Guarantees should be paid only if a player reaches the quarterfinals. He doesn't make it, he doesn't get the money. (Guarantees are not such a problem on the women's tour because, with fewer tournaments, tournament directors don't have to compete for the top players.)
Some players don't bother to tank, they just don't show up. A growing problem among both men and women is 11th-hour withdrawals. It seems that hardly a week goes by when a leading player doesn't pull out of an upcoming tournament for a suspect medical reason. On the men's tour the number of withdrawals due to injury in this noncontact sport rose from 74 in 1989 to an amazing 194 in '93 and 52 in the first quarter of '94. Last year the women's tour suffered a record 61 injuries and withdrawals from tournaments—32 by Top 10 players. "They don't care," Navratilova says of the players in general. "They reap all the benefits and try to get away with doing as little as possible."
When King suggested in a year-end players' meeting that they refuse a 5% prize-money increase as a gesture of good faith to their sponsors and tournament directors, she was met with silence. They took the money. It may cost them.
7) Institute pro-ams at every tour stop.
Is it any wonder that tennis is suffering in the marketplace while golf is thriving? Most golfers can't even move the needle or) the charisma meter. But they work every day at promoting their sport for their corporate sponsors. Participation in pro-ams is required on the PGA Tour. Refusal is considered "conduct unbecoming a professional golfer" and is subject to discipline. On the Senior tour, players who do not play in the pro-am are not allowed to enter that week's event.
It would behoove tennis players to take a more businesslike approach to their sport, because they could be facing a pay cut. While the ATP is wealthy at the moment, it is facing a big loss in 1996, when its television-rights deal with German TV expires. This agreement accounts for 75% of the ATP's worldwide TV income. The Germans won't renew at anywhere close to the current rate because of plummeting ratings caused by market clutter and viewer fatigue. The ATP is looking for a new revenue stream.
The WTA is facing a more immediate crisis. It must find a new title sponsor to replace Kraft, which pulled out of tennis at the end of last year because it had grown tired of the sport's political and financial wrangling and because it was not convinced that pouring money into tennis helped sell a single slice of Velveeta. Seven women's tournaments are without sponsorship for 1995. In short, the women could be playing a much smaller, poorer tour in the near future.
Meanwhile, corporate sponsors cite the difficulty of getting players of note to show up for a promotional effort or a cocktail party—even though the players know, as manager Ion Tiriac says, "that they get those millions of dollars not only for playing a few tennis matches but also for being available to the public." At the Virginia Slims of Philadelphia, tournament director Barbara Perry holds a meet-the-players party in the lobby of the players' hotel because the only way she can get the top women to come is by collaring them on their way out to dinner.
"Forget asking a player to do anything," says Norman Salik, a vice president of Bausch & Lomb, which helps sponsor six tournaments on the men's and women's tours. Salik cites endorsement deals with Agassi and Lendl that required them to make only one appearance—which they skipped. Bausch & Lomb will reevaluate its commitment to tennis when its contracts with the tours expire over the next two years.
8) If a baseball player can hit a 95-mph fastball in front of 80,000 screaming people, then why does a tennis player need total silence? Let there be noise.