ATP Becoming a Global Phenomenon
In the most recent ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals — men’s tennis) rankings update on the 19th October, there are 40 different nations represented in the top 100, the most ever recorded on the tour.
The number has increased drastically since 1985, where players from 24 different nations were ranked inside the bracket. In 1995 the number rose to 30, while in 2005 there were 29 nations represented.
The fact that almost one in every two players is from a different nation is astounding, considering that thirty years ago there was only one in every four.
Globalisation has assisted the ATP in promoting it’s brand to countries that would not have been considered tennis nations in the past, such as the Dominican Republic, Cyprus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, India and China.
Within the top 100, Spain lead all comers with 14 players, however it is the players from nations that are not known for their sport, or even ones where tennis is not a major sport that have helped to promote tennis in their specific countries or regions.
Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis has been a prime example of an ambassador for his nation and sport. He has become an international figure for Cyprus, promoting the country throughout the globe. His run to the 2006 Australian Open final has given him a lofty status in the tennis world and he has been able to take advantage of this.
The former world number 8 has helped tennis to become one of the most popular sports in the country that has never seen it as an extremely fascinating sport. Tennis courts are now found in most schools and villages according to Cyprus.com, and the sport’s growth in the nation was demonstrated when Baghdatis was named as the Cypriot flag bearer at the 2012 London Olympics.
The top players in the game are also helping to promote the sport, with identities such as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal hosting various charity events in many countries around the world, along with the work that they do with the less fortunate. Federer, for example, has his own charity that specialises in the education of children in Africa and in his home nation of Switzerland. The foundation, and Federer himself, has helped to promote tennis as well as education in these regions.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion has hosted charity events in South Africa, South America and also playing fundraising exhibitions with Nadal in Europe. In a combination with social media and television rights, the promotions of these events and foundations have helped the ATP to increase its number of professional and lower grade tournaments in these areas.
Along with these charity events, there are tournaments played in 31 countries around the world, not to mention the countless lower grade Challenger and ITF Futures tournaments that are spread out across the globe. In these lower grade tournaments, the lower ranked players attempt to bolster their rankings by acquiring points in these events. Some countries may have more than five of these events throughout the year, which is a bonus if it does not host a tour level event.
This has helped to increase the number of players from differing regions, with a large influx of current top 100 players now coming from South/Central America other than Argentina, while African tennis is also on the rise with South African Kevin Anderson rising into the top 10, and Malek Jasiri of Tunisia having quite a successful year.
Asia is also becoming a formidable market on the ATP circuit, with the Asian swing in October/November formed officially in 2009. It has become a significant part of the tour with the Shanghai Masters 1000 tournament the central event in the small portion of the calendar.
The fans throughout Asia are also embracing the game, with the atmosphere in the crowds in tournaments such as Bangkok, Shanghai, Tokyo and Beijing all increasing on previous years.
The crowd atmosphere in Asia is also a reason why the sport is growing so fast, the players love playing in front of a vibrant crowd that gets involved as a match goes on. A crowd adds dimension to a tournament, and if there is no negative behaviour, it promotes the city or tournament in a very poitive manner.
The amount of players from Asia that are beginning to break through on the tour is rising as well, with Japan’s Kei Nishikori, South Korea’s child prodigy Hyeon Chung and Chinese Taipei’s Yen-Hsun Lu all performing solidly and encouraging fans to attend tennis tournaments, whether they be small or large.
The Sub-Continent and Central Asia are also being represented within the top 100, with Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin featuring prominently on the tour over recent years, along with Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin. India has also become a more prominent tennis nation as well, with the country featuring in the Davis Cup World Group in the late 2000’s. India has an influx of doubles greatness, as pairs legend Leander Paes hails from the country, along with the big serving Rohan Bopanna.
It goes to show that Eastern Asia is not the only area within the continent that is rising in the tennis world, with Southern and Western Asia are becoming established regions within the ATP community.
On upstart’s “Break Point Podcast”, radio personality Brett Phillips said, “The television audience coming out of Asia is phenomenal,”
“A lot of broadcasters are coming out to send live pictures back to their respective countries, its phenomenal the amount of money that comes into the ATP.”
It goes to show that the ATP is spreading fast, and soon enough, more than 50 nations will be represented within the top 100, with strong markets opening up in China, India and Central America. The ATP is enjoying a prosperous period in its existence, hopefully this can be sustained and the quality of tennis grows in decades to come.
BY VAL FEBBO