21 April: Zeljko Franulovic
Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters
Sunday, 21 April 2019
ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: Ladies and gentlemen, journalist friends, on this Easter Sunday, I am very happy to welcome you in this brand-new interview room, which is the result of the efforts of the tournament management to modernize the Monte-Carlo Country Club.
I hope these brand-new facilities, built for improved working comfort, are up to standards and meet your expectations. Please do not hesitate to give us all your comments so that together we continue developing our tournament and meet your needs.
It is now time to talk about this 113th tournament. But let’s talk first about the highlights of this week off court, particularly the exceptional visit to the Prince’s Palace. 11 top 10 players and some Monaco residents were invited.
His Serene Highness, Prince Albert II, who has a real passion for sports and for tennis and who has been giving his support for a certain time to this tournament, and I’m sure you have seen him several times this week, wished to open the doors of his palace to these champions for an exceptional private visit.
Monaco loves tennis, and the players love the Principality. They have shown it, once again. A testimony of this is their participation in the exhibition match in favor of the Monaco Red Cross.
As for the weather, we can be satisfied. After a contrasted first weekend and a rain interruption on Sunday, last Sunday, fortunately the sun shown again. As for Monday, we were able to respect the match schedule. And I hope this will be the case today. We are happy to have reached 135,656 spectators.
On the sports front, this 2019 tournament was characterized by the emergence of a new generation that starts to bloom, and the best players start to feel challenged. Three young Monegasque residents come to my mind: the Canadian, Felix Auger-Aliassime, aged only 18 years old; the Greek, Stefanos Tsitsipas; or the Russian semifinalist, Daniil Medvedev, who won over the World No. 1 player, Novak Djokovic.
We have to give a special mention to the Italian players: Lorenzo Sonego, Marco Cecchinato, and in particular, Fabio Fognini, finalist for the first time here. He was able to raise a big enthusiasm among our Italian public, which represented 45% of our clients.
Another source of satisfaction is the large media coverage we had. This is the proof of the reputation of our tournament and the outreach on the international sphere.
You were more than 400 accredited journalists, coming from 16 countries, broadcasting in more than 200 countries and territories. It is worth noting the presence on-site of 10 television channels, holders of rights, and this is a record for us.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank you very much for, well, first of all, your presence, and all the support you have given to this tournament.
I can tell you without taking any risk that an unprecedented champion will emerge during today’s final. For the first time in the history of this tournament, the final will be played by two players that have never been finalists of a Masters 1000. Two surprise guests: the Italian, Fabio Fognini, in great shape this week, and who managed to beat Rafael Nadal, the 11-time winner of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters; and Dusan Lajovic, this talented Serbian player, qualified for the first time in his career on the ATP circuit and who has been very much appreciated by the public, thanks to his attractive tennis, his exceptional path, and humility.
And now, let this unexpected and unprecedented final start. But before that, the moment you have been waiting for, the awards presentation for the Press Tournament. Let me now give the floor to Stephan, Andre, and Baptiste.
Again, thank you very much.
Q. Good morning. Congratulations. This has been a very nice press conference. I would like to talk about the wildcard. Do you think that Benoit Paire, now that we are among ourselves, do you think that Benoit Paire actually paid the price for his misbehavior two years ago?
ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: The answer is not at all. Has nothing to do with that what you mentioned. You know, the tournament’s committee makes the decision to give wildcards to some players, and those decisions are not based either on ranking or any kind of nationality or behavior. Of course, it has nothing to do with this.
This tournament’s committee has to analyze, according to a certain time of the year and according to certain criteria, but has nothing to do, I repeat, with rankings or nationality.
Q. You know that there are many tournaments everywhere: Indian Wells, Miami, Rome, Cincinnati, and many other tournaments all over the world. And here in Monte-Carlo, we haven’t had any women’s tennis tournament. So I was wondering whether you are envisioning to have this project? Because it was already envisioned back in 2005. What about this women’s tennis tournament?
ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: Actually, it was even envisioned before 2005. There were some ideas, proposals, even projects that have been envisioned, but when you think about the fact of adding 56 or 60 players in the main draw plus doubles, plus training courts, and you have to deal with all the scheduling, and you have men and women, it is quite complicated.
So even though we have managed to change for the better, we do not have more square meters. The surface still stays the same. So it’s not the same as if it was Miami or Indian Wells where there is no problem of space. But we have made the decision to keep our men’s tournament and improve the quality.
Q. I would like to thank you very much for this fantastic organization and all the work that you carry out actually before we arrive here. You look for us at the airport. You take us to the hotel. That’s been fantastic. I would like to point out something that it also happens in Miami, which is our presence in the stands, our places set for us in the stands. As you said before, we are 400 journalists, and sometimes our places in the stands are occupied by very nice and polite people, it’s true, but people are not working for the press. We were able to go to the press room and look from there. So how are you intending to solve that issue?
ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: I understand very well what you’re saying, but it probably is the price to pay of our success. As I was saying before, I thought this space issue was already solved, but of course we can improve by adding some extra seats, of course.
And as we have said before, you are 400. Of course probably we are not able to have as many seats as that. But in any case, you do have a beautiful view in the press room and something that Miami doesn’t have, for instance.
But of course you wanted also to have that room over there, so that’s very good. We are going to try to find some new seats, of course, because every year we strive to improve, and we will continue doing so.
Q. Talking about the women’s tournament and the problems of space, have you envisioned to play either before the tournament or after the tournament but we could use these facilities all the time for a women’s tournament?
ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: We need to consider two points here. First of all, this is something that it has been done in the past to have this women’s tournament. We have also to be aware of the fact that in the Principality, the dates and the seasons along the year are very specific. For instance, in spring we have our tournament here. Then we have the Formula 1, as you know, the Grand Prix. And then summer arrives very soon, and people go on holidays. People are on the beach.
And so it is difficult to organize such a tournament and expect to have a big development of such women’s tournament. So if we separate men’s tournament from the women’s tournament, we are not going to benefit from the power and the attraction that the men’s tournament will have. For instance, if we decide to organize it in July, it’s going to be, like, on their own.
So we have tried before, and it hasn’t worked. So that’s one point. Another point is that we need to assess the price, particularly the costs and the prize money, because of course the prize money has to be at the same level for the women as for the men. So we need to draw a really solid business plan and do our accounting before actually going into that venture.
Q. First of all, on behalf of my cameramen and colleagues, we would like to thank very much Isabelle, Philippe, yourself, of course, because we have been able to take wonderful pictures from the press room above. We love that location. We love it. We have been able to have great photographs in many important journals, like The Guardian, among others, and so we would like to thank you. And we would like to tell you that we would love to continue enjoying those facilities, that beautiful view. And then, another thing is that we have noticed that there are fewer celebrities attending this tournament as we compare it to past tournaments, and I don’t know what you think about this. Yeah, of course this has an impact on some other journals or magazines like Paris Match or others, because there are fewer and fewer celebrities. What do you think of this?
ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: First of all, I would like to thank you very much for acknowledging the efforts we have been making. We strive to improve facilities year after year.
And as regards the celebrities, well, I don’t know. I don’t think it is because the tournament is not popular enough or is not attractive enough. I don’t think that is the reason.
I think we have some other kind of celebrities. We probably have less cinema celebrities, but we do have more high-level, sports-people celebrities. So it is difficult to know why, but probably they have their own activities somewhere else, but in any case, we hope that they will come back. I mean, we hope that this tournament will be still attractive for them.