Where Have All the American Tennis Tournaments Gone? – News

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America Clay Courtroom Championships, a males’s tennis event that ended Sunday in Houston, signaled one thing past the transition from the hardcourt season to clay.

It marked the tip of the tennis excursions’ two-month American swing, which featured six tournaments, together with two of the most important tournaments exterior of the 4 Grand Slam occasions — the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., and the Miami Open.

Because the ATP and WTA Excursions shift to the crimson clay and grass courts of Europe, the following main occasions in america received’t come till the hardcourt season in July within the lead-up to america Open.

And after the U.S. Open wraps up in early September, the tennis excursions depart once more, spending a lot of finish of the season in Asia.

American tennis followers used to have extra choices. In 1990, 24 of 55 WTA occasions have been in america. However with the sale of the Connecticut Open in New Haven this yr, solely seven of 55 WTA occasions at the moment on the 2019 calendar are on American soil. 5 of these seven are joint occasions with males, together with the U.S. Open, Indian Wells and Miami.

On the lads’s facet, 16 of 77 worldwide ATP occasions in 1990 happened in america. This yr, 11 of 63 can be.

At one time, each the lads’s and ladies’s year-end tour finals have been performed at Madison Sq. Backyard, however now the lads’s occasion takes place in London and the ladies’s is in Shenzhen, China. Smaller tournaments in america have had bother promoting sufficient tickets and sponsorships to remain financially viable. And there was even some concern that the Miami Open, which was in search of a brand new stadium website final yr, is likely to be lured overseas.

“I don’t suppose that we’ll ever change into a U.S.-centric tour once more,” stated Steve Simon, the chief government of the WTA. “I feel there’s definitely room for development for a pair extra occasions, however I feel the expansion can be in that the occasions which might be right here within the States will proceed to get greater. However I do suppose that we have now moved to having a worldwide footprint versus being centered primarily in a single nation.”

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Simon stated that the WTA deliberate to introduce two new occasions in america, one starting this yr and one other in 2020, each of which can happen the week earlier than the U.S. Open. The situation of the 2019 event, which might convey the overall of WTA occasions within the nation to eight, is predicted to be introduced in Could.

The decline within the variety of American tournaments over the past three a long time corresponds with the decline within the variety of Individuals atop the world rankings — particularly on the lads’s facet — and the expansion of tennis in Europe and Asia.

In December 1990, seven of the highest 20 males’s gamers on the planet have been Individuals, together with family names like Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Michael Chang and John McEnroe.

The present rankings characteristic solely John Isner at No. 10 among the many high 20, adopted by Frances Tiafoe at No. 29. They’re the one American males within the high 50, and no American man has received a Grand Slam occasion since Andy Roddick on the U.S. Open in 2003. Since then, Europeans, led by Switzerland’s Roger Federer, Spain’s Rafael Nadal and Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, have received 59 of the 61 main titles.

Ladies’s tournaments fled america regardless that Serena and Venus Williams have been dominant gamers over the previous 20 years and are the explanation many present American gamers took up tennis.

With greater than half of the world’s inhabitants in Asia, the WTA appeared to that continent as a pillar of development, stated Stacey Allaster, the chief government {of professional} tennis for america Tennis Affiliation and a former chief of the WTA.

In 1990, there have been solely 4 WTA tournaments in Asia. This season there are 11 in China alone, a part of a tennis growth fueled by the success of Li Na.

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“I don’t suppose it’s in regards to the amount of occasions” in america, Allaster stated. “We want profitable occasions.”

And for smaller tournaments, being profitable may be robust.

When Anne Worcester, the event director of the Connecticut Open, realized the event was now not economically viable, she tried to discover a new title sponsor for the occasion in New Haven.

She thought-about presents from numerous American cities, however finally offered the event to the very best bidder, APG, a sports activities and leisure firm with a powerful footprint in Asia. This yr, the event, which was once held the week earlier than the U.S. Open, can be in Zhengzhou, China, the week after the Open.

“It has been very emotional to let go of one thing that I’ve birthed and nurtured for 21 years,” stated Worcester, who was the chief government of the WTA from 1994 to ’98. “My children are 21 and 23, so it was actually like having a 3rd baby. However the economics have been so clear and since I used to be main the cost to safe a title sponsor in addition to domesticate bidders world wide, I simply noticed the writing on the wall. As a lot as our board didn’t need to promote, there was simply no selection.”

Worcester stated it was exhausting to promote tickets and sponsorships partially as a result of there have been fewer American stars to advertise. The Connecticut Open in recent times has featured European stars like Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova and Caroline Wozniacki.

“On this international sport of tennis, it’s not simple to advertise non-Individuals,” Worcester stated. “Individuals need to see Individuals.”

She remembered her time because the director of worldwide operations for the Virginia Slims Tour, which started in 1970, organized by Billie Jean King and backed by the Philip Morris firm.

“Simply in america of America, Virginia Slims had 17 named tournaments within the main markets of america,” Worcester stated. “And girls’s tennis was filling arenas, indoor and outdoor. It was a really totally different period, a really totally different financial system, a special product. There have been extra American gamers that have been on a first-name foundation with the world.”

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The bleeding could have stopped on WTA occasions leaving america. Curiosity was excessive within the New Haven occasion, Worcester stated, as a result of international bidders knew {that a} event of its caliber wouldn’t be offered once more for a very long time.

When the lads’s Memphis Open confronted declining revenue and did not safe a title sponsor a number of years in the past, Josh Ripple feared the occasion is likely to be bought by an organization that will transfer the event exterior america.

Ripple, a former president of the WTA Tour, is the manager vice chairman of GF Sports activities, a New York-based occasions firm that owns and operates a number of professional sports activities occasions.

In 2015, an affiliate of GF Sports activities bought the tournaments in Memphis and Atlanta from the united statesT.A. and dedicated to not letting them go away america, Ripple stated.

After talking with representatives from Nashville; Columbus, Ohio; Seattle; Dallas; and Phoenix, Ripple and his firm moved the Memphis occasion in 2018 to the renovated Nassau Coliseum on Lengthy Island, the place it was held in February. (The Racquet Membership in Memphis, which hosted the event for 40 years, is closing this spring and can be was a lodge and condo complexes.)

“Hopefully, it will possibly have a pleasant lengthy keep in New York,” Isner stated, including that he preferred “taking part in in america as a lot as doable.”

Patrick McEnroe, an ESPN analyst, stated that the main American occasions just like the U.S. Open, Indian Wells, Miami and Cincinnati are stronger and extra well-liked than ever however that the lower-level occasions just like the New York Open may proceed to face difficulties.

“To me, the one manner that these can get again to being constantly viable yr after yr is that if on the high we have now extra American tennis gamers near the highest which have persona that may promote some tickets,” he stated.

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