22 April 2018: Zeljko Franulovic (English)

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Zeljko Franulovic
Press Conference
ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends from the press, the time has come for me to do the traditional review of our Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters.

This 112th edition was a great success and a real satisfaction for us. The weather was exceptional. As our reputation says, we were able to launch the summer season on the French Riviera after the hard rains we had the previous weeks. Now winter has given way to summer and we were able to play all our matches every day on time without delay and in excellent conditions.

So with the latest extensions to welcome more spectators, we were able to break the record of 136,000 spectators. And we are still waiting for the figures of the sales for today.

Also another proof of the attractiveness of our tournament, the tennis fans have not hesitated in braving the train strikes to be present here. Starting on Tuesday, tickets were totally sold out, and we are not even in a school holiday period.

So some highlights have happened during this edition of the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. There were two events that show our tournament is internationally recognized. The eight top players, who are very committed to the preservation of the environment, have participated with a lot of enthusiasm to an original exhibition that was organized for the profit of the Foundation of Prince Albert II of Monaco. The champions really played the game with some very famous stars from the television called ‘The League of Their Own’, such as the former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, or Jamie Redknapp from The Reds in Liverpool.

That event was recorded and is going to be broadcast on Sky UK and on CBS in the USA next January. In total, there will be more than eight million television viewers in the whole world that will watch that show, which offers us and the Foundation of Prince Albert II of Monaco excellent visibility and promotion.

Another international event was the award ceremony giving the official ring of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, which is the highest honor you can have in tennis, to Boris Becker, the youngest winner of Wimbledon. This is for his immense career.

After meeting with His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco in his box, Baronness Elizabeth-Ann de Massy gave the ring to the previous champion in the presence of Todd Martin, who is the director of the Hall of Fame.

As you know, the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters is a tournament that is very committed to its traditions. These traditions, in fact, are the DNA of the prestige of our tournament.

As you know, we are looking to the future. We have a constant desire to improve our infrastructure. With that in mind, we inaugurated this year new facilities for TV production, while we are waiting for a new building to be constructed. It will be able to offer an interview room and conference rooms in 2019. That will be much more adapted to the needs and requirements of an ATP World Tour Masters 1000.

Tennis-wise this 2018 edition also proved to the world that tennis is little by little also looking to the future. The crowds in the Monte-Carlo Country Club were able to discover new talented players. They are constantly improving, and little by little rising in the rankings. We had Karen Khachanov, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Daniil Medvedev, Felix Augier-Aliassime, who is only 17 years old, without forgetting Alexander Zverev, who celebrated his 21st birthday qualifying for the semifinal on Friday evening after one of the most beautiful matches we had in this tournament.

We also had the pleasure of seeing Richard Gasquet show his love for this Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters by playing unbelievable tennis, beautiful tennis. Richard on Thursday won his 500th victory on the ATP Tour. Symbolically, the French player reached that figure here in Monte-Carlo where he had won his very first match at 15 years of age on the tour. This was a great performance which places his name very high in the history of French tennis.

Another player that we’ve seen being born here is the title owner, Rafael Nadal. We will see him play in the final in a few hours. He came out of the quallies when he was only 16 years old, and caused a sensation in 2003 when he only lost in the round of 16 against Guillermo Coria. We were able to follow him playing with passion and admiration all along these 14 years. Among them he won the title 10 times. This is more than a record, it’s a reference point.

With this new unprecedented final that will oppose Rafael Nadal to Kei Nishikori, the previous US Open finalist, who only participated once in our tournament in 2012, the top player in the ATP rankings is now trying to win his 11th victory here. Never in history has a champion won 11 times a tournament.

Now let’s give way to the final, and the moment you are all expecting, giving the awards to the press tournament.

I will take questions.

Q. How many Italian spectators were present this year at the tournament?
ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: We don’t have the final figures yet. Traditionally it’s 35% to 40% of the total number, which was 136,000. Just if we briefly calculate it, it’s around 40,000.

