SBJ/20091207/This Week's News

USTA urges ATP to relocate event

The U.S. Tennis Association is pressuring the ATP World Tour to reconsider its surprise decision late last month to retire the Indianapolis tennis tournament rather than let it relocate to Atlanta.

In correspondences sent last week to the ATP, sources said, the USTA laid out reasons why the event would thrive in Atlanta and noted the harm American pro tennis would suffer from retiring the sanction.

It’s the latest dustup over the last few years between the two groups.

“We respect the ATP board process,” said Jim Curley, the USTA’s U.S. Open tournament director and the person who oversees the U.S. Open Series, the branded circuit of summer hard-court events that has begun with the Indianapolis stop. “We view the situation with the ATP as an ongoing discussion,” Curley added, even though formally the men’s tennis circuit already has retired the sanction.

The ATP had no immediate comment on the Indianapolis matter, but a source close to the tour said it was not inconceivable the issue could be voted on again. There are six board members plus the CEO, Adam Helfant, who vote. While it could not be determined what the final tally was, sources said the vote to retire the Indianapolis sanction was not unanimous.

The USTA would like to see the recently
retired Indianapolis event moved to Atlanta.

One rationale behind retiring the tournament is that the season is viewed as being too long. The Indianapolis event is in the middle of the summer, but retiring the event would give the ATP flexibility to move a late-season tournament into that summer slot.

However, as is often the case in tennis, a sport with many competing factions, no move, no matter how minor — this was a financially struggling event that was selling for only $1 million — fails to stir up controversy.

“This is terrible for the U.S. Open Series,” said Donald Dell, who runs the Washington, D.C., tour stop and had not heard about the ATP’s decision until asked about it last week. “It is a serious loss to the American circuit.”

There are four other ATP summer stops in the United States plus one in Canada.

On the other side of the equation are the frequent complaints from players about injuries caused by a long season, the struggles of pro tennis in America, and the failure of Atlanta’s last ATP tournament, which ceased in 2001.

A deal had been reached for the Southern Section of the USTA to acquire the event from the charity that owns it in Indianapolis and move it to Atlanta, but the ATP has a right to match any purchase and retire a sanction. Going into the ATP’s board meetings in London late last month, there was little if any discussion about retiring the sanction, sources said.

This most recent brouhaha between the ATP and the USTA is the latest in a series of such disagreements. Last year, the USTA battled with the ATP over the tour’s initiative to place its logo on nets, a plan the USTA felt detracted from the U.S. Open Series. The creation of the Open Series also caused headaches for the ATP, which saw it as competition for its top tier of events, some of which overlapped with the Series.

In related news, the former head of ATP Media, Mark Webster, was voted onto the ATP board as a European tournament representative. He replaced the director of the Monte Carlo event, Zeljko Franulovic.

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