Tennis Prose



Harry Cicma Revives Pro Tennis In Bradenton

Since the virus pandemic, pro tennis has been for all intents of purposes, dead … or if that term is too dramatic, in a state of suspended animation. All the pro tournaments on the 2020 calendar have been put on ice, Miami, Monte Carlo, Rome, Indian Wells, Wimbledon, etc.

But without any fanfare and hype, pro tennis actually has returned this week, very quietly and under the radar.

With a red light within view and a 7-11 convenience store in walking distance, pro tennis has resumed at a private court in a middle class neighborhood, at a location I cannot reveal. All I can say is it’s about a mile from IMG Academy.

The brainchild of Harry Cicma has been a resounding success with the players, who are looking for reps, seeking match play, to stay sharp for the eventual return of the ATP World Tour, whenever that may be.

Cicma is a former player himself, he had ATP points and played some ATP events like Newport, Forest Hills, San Jose after his Division 1 collegiate career at Rutgers University in NJ. The Providence, Rhode Island native also has a TV production background – he’s a TV sports producer and a sports anchor for NBC Channel 4 in New York City. Perfectly qualified to invent and pull off such a complicated endeavor as a pro tennis tournament.

With his catalogue of contacts, Cicma assembled the event like a puzzle, locating a private quarantined court, obtaining support from sponsors like SportED.TV and Dunlop Tennis (provider of balls).

“The players are struggling a lot. This is about getting the players reps and income,” said Cicma. “The objective is to help the players.”

The players have not seen a paycheck since early March. And that’s taken a toll on ATP journeymen ranked outside the top 100 and outside the top 30 in doubles.

Finding players to compete was the easy part. A wide range of player types have congregated here, such as Italian veteran Paolo Lorenzi, 38, who now lives in nearby Sarasota, where he relocated two years ago from Rome. Former no. 1 junior Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria is also here. Along with 18 year old prospect Preston Brown, doubles veteran Jamie Cerretani, Evan King, Michael Ray Pallares, former tour player who competed at Alabama and reached a career high of around 800 before quitting about a year ago.

The format is simple. Play starts at about 9. Quick sets to 4, no ad scoring and net cords on serves must be played. The next match starts immediately, with one of the players staying on to play again. Players can play three short set matches in a day. No linesperson or chair umpire, players call their own lines. So far there was one dispute between a teen and a veteran but the players police themselves and worked it out.

ESPN3 is livestreaming the action each day. It’s pure tennis. No announcers, no fans, no media, no autographs, just pure tennis. Each player gets paid approximately four figures to play all week. In essence, the players are getting paid to practice.

I find the action intriguing because it’s such a unique situation. It’s real pro tennis, hard fought points, each player trying to win though there is no pressure or extra incentive, no pressure to defend points, to win to stay here instead of flying somewhere to the next event.

With all the talk now of the movement to help the struggling lower ranked pros, this mini tour, called the International Tennis Series, could be the foundation for a future minor league tour.

Cicma is planning to try to extend the ITS to 16 weeks, to be played at various sites. But the potential of this series could be greater.

One player told me he loves the security of this tournament. Being paid to practice without any pressure to protect a ranking. The uniqueness of Cicma’s ITS could be a seed plant for a minor league circuit in the future.

Perhaps if the ATP super elites donate millions and other sponsors and the ATP match those donations, a fund would be available to create a Cicma tour where journeyman players play a one week event at local clubs around the world, promoting pro tennis up close and live in non tour cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, LA, San Jose, Phoenix, Dallas, Kansas City, St. Louis, Tampa. And perhaps cities around the globe.

Tennis clubs could promote these mini events and the players could do pro ams with members. Priceless experiences and promotion for the sport. Who does not like to see pro tennis up close? Who doesn’t like to meet and talk with pro players in a relaxed environment?

After watching today’s action live, I got the sense this could be a monolith moment in the evolution in professional tennis. And the pioneer Harry Cicma may have sparked a much needed change in the structure of the sport.

Scores today? Andreev beat Cerretani. Lorenzi beat Brown. Brown beat Pallares and then Lorenzi battled Andreev, who he sat with together and watched all of Brown vs Pallares.

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  • Scoop Malinowski · April 21, 2020 at 7:24 pm

    Note: Player safety is a concern of course. Players play with their own balls, market with their initials in an orange marker. Players do not shake hands at net after the match, instead they touch racquet heads, kind of like sword fighters.

  • Jon King · April 22, 2020 at 7:20 am

    I love it. Thinking outside the box and not giving up. Its what my parents taught me and what I teach.

