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Andrea Gaudenzi. Advantage Monaco

Andrea Gaudenzi. Advantage Monaco

With an impressive tennis career under his belt, Federer-beater, and chairman of the Association of Tennis Professionals, Andrea Gaudenzi met with us off-court at the Monte Carlo Country Club on a beautiful sunny day and allowed us to bounce over some questions. Love-All here we go.

You had an outstanding professional career in tennis. What was the most memorable moment for you?

It’s difficult to pick one because there were many of them. I’ve spent thirteen years on the Tour. If I close my eyes and think of two, it would be my best results in a masters series which was here in Monte Carlo, it was a semi-final in 1999 against Thomas Muster, it was quite close, and he then played the final against Boris Becker at the time, so that was one. As far as a team competition, it was the final at Davis Cup at home in Milan with the energy of eighteen thousand people cheering.

What does tennis mean to you?

I grew up in a tennis family. My grandfather was the founder of a tennis club in a small town. My uncle played tennis, and played in the Davis Cup, and was number five in Italy. My dad also played tennis, so I had a tennis racket in my hand since I was three years old and I played every day, so two-thirds of my life were spent playing tennis. My kids also play tennis, my wife is a tennis coach, so tennis is a big part of my life.

What would you recommend to someone wishing to play tennis or discover tennis as a sport? 

Tennis is a great sport from an educational standpoint. I’d recommend every parent to put their kid on the tennis court, not only because it’s the most beautiful sport to watch in my opinion, but also it’s the only real one on one sport where you’re by yourself. Tennis helps you to create problem-solving skills, discipline, and perseverance, it’s a very difficult sport because you are alone. On the one hand, a lot of people value team sports, but I think that learning how to figure out problems on your own in life is essential. I feel that it’s a very important skill set because ultimately we are born and die alone. That’s also the reason why all my three kids play tennis. Tennis is also a sport for life – you can play it at all ages. It’s a beautiful sport.

Photo: ©EdWrightImages

What qualities are needed to become a great tennis player?

You need a lot of strength, and by that, I mean willpower. The difference between a team sport is that you’ve got a coach, you’ve got a team, and you’ve got a structure that tells you that training is at four o’clock and you get on the bus. At tennis you are alone, and you are a little bit like an entrepreneur. You hire your own coach, you pay for it, you hire your athletic trainer, you hire your whole team at your own expense, and you choose your own schedule. The risk is all on yourself because you are not in a structure, so you need that entrepreneurial mindset, and you need to be a doer because no one will call you to inform you that there is practice at four o’clock. You have to wake up and do it.

Tennis is difficult, but it will bring you a lot of value in life, and if you later decide to become a business owner or an executive, you have already built that mentality of knowing how to get things done.

Do you still play tennis on a day off from work or on the weekends?

Not for my own pleasure, I don’t have a lot of free time, but I do play with my kids sometimes on the weekends as a coach mostly.

The ATP has a long history in Monaco and lots of ATP players live in the Principality. What does Monaco mean to you personally, and also to the ATP as an organization?

It means a lot because I moved here when I was nineteen. I had my first studio in the same building where I live now, which is where the ATP has the office.

And I came here to the Monte-Carlo Country club to train every day. I was a young boy dreaming of a career in professional tennis, and it gave me the opportunity to train with the best players in the world here. I was close to the ATP to an extent. I got married in Monaco and my three kids were born here. My life has been here for the past 30 years, and Monaco is home for me and I think it’s the most beautiful place in the world.

For the ATP it means a lot, our first office here was in 1990, more than 30 years ago, and historically a lot of players were based here, and it always felt like home, not only because the club is big and beautiful, but also because the ATP was here. It was a location where all the players would regroup. For a tennis pro the quality of your practice partners is very important because you want to raise your level. Monaco has always been great for that with so many players based here.

I would play here in the off-season. The weather helps because we used to train outdoors here in December ahead of the Australian Open, and this is a very important hub for the ATP. We have three offices: London, Ponte Vedra (Florida), and Sydney. Historically, Monaco has been the European headquarters.

Since January 2020, you’ve been the chairman of the ATP. What are you proud of over the past three years, and what are some projects you have for the ATP in the upcoming years?

I’m mostly proud of the approval of the strategic plan I’ve presented, even though we had very difficult times. When I started, there were Bush Fires in Australia, then two years of Covid and the war, so lots of geopolitical issues, but we were capable of overcoming all this with a very comprehensive set of reforms which aligned the partnership between player and tournaments with a new prize money formula, proving transparency to the players, and raising the level of the premium product.

