In an exclusive interview with Tennis World USA, the Rolex Shanghai Masters Tournament Director Michael Luevano revealed why the Chinese event, Madrid and Rome won't get upgraded to Super Masters category in 2019. At some point last year it seemed that the goal was achieved, then Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic opposed to the change.
'It's very frustrating', Luevano admitted. 'We (Shanghai, Madrid and Rome) believe that the three of us want to lead the way in the Masters' events (and) we must get bigger. It's good for tennis, the players and the sport.
But I think the last player council, because of the personalities and there are other issues that are connected which also impact the type of decision. From what we understand, there was a great deal of players for Shanghai upgrading to a 10 or 11-day event.' Were Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal also interested? 'Yeah, absolutely', Luevano confirmed.
'I also spoke to Rafa, he was in support, I spoke to all of the players' council except for Novak or Andy last year, who were not there. They did not play last year, so I did not speak to them personally but I spoke to every player's council member who was at the tournament and they all were very supportive.
I think the real issue is that the current climate of players is that there is too many commitments, they don't want to add more commitments to their schedule, even if it's one or two days, even if it's one or two more matches.
We are hopeful that with the new player's council and we will try again at the US Open where it will be re-discussed and then maybe even decided for a potential upgrade. Because we are completely flexible with our calendar.
We were even willing to start on a Sunday and finish on a Wednesday for Shanghai. I can't speak for Madrid or Rome, that's a very different story, but for Shanghai, we are ready to adjust our calendar, we are ready to get our prize money at $10 million.
We just want to grow, we just want to grow the sports in China and in Asia. I just hope that this new player's council will look favourably upon our proposal. We have the facilities. But even if they don't, we will keep trying every year to get bigger, because it's our responsibility to the country of China, and to the sport and to the ATP Tour.' On the subject of crowd attendance, Luevano added, 'This year's (2017) attendance was about 106,000 over the seven days.
We know our history as a Masters event, it's only 10 years. In tennis itself, in Shanghai, we are pretty much less than 20 years. There is a natural period of growth. You will have to remember tennis is not a core sport here, in Asia.
You have to allow for a certain period to develop the audience, the fans. There are no local players. In Indian Wells, Madrid, Rome or Madrid, you have superstars from the country, where the tournament is being played. This has always been a challenge and time is the only thing that can solve that.
At any given time that our players are here, we will have 1,000 people watching them practice and not watching them on the stadium courts. So people are actually at the tournament but not sitting watching the stadium courts.
So I think we address it two ways. One is that time is going to solve this. And two, we are aggressively changing our ticketing policy, (through) extensive marketing policies, much more digital programs, new roads that have opened up that make it much easier to get to the stadium from the city, much quicker.
So we are hopeful that we will increase the attendance and our goal is to be around 150,000 by the end of next year.' ALSO READ: David Ferrer: 'It will be my last US Open. Facing Rafael Nadal is a gift'