    I am shocked to hear stuff like Gauff, top juniors, and others in our area not training. Sure, our area became more and more closed the past month. All the way down to even our neighborhood locking courts no one used but us to police closing off a remote soccer field. We drove to the next county, found some openings, but they too were all closed 2 weeks ago. It appeared there was no where to train.

    So we used google earth and searched the countryside. Each week we identify more hidden courts to play on and empty fields to do fitness on. We now have a choice of 4 different places to play and rarely see another player. Absolutely no excuse for many players not to be able to find a place to train within an hours drive. And gas is cheap now so driving is more time than money, and lots of folks have plenty of time now.

    We see all these juniors in our area who bragged about wanting to be pros now posting Tik Tok videos all day long. Meanwhile our girls have not missed even one training session…..all done safely, remote courts, do not touch anything, keep their distance, use the balls they brought and no others.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 22, 2020 at 8:22 am

    The tennis fans around the world need to get into supporting the struggling lower ranked players also. Go to Futures and Challengers, go watch and support college tennis. Follow and support players from those lower ranks, jump on some of those bandwagons instead of just being a Federer or Serena fanatic. I know some snobs who wouldn’t be caught dead at a Futures or even an outer court 14 watching two scrubs. They only go to see Federer. Frankly I’ve seen enough of Federer. I enjoyed yesterday at the International Tennis Series more than a Federer straight set win over a guy ranked 73 in the world. Fans have to do their part too to support the lower ranked players. Go watch a doubles match at a Challenger or Eddie Herr outer court. You might like it more than seeing Federer beat up on Gasquet for the 75th time.

  • Jon King · April 22, 2020 at 8:35 am

    You are alone on that one Scoop. No one cares or will ever care about lower ranked players. Dime a dozen cannon fodder that is easily replaced by the next batch. Post virus the money and fan interest will be even tighter. Instead of hiring amazing college and former pro players to hit with our juniors for $35/hour, we will get them for $25. Not saying it is right, just saying it is what it is. Life is tough, reality is brutal, making money in tennis is brutal, and will be much more brutal going forward.

  • catherine · April 22, 2020 at 8:38 am

    Jon – at least you’re getting to know your neighbourhood πŸ™‚

    Gauff – I wasn’t surprised at all by the stuff she put on Behind the Racquet – about the depression – the hype and the pressure and no group of friends with her to help – she must have felt lonely sometimes. Having this time off could work out for the best, give her breathing space mentally – or she could turn against the game. That’s happened before.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 22, 2020 at 8:40 am

    Jon, the people can be herded to follow and bandwagon the lower ranked players. The majority of the fans ARE those players and they identify with those players. The fans will go to where the media tell them to go. The fans will buy what the media tells them to buy.

  • catherine · April 22, 2020 at 9:03 am

    You overestimate the power of the media Scoop. Can you see fans crushing around the outside courts to watch A N Others battling it out while Federer plays to an empty stadium ? I can’t.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 22, 2020 at 9:04 am

    Coco does not have a sister next to her to go through all this, Venus and Serena had each other which surely relieved some of the pressure, demands and expectations. Capriati needed a sister I guess. Coco is in some heavy shoes. She’s 17 and now she has to win majors. Trying to win majors isn’t enough. She has to win. They made her a superstar before she finished high school.

  • catherine · April 22, 2020 at 9:47 am

    Coco’s 16 now I think, seems like she was 15 forever – and did she go to school ? I had the impression she was homeschooled.

    You have a point – Serena and Venus may not have reached the heights they did without each other – particularly early on.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 22, 2020 at 9:57 am

    Serena and Venus had each other to go through it all together. Coco is alone and doesn’t have that rock with her. She’s strong though, she can handle it.

  • Jon King · April 22, 2020 at 9:57 am

    Scoop, we have to live in reality. No one wants to see anyone but the top players play tennis. Even their parents don’t go to challengers. Heck, even in juniors I have seen parents go watch a top ranked junior play instead of their own kids. At the Orange Bowl when Gauff played Whitney Osuigwe a few years back, parents lined the side of the court while their own kids played at the same time. The media, sponsors, agents, fans, the money, everything and everyone on the planet wants to watch LeBron instead of a pickup game and Rafa instead of Rubin.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 22, 2020 at 10:00 am

    What would you rather watch? The same old tired legend who you’ve seen play probably 250 times? Or go and watch striving struggling dedicated singles and doubles players earnestly trying to still make a name and the big bucks? Who would you rather watch, the champion going through the motions or Rocky Balboa still hunting for this moment of glory? In some says I admire the Jamie Cerretanis, Paolo Lorenzis and Victor Estrella Burgos than Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. Equal prize money for winners and losers? Is that impossible? It’s happening this week at the ITS in Bradenton, Florida.

