Tennis: Agassi on the attack over rules: ATP officials face the music

ANDRE AGASSI is one of several leading players who are voicing their concern over the ATP Tour's rule experiments at the Volvo International tournament in Connecticut this week.

For the first time, music is being played during player introductions, warm-ups and changeovers and fans are also allowed to ask winners questions after matches.

An unofficial survey of players at the tournament shows mixed feelings about the radical changes but, more importantly, an overwhelming majority agree that it is not so much the innovations they are annoyed about, but that they do not have a say in what the ATP Tour is doing to try to improve the sport.

Rule changes, in effect since June, already allow fans to cheer during and after play, and move from their seats anytime they want as long as they are not in the lowest tier. The ATP also has shortened the time players have between points from 30 seconds to 25 seconds, and plan to take away another five seconds after the United States Open.

The issue about how the sport is being changed came to a head after Agassi made fun of the music being played between changeovers during his match on Tuesday. After losing, Agassi said the music created a circus-like atmosphere and was an embarrassment to the sport.

He added that he was frustrated because he and other players had not beeen asked whether they approved of the changes.

'I think so many players are against this, that this is going to die on its own,' he said. 'I'd be surprised if it didn't'

Michael Stich, the top seed, said: 'It's not that music is being played out there. The bottom line is the ATP tells us what we have to do. We're represented by the ATP, we shouldn't be kicked around like fools.'

Ivan Lendl, the elder statesman of the tour, did not have a problem with the music, but had a complaint yesterday about the rule that allows fans to move from upper- tier seats at any time.

During the third set of his third-round defeat against Marc Rosset, Lendl complained to the chair official about two boys chasing each other around in the upper level of the stadium.

'I asked him if he could ask those two boys to stop chasing each other, and he said he couldn't,' Lendl said. 'You can still see them (in the upper tier). It's still distracting. I thought the rule was designed for people to watch tennis - not to chase each other.'

ATP officials will continue testing the innovations for the rest of the week and will make a decision.

'I'll just say I'm glad I'm on the way out, not on the way in,' Lendl added.

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