Patrick Mouratoglou : “With UTS, the crowd became the third player in the game”

Patrick Mouratoglou, founder of UTS (and co-founder of Tennis Majors) was more than happy to see his vision accomplished at Los Angeles, during the first UTS played in front of a crowd

Patrick Mouratoglou, Los Angeles 2023 Patrick Mouratoglou, Los Angeles 2023 | © Thierry Breton for Tennis Majors / Panoramic

Patrick, what is your first takeaway now that the first edition of UTS with a crowed has finished in Los Angeles?

Patrick Mouratoglou: The feeling is incredible. I lost my voice, I hope and I’m sure a lot of guys here lost theirs. It was different tennis. Of course, it looked like tennis. In terms of quality, it was very high quality. But the atmosphere was completely different. You never see that kind of atmosphere on a tennis court. And with the music with the crowd shouting so much a lot during the points also, sometimes even teasing the players, the players engaging so much with the crowd all the time.

The crowd became the third player in the in the game. So that’s exactly what we had foreseen, imagined, dreamed of. And we’ve seen it. Not to say that it’s perfect. I know it’s not perfect. We have a long list of the things we can improve. But for the first time to have such a quality event, we were sold out. We had such great players and they played such great tennis with, we’re in such a heated atmosphere. I couldn’t hope for anything better.

With the crowd as a new player in the game, can you just tell me one or two key moments, key stories because it was what you envisioned?

Patrick Mouratoglou: I don’t know if I really have key moments, because the crowd was really participating all the time, they were very responsive. When the DMC was talking to them, they were shouting straight away, they wanted to have fun, this was extremely clear. And the thing is that they had this opportunity. We didn’t do anything incredible. What we did was giving the space for things to happen, giving the space to the crowd, by allowing them to express fully, and giving the space to the players, allowing them to be themselves fully and do whatever they wanted. Because it’s their place, the tennis court is their place. And I believe it should be their place. And we shouldn’t take this away from them by telling them what they should do or how they should behave.

When you decide to do the job to be a tennis player, it’s the same as if you decide to be an artist, you are performing in front of thousands of people

Patrick Mouratoglou

In traditional tennis, the idea is that the crowd, the music, the sound are messy for the players. We didn't feel that here. How do you explain that?

Patrick Mouratoglou: First of all, when there is silence, and you hear a sound, imagine you’re at home is full silence. And you hear a sound, not even a big sound, but you’re gonna jump. Because you’re surprised you don’t expect it. That stillness, the silence during the points in tennis makes it scary when there is suddenly a noise. When you have a constant noise, it’s not a problem at all. And we had constant noise, there was music all the time.

Of course, when they were playing the music was lower. But there was music, people were talking, shouting, sometimes teasing the players, you had this all the time. So it’s not a problem at all. And the players knew in advance it will be like this, they were prepared for that. And I’m sure if you ask them today, they will say it was no problem. And it’s not more than that. They will say it was cool.

We liked it. We felt that they were into it. When you decide to do the job to be a tennis player, it’s the same as if you decide to be an artist, you are performing in front of thousands of people, if you’re a great athlete, or a great singer, less if you’re not but you are performing in front of people. That’s your job. So what you love is to impress people connect with people share emotion with people. So UTS is the platform for that.

You spent your time meeting and chatting with a lot of people. Can you tell me the average feedback you have about what you're doing?

Patrick Mouratoglou: People were very nice. They were saying how much they loved it. They were saying that moving in the crowd, they’ve seen so many young people, kids super happy shouting and this is what we want. They love the atmosphere. They love the music during the points, in between the points, the general atmosphere and the quality of the tennis. I think it’s the whole thing. I said it at the start. I said at the very start of UTS. In order to succeed we need two things. We need incredible entertainment much bigger than what tennis offers. And we need fierce competition with players ready to die on the court to win. And I think we had both. And that’s why it works well. And that’s the feedback that I had. And the players gave also the same feedback. Frances (Tiafoe), Yibing (Wu), Taylor (Fritz), they all were completely okay with the music, and they loved it, to have the music and to feel connected to the crowd.

Patrick Mouratoglou and Gael Monfils, UTS Los Angeles 2023
Patrick Mouratoglou and Gael Monfils, UTS Los Angeles 2023 | © Thierry Breton for Tennis Majors / Panoramic

Speaking about Yibing Wu, the winner, he showed so many things in terms of expression with the crowd and in terms of quality of game. How did you experience his journey?

Patrick Mouratoglou: I knew Yibing Wu as player and I knew he was a very good player. But of course, compared to others, in terms of level, it should have been a gap. His ranking this week is No.78. But he was tough. He has already won an ATP 250. So he is a very good player.

I know that just his ranking is low compared to the others. But he beat a top 10 player (Fritz) in the final. I was impressed by the quality of the things he played during this UTS. And I think he’s going to help him for the future. And I discovered the man. He is very reserved when he’s on tour. He does not talk too much to people. He’s not someone that players know well. There are some but for most of them, we discovered his personality. Everyone loved him. Everyone, like all the players, were saying so many good things about him, how much they loved him and his attitude on the court, being able to show his personality completely and he opened up.

And I think he was the first one in shock. Because he told me after the first match, he said, “I would never think I would do something like this one day in my life. But I felt so good. It felt so natural to do it”. And actually loved it so much that he continued to be the same and stayed open the whole tournament. So great discovery is the human being and the player impressed by the quality of the tennis he played during this week. But it’s not a huge surprise, because we know he’s a great player.

On the field, what was the level of the tennis played in your opinion ?

Patrick Mouratoglou: First of all, what was great is that most of the matches went to the sudden death. So all the matches were close, there was a lot of suspense. And a sudden death is unbelievable in terms of suspense. So that’s great. The level of tennis was overall extremely good I liked to see that some players were nervous. And I’ve seen that a lot. In many first quarters, the level was low, because the players wanted to do so well. And that’s a good sign. It just shows that they cared so much. So this I loved and then we had some incredible moments with Kyrgios coaching, some great people interviewing. All this made the total product, the global product, extremely interesting on all levels.

Last question. In your first answer, you said nothing is never perfect so maybe we can improve. What do you want to improve the next step?

Patrick Mouratoglou: I’m not going to go through my list of things that we need to improve because the list is long. Mostly it was great. But you want aim as much as possible for perfection. So all the little details here and there that we’re not perfect, you write them down to improve them. Believe me, we’re gonna improve a lot. Even though the basis of UTS are set for the first time with a crowd today.

Can you maybe say this was what you envisioned from the beginning. Close to 100%?

Patrick Mouratoglou: This is exactly what we envisioned from the first day we started UTS. From where we are now to the final vision, we are at 70%. There is 30% improvement, which is a lot.

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