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Inside Men's Tennis By Brad Drewett - April Edition

Chairman's Message

Gonzalez© Getty ImagesFormer World No. 5 Fernando Gonzalez retired in Miami.

As the ATP World Tour continues to rise to unprecedented heights with the extraordinary feats of our players, it is timely to acknowledge two of the finest contributors to the current generation. Chile’s Fernando Gonzalez and Croatia’s Ivan Ljubicic have been tremendous influences, both on and off the court, for more than a decade.

Fernando retired after contesting the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami last month after a long, successful career, winning 11 ATP World Tour titles and reaching the 2007 Australian Open final, despite having to deal with chronic hip problems. Not only did he create a strong profile for himself and tennis in Chile with his accomplishments, including an Olympic gold medal and rising to No. 5 in the South African Airways ATP Rankings, but Fernando also played with flair and passion.

He was an inspiration to countless fans - many of whom travelled from South America to the Sony Ericsson Open to pay homage to a true entertainer.

Ivan plans to bow out after the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters in April. As well as being a high-class competitor, Ivan's work off court was insightful and of great benefit to both his peers and the ATP World Tour. Ivan served on the ATP Player Council from 2002-8, rising to President in 2008. In August '08, Ivan was elected as the ATP Board of Directors’ European player representative – a challenging role for anyone let alone an active player.

Having reached a career-high No. 3 ranking, Ivan earned a reputation as a highly skilled and determined competitor, which is evidenced by his 10 singles titles. The most significant was the 2010 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, defeating Novak Djokovic (No. 2), Rafael Nadal (No. 3) and Andy Roddick (No. 8). Ivan also excelled while representing Croatia, winning an Olympic bronze medal and leading his nation to Davis Cup victory in 2005.

Ivan was acclaimed as the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year in 2007 for his tireless work with the Special Olympics, for which he is an ambassador.

We wish Fernando and Ivan all the best for the future and thank them for their contributions.

The ATP’s focus now switches from the US hard courts to the European clay-court swing with stops in Monaco, Spain, Romania, Portugal, Serbia, Germany, Italy and France.

There are few more evocative venues in international sport than the Monte-Carlo Country Club, overlooking the dazzling Mediterranean Sea, and Rome's Foro Italico, with its Roman forums and statues. These tournaments have an abundance of character, history and tradition and are two of the sport's most enduring pillars. Their honor rolls are crammed with the names of the greatest of champions. The ATP World Tour’s third clay Masters 1000 tournament, the Mutua Madrid Open, is not as old as its brothers in Monaco and Italy, but is rapidly making an impression, and will continue to do so this year with its innovative and striking blue clay courts.

Will the “king of clay” Nadal reign supreme this spring, or can World No. 1 Djokovic repeat his 2011 heroics on clay after another standout performance at the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami? The most staggering aspect of Novak’s rise to the top has been his consistency. His record since the start of 2011 is 90-8, including four Grand Slam titles.

World No. 4 Andy Murray continues to challenge Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer, who brilliantly won the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Federer has won an impressive six ATP World Tour titles since last October and remains a dangerous threat.

Men’s tennis is enjoying greater popularity than ever. Both ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami broke attendance records in March, welcoming a total of 700,000 people through their gates to watch the best players in the world.

The clay-court season promises to provide many more highlights and I hope you will all continue to enjoy the ATP World Tour and the thrilling entertainment it provides.

Best wishes,

Brad Drewett

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