The ATP Masters 1000 tournaments are also becoming bigger and more important. Giving them Category protection also gives these events long-term security to unlock new investment. We want to work on building those values because these are the tournaments that our top players play. In terms of numbers, this year, we’re seeing an uplift of almost $40 million across the ATP Tour and the ATP Challenger Tour – the singles’ biggest year-on-year increase in the history of the ATP.  I’m really proud of what we have achieved.

Photo: ©rebeccamarshallphoto

What are some difficulties you have to deal with in your position, and do you see them being resolved anytime soon?

The management of the stakeholders. There are a lot of different interests in tennis, tournaments, players, other governing bodies, and the Grand Slams. The one vision plan we set out was very clear and simple and was about bringing all the stakeholders together to sell this beautiful sport. Another way to look at this is we have a beautiful book, but this book is sold in different bookstores, and you have different chapters spread out everywhere – this fragmentation creates pain points for the readers to follow.

I tried to change the culture and focus on the fans first, and ultimately that will deliver value to the players and stakeholders. We can’t just think of ourselves and not focus on the fans. Every product has to focus on the consumer. We made some progress, and we continue to push in that direction.

Are there any exciting changes to the ATP calendar this year?

This year we will have the expanded Masters 1000 events for the first time in Madrid, Rome, and Shanghai. Part of the strategy is to make the Masters bigger so they will be like Miami and Indian Wells, with 12 days and 96 draws, so that’s pretty exciting because we believe that these tournaments are the best in the world, and we want to showcase them more to the fans. The fans want to watch the best players in the world competing against each other in the biggest tournaments. The competition is getting tough in the entertainment industry, we compete with other sports, Netflix, music, gaming, and there are a lot of options for content as soon as you switch on the TV. We need to raise the quality of our product, and that is part of our plan.

Is there a rising tennis player that we should keep our eyes on?

There are many of them. Last year we saw Carlos Alcaraz skyrocket to the number one ranking. We have Jannik Sinner, a young promising Italian player, Holger Rune, and new guys like french player Arthur Fils coming through. He is playing very well, I saw him play recently in Marseille. We have incredible talent coming up, as well as a mid-generation with Tsitsipas, Medvedev, Zverev, Auger-Aliassime. And we are so lucky because we also have the older generation, we have Rafa and Novak still fighting. It’s a battle between three generations, and it’s very cool because their careers are getting longer. We have the very young guys in their 20s, then 25-28, and then the 35 guys. It’s an amazing generation and also shows that tennis is capable of producing new talent.

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What is your biggest dream for tennis?

My dream for tennis is for it to become a top 3 sport in every country in terms of fan engagement. We might not be above soccer or the NFL or cricket in certain countries, but I believe we can be a solid two or three.

My dream is to see more people enjoying tennis, more kids picking up a racket and playing. One of the reasons why I picked up a racket was because I saw those matches on TV, and my dream was to play in those venues, and that became my motivation and inspiration, even at an amateur level.

Is there something important you’d like to add for those wishing to discover tennis?

Tennis is an amazing show. We urge fans to come out and watch it live because it is a fantastic experience.

Photo: ©EdWrightImages

Quick questions: 

Favorite quote – ‘Enjoy the journey, not the destination.’

Last book you’ve read – Two books from Mark Manson; The subtle art of not giving a f*ck and Everything is f*cked, a book of hope. Despite the title, both books are about hope and living a good life.

Best tennis game you’ve ever seen – There were so many, but I’ll give you three, one for each generation. Borg vs. McEnroe Wimbledon final, I was 7 and watched it in black and white back in my hometown. I remember the excitement around that match.

The other one I was very impressed by, and I was an active tennis player at the time. It was the Quarterfinals, Sampras against Agassi in the US Open in 2001. I remember the quality of that game, and I had played both of them before, but watching them play at their best was probably the highest quality of tennis in that generation.

Coming to the new generation, I really enjoyed Rafa vs. Roger in the Wimbledon final in 2008.

The greatest victory in your career – the 1994 US Open, beating Jim Courier, who was number one in the world and one of my idols. That match was a strong one.

Tennis is… – Life. Like our campaign, it is love, advantage, serving, returning. Tennis has ups and downs, like life, you can be losing, and you can turn it around, and you never know when it’s going to end. It rewards performance. The best one on the day will always win the game.

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