Bring on the music, says Kuznetsova

Updated: October 3, 2006, 9:04 PM ET
Reuters

By Barry Wood

STUTTGART, Oct 4 - The changes sweeping through women's tennis are music to the ears of world number four Svetlana Kuznetsova.

While other top players are cautious about plans to jazz up tournaments for spectators and television viewers, former U.S. Open champion Kuznetsova is right behind the innovations.

"I think it's very important to bring changes to the women's game, to bring more fans to the courts. I think we should try more new things," said Kuznetsova at the Stuttgart Grand Prix, where she is seeded second.

Some players are wary about being interviewed before they walk on court and having music playing during changeovers but the Russian believes they should make a sacrifice for the good of the game.

"I know some players are distracted by having an interview before the match but people like it and this (playing music) is something else they can do for the fans," she told reporters.

"I feel very strongly about that. Other sports have grown -- football, basketball, hockey -- and if we want to bring tennis to the same level or higher we also have to add other things."

In a growing debate about the changes, world number one Amelie Mauresmo has opposed the idea of allowing players to consult their coaches on court during set breaks, a system that is being used in Stuttgart this week where the Frenchwoman is the top seed.

PLAYERS' WORKLOAD

Mauresmo and former world number one Lindsay Davenport also fear that the round-robin format being introduced in the early rounds of some men's events next year could increase players' workload.

The idea is still in the discussion stage in the Women's Tennis Association (WTA).

The round-robin format is designed to guarantee that marquee players stay in an event for more than one match but Davenport said recently that it could be open to abuse. If a player had already qualified for the semi-finals, for example, they might not play to their potential in a "dead" round-robin match.

"That could happen," said Davenport in Bali last month. "Although in women's tennis I don't see it happening because everyone's so neurotic about always winning.

"But there's (the potential for) a lot of fixing if your friend needs you to win or lose or whatever. A lot of things could happen. There are some kinks to be worked out for sure."

In Stuttgart, tennis officials have been listening to the players' points of view.

Tournament director Markus Gunthardt said safeguards needed to be developed against lack of effort by players in a round-robin event.

POINTS SYSTEM

"There's always a danger," he acknowledged. "I remember when I was in Hanover directing the Masters we tried to avoid that on Friday we had dead matches and I don't know if it's 100 percent possible to avoid this.

"I think you have to find a points system in which you get awarded prize money and points for a win and you are punished if you lose. That's the only system one can think of. There is a slight danger and one has to think of things in more detail."

WTA Tour president Stacey Allaster said the question of how many matches a player faced in a season would be addressed.

"We would look at the potential number of matches a top player would play," Allaster told Reuters. "We would look at if she were to win her group in the round robin and go the distance to the final, how many total matches within the year would that format kick out at for a top athlete. The load on our athletes is a critical issue we are studying intensely.

"With all these innovations, while we enhance the entertainment value of women's tennis we want to do it in a manner that maintains the integrity of women's professional tennis, the competitive environment, so the athlete can perform to her maximum ability.

"And we want to do it in a way that is culturally respective to the different places in the world that we play. What works in Asia might not work the best in Europe or North America. We are taking all those factors into account with the common goal of engaging our fans."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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