The ATP Moves to Dallas

The Association of Tennis Professionals benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation 2nd Annual Celebrity Pro-Am Tennis Tournament & Awards Banquet September 13, 1976

As midnight approached and the black-tie audience at the Fairmont Hotel last September grew restless, Arthur Ashe stepped to the podium to accept his “JAK,” voted to him by his fellow members of the Association of Tennis Professionals as the player-of-the-year. Ashe is honest, intelligent and always full of surprises. After thanking the crowd for attending the $50-a-plate affair in support of the ATP’s official charity, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Ashe (then the ATP’s president) off-handedly remarked that the ATP was moving to Dallas with Bob Briner as its new executive director.

The remark and its implications for professional tennis seemed to slip by most of the tennis audience but those versed in the politics of the sport were stunned. With the same nonchalance he had used only three weeks before in announcing the settlement of the multi-million dollar tennis lawsuits to a group of sleepy Boston journalists in a post-match interview, Ashe had set the tennis world on its heels.

Within two weeks former tennis great Jack Kramer announced he was leaving his position as day-to-day administrator of the players’ association, a position he had held since the association’s beginnings in 1972. And by Thanksgiving Briner had set up office in the World Trade Center in Dallas. With the addition of the ATP among the other Dallas tennis residents, most notably Lamar Hunt’s World Championship Tennis, Dallas has become the professional tennis capital of the world.

Briner was the logical choice to succeed Jack Kramer as the ATP executive director. A well-traveled sports administrator, he had been one of the three non-playing members of the ATP’s 10-man board of directors since the ATP’s beginning and was one of three non-players who helped found the Association. He also serves as a players’ representative on the governing body of the sport, the Men’s International Professional Tennis Council. As the original executive director of the WCT in 1968, Briner had built a solid reputation for honesty and hard work among the players.

Briner is well known in the Dallas sports community as the former general manager of the ABA’s Dallas Chaparrals. Before joining the Chaps, Briner was public relations director for the Miami Dolphins.

Briner brought the “Academy Awards of Tennis” to Dallas last year. After only one year, the ATP awards (called “JAKS,” in honor of Jack Kramer) presented at the Dallas dinner have become known as the most prestigious in the sport because the recipients are selected by the players themselves. Attracting such celebrities as Alan King and David Hart man, the ATP raised more than $30,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation through the dinner, a silent auction of players’ equipment and an afternoon pro-celebrity-executive tennis tournament at Bent Tree Country Club. Ethel Kennedy participated last year as a way of saying thank you to those ATP players who support the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Foundation Tournament at Forest Hills each year.

Briner’s position as leader of the players’ association is unique in pro sports because of its international scope. Briner does not have the luxury afforded his counterpart in baseball, Marvin Miller, of knowing where association members are most of the time. While Miller is usually assured of finding his constituency somewhere between Candlestick Park and Shea Stadium, the ATP’s membership is scattered from Hong Kong to London throughout the year and, with the exception of Wimbledon and Forest Hills, are rarely in the same place at the same time.

Thus a major ATP problem is communication. Not only miles, but language barriers must be overcome. Bri-ner has taken an aggressive role in solving the problem of having all major ATP documents printed in Spanish, as well as English. ATP Director Lito Alvarez of Argentina supervises all Spanish translations.

But the key solution to the ATP’s communication woes is its six-month-old publication, International Tennis Weekly. Featuring the latest results, rankings and other hard-core tennis information, ITW also includes editorials, articles and photographs by and about the game’s biggest names. Included on the ATP editorial board are: Lito Alvarez, Arthur Ashe, Bob Bri-ner, Pierre Darmon, Cliff Drysdale, Jaime Fillol, Jim McManus, Ray Moore, John Newcombe, Adriano Pa-natta, Patrick Proisy and Stan Smith. Not only is ITW proving invaluable for pros and fans alike, but the paper also is being printed in French with other language editions to follow.

In a sport whose every crisis is written off as a growing pain, the ATP is providing sound leadership to the many facets of pro tennis. Within itself, the ATP is providing more services than ever before to its membership.

