get a real glimpse of Exhibitions to choose from. During the Swiss Indoors Nadal and Djokovic played in the Kazakh capital Nursultan. This week, Federer and Zverev, who is new to Team8, are doing a real slog through South America with five games in six days in five different countries, and they will play in China at the end of December. As early as mid-December, Stan Wawrinka, Daniil Medvedev, David Goffin and Fabio Fognini will be attending an exhibition in Saudi Arabia. And in the week after the Australian Open in Cape Town, there will also be "Match in Africa" with Nadal for Federer's Foundation.
A "victim" of success
For Stammbach the accumulation of appointments is a big nuisance. "I said that half an year ago in an interview: we give a miserable picture as a sport." Tennis is a "victim" of his success. Everyone still wants to profit from the fact that the golden generation still plays with the crowd pullers Federer and Nadal. "Tennis is a good product," stresses Stammbach. "But we should not fight among ourselves, we are in competition with football, Netflix or the new sports." He regrets that the individual "players" do not talk to each other.
Chris Kermode, the outgoing ATP president, said last week in London that he was convinced that the deadline shortage would resolve on its own. And he said he also talked to the ITF. Stammbach sees this a little differently. It is true that Kermode met in Rome with the ITF representatives. "That was only a few minutes, no serious discussions."
Federer as a savior?
Stammbach has been elected Vice President of the ITF for four more years. He hopes that until then there will be an "organizational process" to bring order to the data sprawl. "If sensible people sit together and find a solution, that should be possible." At the moment, there is only one person who could bring everyone involved together: Roger Federer. "Just because he's a party too." Whether he wants to, is another matter.
The ITF thinks long-term, in generation, not in ten-year cycles. That's why they have also signed a 25-year contract for the Davis Cup Final. Stammbach is not worried about the future of tennis. Forty years ago, people worried about the future after Borg or McEnroe, then they thought, after Agassi and Sampras come a crisis. "There will continue to be icons that play tennis." The question is which of the new events, which are currently springing up like mushrooms, will survive if the draft horses Federer and Nadal do not play anymore.