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Nadal all business when it comes to the tennis industry By Sebastian Fest

dpa German Press Agency
Published: Thursday October 19, 2006

By Sebastian Fest, Madrid- At times he looks like a sports businessman rather than a 20-year-old tennis player. Rafael Nadal has all the figures and the statistics of the sport in his head, and towards the end of a season where he confirmed his status as the only real rival to Switzerland's Roger Federer, he shows a new face - as unofficial head of marketing for the ATP.

"We tennis players should work harder," he said in an interview with Deutsche Press-Agentur, dpa in which he at times showed the confidence of a high sports executive and at times the naive sincerity of the young adult that he still is.

Nadal is defending his title at the Masters Series in Madrid and plays German Tommy Haas in the third round later Thursday.

But he has arrived at one of his favourite tournaments with a real arsenal of ideas to make the sport he excels in more powerful and attractive.

"I totally agree with the change in the system to round-robin, I would prefer four players instead of groups of three, but that favours the show, the players and the tournament. Everyone. I am thrilled," he said.

Nadal also felt that tennis players could improve their financial situation, especially when looking at the prize money on offer in other sports such as golf.

"Evidently golf moves a great deal more money than tennis, and that must be for some reason - the people in charge of golf must be doing something better than those in charge of tennis," he said.

This is one of the reasons why Nadal favours the idea of a round- robin tournament as it increases revenues for all involved by keeping the top players in action for longer.

"That thing about round-robin it that it favours earning more money. It is clear that in Grand Slams we do not earn a lot, taking into account the sway of the tournament," he said.

"This year at Roland Garros (in the French Open) we started playing on Sunday and we earned almost nothing more, but the tournament benefits a lot from that."

With the ATP's promotional budget jumping from 800,000 to five million euros this year and prize money up 10 per cent, Nadal admits things are improving but that more can be done, especially when it comes to television coverage.

"When you don't know whether it lasts two, three or five hours it is difficult for the person who buys tennis to programme it on television," said the Spaniard.

"Can that be solved? I don't know. All I know is that football has improved a lot since it was forbidden for the goalkeeper the handle the ball after a back pass."

Nadal feels that tennis has fallen behind other sports in how it markets itself but that the situation is slowly changing.

"Is round-robin an improvement? Yes, of course. People want to see Federer, or (Andy) Roddick. Now perhaps me. And this way they will see them at least twice, instead of once," he said.

"If the world number two or the number one lose in the first round it is a catastrophe for the tournament."

But as with everything in else in life, Nadal accepts that if he wants more money, he will probably have to spend more time out on the court earning it.

"Tournaments will be longer, but if you want to earn more money that's the way it is."

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency