SBJ/June 9-15, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

USTA near Open Series extension

The U.S. Tennis Association is close to renewing its partnership with eight American tournaments to extend the Emirates Airline U.S. Open Series through 2018. The current pact runs through August.

The media campaign for the U.S. Open Series breaks this week, with ticket sales tied into the USTA-owned U.S. Open. Ads featuring top players like Serena Williams will run in tennis specialty publications, local newspapers in event markets, as well as some national TV spots.

The 2014 U.S. Open Series begins next month at the BB&T Atlanta Open.

While spots hit to promote this year’s events, the USTA is also looking long term to extend the concept it launched in 2004 as a way to brand what were often disconnected summer hard court events leading up to the U.S. Open.  

“We talked to the tournaments about another four years,” said J. Wayne Richmond, general manager of the USOS, who expects completed agreements in the next few weeks. Most of the tournaments sent representatives to a meeting with the USTA in New York last month.

The 2014 USOS, which starts July 21 in Atlanta and runs through late August, is covered under an existing deal with the events. The USTA, which owns some of the tournaments, handles the creative for the events and their websites, helps manage ticket sales and TV ads, and pays the tournaments a dividend.

In total, Richmond estimated the events on average benefit by half a million dollars, which for some is sizable and can mean the difference between profit and loss.

The USOS has been knocked in some tennis quarters because players who compete only in events required by their tours often win the bonuses that the USTA pays out. The Cincinnati and Canadian stops are required for top players, so last year, Rafael Nadal won the USOS playing just those two, even though part of the point of the series was to provide top players with an incentive to enter the U.S.-based summer events that often struggle for exposure and attendance.

The USTA is tweaking the formula this year by doubling the USOS points for players who compete in three or more events. Players earn points by how well they do in the eight events.

The top three finishers of the series earn extra prize money at the U.S. Open. The total possible amount to be won is $2.6 million combined for the top six (three top women, three top men). The winner of the USOS can earn $1 million extra by winning the U.S. Open.

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