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The Tennis Business Discussion Forum Archive

[tennisbiz] about wild-cards ...

From: Paul Fein <>
Date: Wed 15 May 2002 15:57:44 EDT

<x-charset UTF-8>Hello Everyone,

     Phil Azar's inquiry is thoughtful and fair because the current wild
card policy is unfair and antiquated.

     However, I simply feel that the "entire concept" of wild cards is
unfair. I would like to see wild cards abolished along with the qualifying
event at Grand Slam tournaments.

     Why? Because the top 128 ranked players have clearly earned the right
to those top 128 places in the draw based on their hard-earned and
substantial record during the previous 52 weeks. Indeed, players between 75
and 130 frequently upset top 50 and even top 20 players, when given the
chance. At the recent Italian Open, for example, 11 of the top 16 seeds
were beaten in the first TWO rounds.

     There is also no reason why a qualifier ranked No. 300 should take the
place of a player ranked No. 115 simply because he outplayed the No. 115
player in ONE qualifying event. That is unfair because the No. 115 player
earned that Grand Slam main draw spot with his results over a 52-week period.

     As for non-Grand Slam turnaments, a strong case can be made that two
wild cards be used (if need be) for late-entry top 10 or even top 20 players
only. It is good for those high-ranked players, but far more important,
especially good for the tournaments because they rely heavily on "name"

     I wrote the following letter in 2001. It appeared in Tennis Week. I
posed it in question form, although it is clear where I stand.

     I welcome your informed opinions and analyses.

Paul Fein

     In his letter appearing in the April 24 Tennis Week, William Washington
"CUSTA, ATP and WTA have allowed pro tennis to become monopolized by
marketing agencies (IMG, SFX, Octagon, etc.), and they have closed the door
to pro tennis for athletes of color through the wild card process. We are
not allowed to enter certain tournaments."
     What is the definition of "wild card"? And why -- and to whom -- is a
wild card granted?
     According to the 1997 edition of Bud Collins' Tennis Encyclopedia, a
wild card is: "A gift of admission to a tournament main draw from the
tournament manager to a player who wouldn't otherwise be accepted. A pre-
determined number of slots in a draw are reserved for wild cards. A wild
card may be granted for a variety of reasons. It may go to a once-prominent
name (usually a gate attraction) whose computer ranking doesn't warrant
admission, or to a star who decides to enter at the last minute. Or to a
local attraction, or perhaps as a favor to a player who has helped the
tournament in the past, or is on the way up. A player is limited in the
number of wild cards permitted. Under ATP rules, however, a player over who
has won at least one major may accept unlimited wild cards. Wild cards are
also issued for qualifying tournaments."
     Junior and college champions also receive wild cards, and wild cards at
Grand Slam tournaments are routinely, but not always, given to players from
the host nation.
     With that background in mind, I have several questions for Tennis
Week's knowledgeable and concerned readers. Your informed answers will shed
further light on the wild card issue.

     1. Is there any evidence of a conspiracy involving tennis associations,
marketing agencies and tournament directors to "close the door to pro tennis
for athletes of color through the wild card process" or any other means?

     2. Have wild cards ever been granted on the basis of race, religion,
social class or economic disadvantage? Could they be granted, morally or
legally, on any of these bases? If so, should they be granted?

     3. Are wild cards so crucial in terms of gaining prize money, ranking
points and potential (confidence-building) wins that their distribution, or
lack thereof, to players can virtually make or break pro careers, as Mr.
Washington claims?

     4. Conversely, should wild cards be abolished because they deprive
world-class players, typically ranked between No. 60 and No. 120, of their
hard-earned and rightful places in the main draw? If so, should wild cards
(excluding those for late-entering stars) be restricted to spots in the
qualifying event where players would still have to prove their merit -- by
winning matches -- to gain the main draw?

     5. Why didn't the late Arthur Ashe, who powerfully spoke out and wrote
about tennis and race issues, have an opinion about wild cards? And if the
unfair allocation of wild cards promotes racial discrimination, why haven't
leading Open Era black players (plus black tournament directors,
administrators and coaches), such as Zina Garrison, Lori McNeil, Leslie
Allen, Katrina Adams, Alexandra Stevenson, Venus and Serena Williams,
MaliVai Washington, Rodney HarMon Bryan Shelton, Nduka Odizor, Ronald
Agenor and Yannick Noah, railed against the odious practice?

     6. Are tournament directors required to provide a written rationale for
each wild card they issue? And, if not, should they be required to do that?
(The Southern California Tennis Association Pro Tournament "Wild Card"
Considerations policy lists three general criteria: marquee attractions,
veteran players who have often supported the tournament, and outstanding
young American players, predominantly from Southern California.)

     7. Should the career wild card records of lower-ranked (viz. outside
the top 100), wild-carded players who rarely win first-round main draw
matches be a factor in determining whether they continue to receive wild
cards throughout their pro careers?

     Your answers to these (and perhaps other) questions will help evaluate
how fair wild cards are and even whether pro tournaments should discontinue
or diminish this longtime practice.

Paul Fein

Received on Fri May 17 2002 - 07:41:50 CDT

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