No more round Robin for ATP

Updated: 2007-03-22 08:57
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The ATP men's tennis tour has ended its controversial flirtation with a round-robin system at some of its tournaments, it announced on Wednesday.

The system had come in for some heavy criticism, including world number one Roger Federer after he won in Dubai earlier this month, though, that was a straight knockout tournament.

The Swiss was complaining about the controversy which developed on March 1 at the Las Vegas ATP tournament after James Blake was wrongly given a place in the quarter-finals and ATP chief Etienne de Villiers apologized for mistakenly intervening.

However the sudden u-turn over abandoning the round robin system will be an embarrassment for de Villiers.

"Remaining events who had volunteered for the round-robin format will revert to knock-out," an ATP statement said.

"The ATP had begun testing several versions of the format at lower level events this year following initial research that indicated it could be a measure to provide significant growth to the game.

"The research showed it was popular among casual fans.

"However, the carefully monitored testing at the five test case events this year raised a number of concerns and weaknesses that were not apparent from desk research.

"Firstly, the 32 hybrid format caused confusion; second, resolving who would progress from the round robin stage with three-men groups was often complicated; and third, sections of the media had difficulty in reporting round-robin and consequently fans not at the event had difficulty in following early results.

"Finally, and significantly, no format or rule could address the overwhelming player concern that their destiny was not in their own hands as a result of dead matches or withdrawals."

Federer predicted back on March 3 the round-robin system which led to the confusion and to the reinstatement of Evgeny Korolev for Blake in San Diego would be abandoned by the end of this year.

"Everyone knows that I was against it in the first place," he said. "It's very disappointing that things like this have to happen before you realize that actually this system was not going to work.

"And I have nothing against Etienne de Villiers because he is trying his best.

"All I hope is that he doesn't change the integrity of the game.

"And I've always said you have to keep tennis the way it is and not try to change and mix it up and try too many things at the same time. And now he's burned his hand on this that's for sure.

"I doubt that it is going to happen next year - the round-robin system."

The ATP introduced the round robin experiment partly so that spectators should be certain of seeing big name players at least once, thus helping to promote the sport.

But it has also attracted criticism for being hard on the lesser players, who it was felt would not get full value for causing an upset.