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Tennis has always had a bit of a problem generating meaningful tournaments outside the slams. There are those awful weeks where three events are on, with the top 60 players scattered around the globe and hardly an interesting match in sight until perhaps the semis.<br /><br />So. What to do? Well, the ATP created the Masters Series. They were the nine big events outside the slams (not counting the 8-man end of season event) and they had more money, more prestige than other events. But still this wasn’t good enough. So, in their wisdom, the ATP changed the ranking system. When introducing the Champions Race, they decided that the Masters events were an essential part of a players’ ranking. In other words, skip Monte Carlo and those points are bust.<br /><br />Problem solved. Nine events that no player (top or otherwise) could afford to miss. Better matches. More revenue. Everybody’s happy.<br /><br />Well, the Madrid Masters will go down as the event that blew that theory off court. Of the top 10, let’s see who is missing, shall we? Federer (1, tired), Roddick (2, elbow), Hewitt (3, personal), Coria (4, not sure), Moya (6, injured I suppose), Gaudio (8, whatever). Those six don’t seem to worried about missing out on the ranking points or prize (ahem, appearance) money.<br /><br />Tim Henman is top seed, which is nice for him, but he is hardly the biggest name in tennis. Lest we forget, he is yet to reach a Slam final. <br /><br />But the real worry is the gimmicks. Using leggy models as ballgirls smacks of utter desperation. As if no-one is going to notice that Federer isn’t there. Welcome to a new sporting low.