  • Jon King · April 22, 2020 at 10:02 am

    Actually, I thought CoCo was way more focused and way stronger. Now its obvious it was dad speaking for her. I thought it would be a tough road for her to win a slam because she has no great physical advantage like Serena did when young. Now I would be surprised if her best results are not already in the past. She sounds like a person who just wants to blend in with others her age. I bet Serena, Graf, Seles, Pova, never felt that way at any age. They were single minded killers whose sole goal was to be the best.

  • Jon King · April 22, 2020 at 10:05 am

    I would rather watch the best player I could in any sport. I would watch Michael Jordan or Fed reruns before I would walk across the street to watch a lesser player. I grew up outside Philly and ran the art museum steps as a kid when Rocky came out….but thats just a movie….in real life I only watched the very highest ranked boxers I could.

  • catherine · April 22, 2020 at 10:49 am

    Porsche PR talk to Kerber about missing Stuttgart this year and what she is doing with herself at home in Poland. As usual Angie is mistress of the bland and doesn’t say very much – no mention of her future plans or if she’s contemplating retirement. So one supposes she’s not. Angie must be a nightmare to interview. You come away with nothing. Keeps her sponsors happy.

  • catherine · April 22, 2020 at 11:19 am

    Federer wants the ATP and WTA to merge. Not sure about that. A lot of differences between the two and different aims in many cases. I think the tour should be mixed for big events but not for the rest. A good percentage of men players don’t care about women and wish they’d go away. This was the case many years ago and I’d make a good bet the underlying feeling hasn’t changed. Roger doesn’t see this from his lofty perch.

  • Jon King · April 22, 2020 at 11:36 am

    I read what Fed said about merging the tours. I think it is an idea worth exploring since entertainment dollars are getting scarcer with each passing year. I also think the sentiment is changing. When we first started juniors 11 years ago, boys acted like the girls were silly and playing a game worth less than theirs. But that has changed for whatever reasons the past few years.

    Maybe its Gauff being a bigger draw than many men, women’s soccer having more success in America than men’s, Kobe’s death shining light to how much he put into female sports, some WNBA stars being a huge deal, not sure what combination of factors are leading to it. But we saw boys the past year watching the top girls matches, appreciating technical things like how many of the girls had better backhands than boys, etc.

    For tennis to survive the new age, less viewers, less money to go around, more competition for interest, it might be time to combine. Tennis needs its top male and female stars at every event. Especially post virus, post Williams sisters, post big 3. Lots of factors may force the merger.

  • catherine · April 22, 2020 at 12:36 pm

    Jon – you’re right that things have changed in many ways since the 70s and 80s and maybe men and women can survive together now without the bitterness and rancour around in those years. But the question of prizemoney is sure to raise its head again and that’s an issue which would need to be sorted. I’m thinking of events outside the GSs.

    Gauff’s novelty value drew crowds – not something you can rely on long term. Also, the landscape of pro tennis may look significantly different by the time tournaments reconvene and decisions about mergers etc should probably be left until then.

  • Scoopmalinowskim · April 22, 2020 at 12:49 pm

    Why isn’t Laver Cup a mixed event?

  • catherine · April 22, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    Because whoever thought it up envisaged a men only event. There was probably never any question of including women, for financial and logistical reasons.

    Hopman Cup (I think) was designed as a mixed tournament.

  • Sam · April 22, 2020 at 1:48 pm

    “In some says I admire the Jamie Cerretanis, Paolo Lorenzis and Victor Estrella Burgos than Federer, Nadal and Djokovic.”

    Scoop, did you accidentally leave a “more” out of that sentence? πŸ˜‰

    If so, I agree. And it’s actually in line with the Olympic creed: “The important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight; the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well.”

    “Equal prize money for winners and losers? Is that impossible? It’s happening this week at the ITS in Bradenton, Florida.”

    I think that’s actually pretty cool.

    In one sense, I understand why people want to see only the very best. It’s dazzling; it’s beautiful. But in another sense, hero worship tends to make people minimize the important contributions that “normal” people make. Among tennis fans, so many seem to have the attitude of “You can either win a Grand Slam, or you can be a nobody.” πŸ™ Sadly, this kind of thinking leads to snobbery and elitism. So I think anything that gives the lower-ranked players a chance to shine is very healthy.

  • Jon King · April 22, 2020 at 3:50 pm

    I do not think Fed spoke without knowing what is coming. He and his agency, tennis federations, sponsors, ATP, WTA, ITF, TV executives, tennis venues, equipment and apparel manufacturers…they are all talking and they know what the future of pro tennis likely is.

