Despite several changes that have eased the schedule of the top players in recent years, the length of season debate has reared its ugly head again.
The players will meet in Shanghai next week with a view to establishing a new union and strike action has been mentioned as a possibility.
A functioning players’ union will certainly improve their chances of effecting change but even if they can speak in a single voice, it will simply be one of many.
One potential impediment to unity is the fact that the players themselves are already represented by various, powerful management agencies.
Most people are aware of IMG’s presence in the sport and while that agency undoubtedly exerts a huge influence, it is far from the only power house.
So who exactly represents the players and what other controlling interests in the sport do they have?
Here’s a general overview of some of the major players in tennis today:
Aka International Management Group. Industry giant based in New York.
Players – Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Ryan Harrison, Kei Nishikori, Bernard Tomic, James Blake.
Other tennis interests:
In their own words, “IMG owns, manages or represents many of the world’s leading tennis tournaments,” though it’s not clear from their website which applies to what tournament.
Much of the group’s power lies in its control of television rights, with clients including Wimbledon and the Australian Open.
However, IMG’s incestuous relationship with the sport is best illustrated by the fact that two of its executives, Gavin Forbes and David Edges, sit on the ATP Board of Directors.
Ease of access to some of the stars of the future is secured by involvement with the recently-rebranded “IMG Bollettieri Academy”.
The sports division of the French based conglomerate. Its influence outside France grew massively when it acquired the BEST agency in 2009.
Players – Gael Monfils, Mardy Fish, Andy Roddick, Stanislas Wawrinka, Richard Gasquet, John Isner, Sam Querrey, Bob and Mike Bryan, Milos Raonic, Fernando Gonzalez, Tommy Haas, Jose Acasuso, Thiemo De Bakker, Jeremy Chardy, Andrey Golubev, Denis Istomin, Daniel Nestor, Federico Gil, Leonardo Mayer, Vasek Pospisil, Peter Polansky, Samuel Groth, Amer Delic, Uladzimir Ignatik, Josselin Ouanna, Lukas Lacko, Ryan Sweeting, Tsung-Hua Yang, Andre Sa, Denis Kudla, Tim Smyczek, Martin Klizan, Christian Lindell, Guilherme Clezar, Agustin Velotti, Filip Peliwo, James Duckworth, Luke Bambridge and several other promising juniors.
Other tennis interests:
The Lagardére academy in Paris is synonymous with French tennis, virtually every top French pro having developed his game there.
It also owns a 30% stake in the Saddlebrook Academy in Florida.
The Lagardére group owns the ATP tournaments in Washington, Bastad and Stockholm while controlling the media rights to the US Open, Winston Salem, Atlanta, San Jose and Newport.
The marketing wing of the Interpublic Group, based in Virginia.
Players – Robin Soderling, Kevin Anderson, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Ernests Gulbis, Tommy Robredo, Grigor Dimitrov, Juan-Ignacio Chela, Robby Ginepri, Daniel Gimeno Traver, Henri Kontinen, Chris Guccione, Javier Marti, Devin Britton, Gianni Mina, Jerzy Janowicz, Julien Obry, Mark Verryth, Tiago Fernandes, Marton Fucsowics, Oliver Golding, Jerome Inzerillo and a whole host of other junior players as well as former leading pros Richard Krajicek, Gustavo Kuerten and Michael Chang.
Other tennis interests:
In their own words, “Octagon owns, manages, and consults on more professional tennis tournament (sic) than any other firm in the world.”
Its website doesn’t make clear which role it serves for particular events but those listed include Acapulco, Costa Do Sauipe, Cincinnati, Kitzbuhel, Rotterdam, Rosmalen, Santiago and Valencia.
The sporting arm of the Creative Artists Agency, a partner of Simon Fuller’s 19 Entertainment.
Players – Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Fernando, Verdasco, Mikhail Youzhny, Radek Stepanek, Ivo Karlovic , Ivan Ljubicic and Jack Sock.
Top Seed – agency established by former pro Corrado Tschabuschnig.
Players – Viktor Troicki, Aleksandr Dolgopolov, Potito Starace, Igor Kunitsyn, Marcel Granollers, Albert Ramos, Alessio Di Mauro, Marco Chiudinelli.
Top Seed also has a partnership with Group Estess, a company that manages nine academies across Europe.
Ugo Colombini – independent Italian agent and former ATP pro who represents Juan Martin Del Potro, Victor Hanescu, Juan Monaco and Gilles Muller.
Ace Group International – Agency headed by Andy Murray’s former manager Patricio Apey. Murray left the company when his deal expired in 2008.
The group’s website doesn’t specify which players are currently on its books but those it has “represented or negotiated contracts on behalf of” include Gilles Simon, Janko Tipsarevic, Robin Haase, Olivier Rochus and Evgeny Korolev.
The ACE Group also runs the pre-Wimbledon exhibition at Boodles.
ChampEvents – the company owned by Thomas Muster’s former coach Ronnie Leitgeb, which now manages Jurgen Melzer and Nikolay Davydenko.
B1PR – Agency established by Nadal and Djokovic PR man Benito-Perez Barbadillo.
Fabio Fognini and Andreas Seppi are other clients.
Next Generation – A German agency that represents Philipp Kohlschreiber, Simon Greul, Christopher Kas.
TK Plus – Czech firm that manages Tomas Berdych.
360 Management – the company of ex-pro Morgan Menahem that counts Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Peter Luczak among its clients.
So there you have it. Several top players are unaccounted for which just goes to show that dicking around on Google will only get you so far.
Anyway, the players may form a union next week and attempt to stick it to “the authorities” but the dynamics going on behind the scenes in any future negotiations will be anything but straight-forward.
If you’re waiting for sweeping changes to the schedule and organisational structure of the sport you’d be be best advised not to hold your breath.