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Page last updated at 15:14 GMT, Thursday, 21 August 2008 16:14 UK

ATP boss De Villiers to step down

Etienne de Villiers
De Villiers battled hard to make changes to the ATP schedule

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

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

He unveiled plans last year to replace the current Masters Series and has faced opposition from leading players.

"I was tasked to create a vision that would involve bold changes. I believe that has been achieved," he said.

"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.

It was proposed that the Masters events in Monte Carlo and Hamburg would lose their elite status, prompting strong opposition from many officials and players.

Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic took the unusual step of taking places on the ATP's player council in June in order to make their views heard.

De Villiers came under further pressure when the the German Tennis Federation took the ATP to court over the downgrading of Hamburg, but the ATP won the anti-trust case earlier this month.

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.

see also
London to host World Tour Final
03 Jul 07 |  Tennis
China gets Masters Series event
16 Apr 07 |  Tennis
Tennis chief comes out fighting
05 Mar 07 |  Tennis
ATP abandons round-robin format
21 Mar 07 |  Tennis

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