    Insurance companies have to sign off on events. Nothing big happens without being backed by liability insurance. No insurance company is allowing a tennis tournament with spectators without a vaccine. The liability is too high and masks are not enough. There will be a lot less revenue, less fan interest, less everything in the future.

    So when Fed floats that trial balloon, he does it after talking with a lot of very smart and connected people who are looking ahead. The survival of professional tennis will mean changes, and combining tours is likely to be one of them.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 22, 2020 at 7:17 pm

    IS Federer trying to reinvent a new image, the BJK equality angle?

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 22, 2020 at 8:03 pm

    Wonder how the PGA feels about merging with the LPGA?

  • Jon King · April 22, 2020 at 11:28 pm

    I do not think Fed is working the equality angle at all. We have some friends who are fairly high up at Wilson tennis sales and also the USTA. All tennis higher ups are thinking survival of the sport as a viable pro sport. Forget the tennis tour of the past, its not coming back ever. A new smaller tour, likely combined, some rule changes to keep play moving faster….its all going to happen.

  • Jon King · April 22, 2020 at 11:31 pm

    The plans being put into place involve quarantined venues without fans until a vaccine is available. Extensive testing regiments are being planned. Only some venues can even be considered to host events going forward. Like I said, forget the old ATP and WTA tours, they are gone.

  • catherine · April 23, 2020 at 1:21 am

    Don’t think we can predict too much. It’s possible that when this virus recedes, as viruses always do, then the future may turn out pretty much the same as the present, though maybe on a smaller scale. Sport is conservative and tennis won’t change drastically.

    My fear is that in a situation where men and women are competing together, for a smaller pot of money, then women will lose out.

  • catherine · April 23, 2020 at 1:38 am

    Andy Murray has been talking about how tennis may be one of the last pro sports to return to anything like normality, because of its international nature, and that’s obviously true, so we may see the pro game re-emerge in a fragmented way, with some countries isolated for a long time. And some careers ending prematurely. That was more or less the effect after two WWs.

    One possibility – players’ personal teams may be reduced in size, not a bad thing IMO.

  • catherine · April 23, 2020 at 8:31 am

    Kyrgios wants the ATP membership to be consulted about any merger with the WTA which I think is fair enough.

    More I think about it the more iffy the idea seems. Nick’s comment is a straw in the wind. Reality bites. Reaction from a lot of men would be ‘you’re taking money away from us’.

    Wozniaki is playing the Madrid virtual event. I thought she’d retired πŸ™‚

  • Jon King · April 23, 2020 at 8:57 am

    Perhaps we can not predict everything, but we can make some very reasonable educated guesses. I have a unique skill set on this matter, MS in Microbiology, friends still in the game at major drug companies and health institutes, since switched to tennis coaching 11 years ago, now have friends involved at Wilson, USTA, and they are connected to the buzz of the big money players in tennis.

    Virus will be around, will come back in bigger waves, especially next October-Feb. A vaccine, if possible as some viruses never lend themselves to a vaccine, would be 12-18 months before the public gets it if fast tracked. Masks are limited. Insurance companies have already said no way to spectators without a vaccine.

    Tennis events with enough spectators to generate lots of revenue are done for a long, long time. Much longer than the sport could survive in its current form. TV revenues are tough to generate outside the slams. So basically fanless slams at a venue that can be quarantined, with thousands and thousands of tests for players and support people would be needed. And one positive test…game over for that event. Those will be the rules.

    It sounds nice that Kygrios want consultation, lets discuss, all that. But pro tennis is entering survival mode, the powers that run tennis are already in crisis mode. The old tour is gone. A smaller tour MAY be salvaged, maybe. Depends on the financial health of the sponsors, the viability of no spectator slams.

    Going forward the least of Nick’s worries will be how much money women players are taking from the men. It will be if professional tennis ever returns to being a big money generating sport.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 23, 2020 at 9:22 am

    Congrats to Billie Jean King for pushing for a marriage between the men and women.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 23, 2020 at 9:24 am

    Regarding the vaccine – my body my choice.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 23, 2020 at 9:30 am

    If this is all a bio weapon hoax fake flu media rigged event created by political enemies of Trump, many many heads need to roll.

  • Jon King · April 23, 2020 at 9:51 am

    Calm down Scoop and take your Hydroxychloroquine Z pack daily dose. Oh wait, that was last week’s BS.

    As a curious student of humans, I must admit Trumpers are fun to watch. They remind me of a fly that flies into the hot light bulb again and again and again and again. You keep thinking, well this time they will get it….but nope, right into that bulb one more time.