The ATP has become synonymous with innovation. The ATP has established such giant prize money tournaments as the American Airlines Tennis Games which will offer $225,000 to 64 players in 1977, and the 32-man Alan King/Caesars Palace Classic which will offer at least $250,000 next year.

The ATP pioneered entry into tournaments based on merit. The ATP spent thousands of dollars developing singles and doubles computer rankings. These rankings are now universally recognized as merit-only systems, which rank both members and non-members according to their tournament results in order to determine tournament entries.

Assuring that all of its members will have a place to play tennis each week is an area in which the ATP leadership is vitally concerned. ATP has encouraged the establishment of many new tournaments. A measure of its success is the fact that the Grand Prix, a brain-child of Jack Kramer, will offer more than $10 million in prize money next year alone.

As the ATP ages, the association’s services to the membership continue to increase. The ATP gives its members (who must be ranked among the world’s top 200 players) a medical, life and disability insurance plan with attractive options to purchase additional coverage; a retirement plan; a guaranteed Adidas clothing contract and various discount programs. In addition to the Dallas headquarters, the ATP has a fully staffed Paris bureau directed by Pierre Darmon and Richard Evans. The two bureaus coordinate members’ entries into tournaments around the world.

However, more important than all the services provided to ATP members by their association is the fact that the players now have a strong voice in determining their own future. But, when the ATP’s star-studded membership comes to town this year to celebrate its fourth anniversary at the Fairmont, the complicated, international politics of big-time tennis will, for a short time, be forgotten amidst a gala September evening in downtown Dallas.

1975 ATP Award Winners

Player of the Year

Arthur Ashe

Newcomer of the Year

Vitas Gerulaitis

Doubles Team of the Year

Brian Gottfried and Raul Ramirez

WTA Player of the Year

Billie Jean King

WTA Doubles Team of the Year

Betty Stove and Francoise Durr

WTA Newcomer of the Year

Sue Stapp

Tennis Writer of the Year

Rex Bellamy

Tennis Broadcaster of the Year

Bud Collins

ATP Dr. Johnson Children’s Tennis Award

Vic Braden

ATP Grand Master Award

Pancho Gonzalez

ATP Service Award

Jim McManus

Court Official of the Year

Mike and Flo Blanchard

ATP Lifetime Award

Philippe Chatrier

Presidents Award

Jack Krampr

1976 ATP Award Nominees

Player of the Year

Arthur Ashe Adriano Panatta

Bjorn Borg Raul Ramirez

Jimmy Connors Guillermo Vilas Hie

Nastase

ATP Service Award

Jaime Fillol Ray Moore

Jim McManus Charlie Pasarell

Tennis Writer of the Year

Rex Bellamy/Times of London

Judith Elian/L’Equip

David Gray/The Guardian

Paul Haedens/Tennis Heddo

Rod Humphries/Sydney

Morning Herald

Curry Kirkpatrick/Sports

Illustrated

Newcomer of the Year

Mark Edmondson Victor Pecci

Wojtek Fibak Balasz Taroczy

Doubles Team of the Year

Wojtek Fibak and Karl Meiler

Brian Gottfried and Raul Ramirez

Manuel Orantes and Juan Gisbert

Sherwood Stewart and Fred McNair

Dr. Johnson ATP Children’s Tennis Award

John Barrett Eve Kraft

John Conroy Sherry Snyder

Harry Hopman

Court Official of the Year

Mike and Flo Blanchard

Bertie Bowron

Frank Hammond

Charles Hare

Fred Hoyles

Nick Powel

Jack Starr

ATP Grand Master Award

Tom Brown Frank Parker

Don Budge Frank Sedgman

Andres Gimeno Pancho Segura

Lew Hoad Vic Seixas

Peppe Merlo Torben Ulrich

ATP Lifetime Award

Allison Danzig Bill Talbert

Derek Hardwick James VanAllen

Bob Kelleher Owen Williams

Jack Kramer

Tennis Broadcaster of the Year

Bud Collins Jack Kramer

Donald Dell Dan Maskell

Julie Heldman Tony Trabert

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