Q. You said it was sold out on Tuesday, but you were talking about sales for today. How come?
ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: Well, in fact, we sold everything. But every day we leave some tickets at the entrance to be purchased on the very day. This is to try to fight against the black market.

But I believe at this hour, all the tickets are sold anyway.

Q. The Australian press reports Thanasi Kokkinakis would have to stop playing for two months because of the fall on the foam cushions at the back of the court. How did the organization react to that? It seems the health of the players is not quite protected.
ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: Well, there’s a distance of more than six meters from the baseline to the back of the court, which is widely within the rules of the ATP.

I didn’t see the incident itself, but I know it happened in the heat of the game. He could have also hit the fridge that is on the side or something else.

I know we are totally within the rules. Sometimes even a player can trip and fall on the court itself. You can always say it was too wet or too dry. But I know here the length behind the court on each side is longer than any other tournament almost. I mean, it’s one of the longest ones we have. The cushions are only foam, they’re not rigid.

We are all very sorry for Kokkinakis, of course, more than anyone else. We can’t have 20 meters on each side of the court.

Q. We had two beautiful three-setters with Nishikori and Cilic and Gasquet. In Italy they tried new rules to speed up the game, with no let, 20 seconds. What do you think of that?
ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: Well, you should ask the ATP because they carried out the tests. But once you do the tests, you have to after that make the right decision and keep within reasonable decisions.

I personally liked very much those three-setters. What we could shorten would be the breaks in between the points, in between the first and the second serve. Maybe we could put a clock or something to speed up the game there because it takes time for the player to get the towel and everything.

But for me the problem is not the three sets. We have the tiebreak to shorten it up.

Q. It’s a bit delicate. I understood that the press interview room will be in the other building next year. Personally I’m glad we can still stay here, that we can write here. Since many times there are some players who are asked to come in the terrace, maybe not here, doubles yesterday, small nations, minor players, I hope that at least in the first days when there will be many, many players, many interviews probably, that some interviews can be still done here and maybe major ones over there. Is that possible or not?
ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: Isabelle will take requests, all the new requests into consideration. What we will do, what I think was necessary to do, to put the interview room over there because this one is too small.

Ubaldo, as you may know, there is a mixed zone that you’re probably talking about that is very hard to access now, which we will again think about it and make it more accessible. That’s one of your ideas to have players from smaller nations or the doubles players coming from the court, I think we will be able to use the new building for a mixed zone, as well.

Now, as you say, I want to call an Italian player to come here, that’s easy to manage. What was difficult to manage was to have your request for individual interviews here when the interview room was so small. So we will have more options.

Q. The mixed zone will also be in the new building?
ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: We are looking for the best location. The other one is hard, we know that. That’s why we have a new building.

Q. The first days there maybe 32 different interviews for singles players, maybe 16 for doubles. Those are 48 possible potential interviews. I would say out of 48, a few of them should still come here, I suggest.
ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: What happens next year will be easier and better than this year because we have a completely new building which we are still kind of studying, analyzing where to put what.

But there will be first of all a large interview room that will be able to fit everybody, then the mixed zone, and maybe a place for individual interviews that we can find some room.

Q. The press room will stay here?
ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: Yes. We were thinking at a certain point to move everything there, since we are building something for our players, for our press. But then there was a strong opposition. We said, Okay, if you prefer to stay here, why not?

Q. Will there also be some spots for the press in the new building?
ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: It’s hard to satisfy everybody. If we decide to move the interview room, all of a sudden this will open up for the press that are staying here. We have a nice working space for you to move here.

Now individual interviews, again…

Q. I mean, desks for the journalists who want to stay there? It’s an issue, too.
ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: There are some who told us they want to stay. Now if you want to move, you have to tell us.

Q. I did several times.
ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: Isabelle will take all the requests and then we have to weigh what’s best to do.

Q. Just leave some space also here, if I can suggest.
ZELJKO FRANULOVIC: I agree. But the same was asked to the players, to move 48 times.

If there are no further questions, thank you very much.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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