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ATP chief de Villiers to step down- 22 Aug 2008 00:00:00

Etienne de Villiers has announced he will step down as executive chairman and president of men's tennis governing body the ATP at the end of the season.

The South African has come under pressure after instigating some major structural changes to the ATP Tour.

He unveiled plans last year to replace the current Masters Series and has faced opposition from leading players. During his tenure tennis has also been hit by betting and doping scandals.

He stated: ‘I was tasked to create a vision that would involve bold changes. I believe that has been achieved. I believe we have delivered the biggest modernisation of the ATP Tour since its inception, have attracted unprecedented levels of investment into men's tennis and have begun to feed the growing appetite for men's tennis globally.
‘I am incredibly proud of what the board and my dedicated team have achieved for men's tennis and I am honoured to have played a part in taking our great sport to the next level.’

De Villiers was responsible for overhauling the ATP's management structure, the introduction of Hawkeye and the first increase in player prize money in over five years.

There were less successful ideas, though, including a short-lived experiment with round-robin formats.

De Villiers, who will will officially step down at the end of his current term in December, added: ‘Now that this much needed change has been realised I believe this is the right time for someone new to build on this strong platform.

‘I leave knowing, without doubt, that finally our players, tournaments and above all our fans have the foundations of a world class sport they truly deserve.’

The most contentious issue during his term involved replacing the current nine Masters Series tournaments with eight mandatory '1000' events - referring to the number of ranking points on offer to the winner.

A former president of Walt Disney Television International, De Villiers joined the ATP as chairman in 2005 and became executive chairman and president five months later.


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