    But then again, thats why we can still sell swampland in Florida, always another sucker coming through that door.

  • catherine · April 23, 2020 at 9:57 am

    Jon – the scenario then is for tennis to revert to the state it was in amateur days – small events at small venues with small crowds and even smaller prizemoney. Under the table payments and players taking jobs when there are no tournaments.

    Also, little travelling because the circuit would only take in Europe, USA and Australia and you’d stay in each continent for weeks.

    Very different I agree but much more planet friendly.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 23, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    Jon watch the 9m viewed film to wake up from your brainwashed state.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 23, 2020 at 3:27 pm

    Dear Vaxxers,

    If you believe an unvaccinated child is a threat to a vaccinated child, then you don’t really believe in vaccines do you? πŸ€”

  • catherine · April 23, 2020 at 4:17 pm

    Scoop – we had all this stuff before, on another thread. I know you run this site and you can discuss what you like but wouldn’t it be nice if we could stay somewhere around the subject of tennis ? Less stress.

    No, an unvaccinated person isn’t a threat to someone who’s vaccinated – who said they were ? Of course some diseases, like tetanus, aren’t even infectious but it’s a good idea to get the vaccine. (I’m not talking about vaccines any more.)

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 23, 2020 at 5:30 pm

    Then a vax person wouldn’t fear an unvax person. Look I’m sick of all this shi7 as much as you. We want life to return to normal and all evil to be destroyed. God willing. Tennis wise…heres a quiz. Which 70s player would smash his racquet on the net post after every match he lost? Who are the only two African born major singles champions men’s? Prize winner gets a pat on the back.

  • Vijay · April 23, 2020 at 11:21 pm

    Catherine, I have bad news for you. If you had a tetanus shot, you will certainly die. Eventually. Though I hope not for a long time.

    Scoop, one person who springs to mind if Johan Kriek. Can’t think of another.

    Here’s to hoping that regardless of what happens in the real world, we stick to tennis here.

  • Jon King · April 24, 2020 at 12:39 am

    Junior tournaments will return sooner than pros. Spectators are not an issue. Players will use separate balls to serve.

    We got a 4 hour session in today on some courts way out in the country. Literally a field of cows and Brahman bulls 10 feet away from the back fence.

  • catherine · April 24, 2020 at 12:56 am

    Vijay – I’ve had a tetanus shot (as a child) plus a booster, and I’m still alive, although very old. Tetanus will probably kill you, agonizingly, but the vaccine won’t.

  • catherine · April 24, 2020 at 1:01 am

    Scoop – Yannick Noah won FO ?

  • kl · April 24, 2020 at 1:31 am

    Johan Kriek (South Africa) won Australian twice.

  • catherine · April 24, 2020 at 1:58 am

    Vijay – perhaps your comment was ironic ? Of course I’ll die eventually, regardless of what shots I’ve had or haven’t had.

    Re Kriek – did he win a major ? Certainly not a GS, though maybe other tournaments.

  • catherine · April 24, 2020 at 3:04 am

    Had to laugh – I looked on Another Tennis Site and there was just as much political stuff there as on T-P. A sign of the times I suppose.

    Thinking about Noah – he never seemed to recover from winning RG in 1982 – got distracted and overwhelmed by various things and his game didn’t really develop.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 24, 2020 at 6:07 am

    Noah and Kriek. And who was the racquet smasher on the net post after every loss? Hint. First initial C.

  • catherine · April 24, 2020 at 7:13 am

    Gossip: Zverev and gf no longer an item. Sascha doesn’t seem to have much luck with the ladies – his relationships don’t last long.

    RG changing dates but it’s irrelevant – IMO there won’t be any pro tennis for the rest of 2020.

  • Vijay · April 24, 2020 at 7:35 am

    Catherine, yes, attempt at humour. I suppose you will die, eventually, but not from tetanus. By the way, tetanus shots in the US only last a decade or so. At least they aren’t recommended every decade. Once things have settled down, you should check it out.

    Scoop, Noah was born in Sedan, France, according to Wikipedia. Surely you’re not going to claim that’s another conspiracy. Why do you think differently?

  • catherine · April 24, 2020 at 8:18 am

    Vijay – my mistake about Noah, I’m afraid I was too lazy to look it up. Had a feeling he might be French born.

    I had 1st tetanus shot when I was at primary school (not in the US) and we were recommended to have a booster after around ten years or so. As we lived in an agricultural area it was quite important. I mentioned on an earlier thread that a neighbour of ours died from it so tetanus was something we had to think about.

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