ATP Tourneys Continue To Follow Sponsorship Dollars Overseas, Leaving Fewer U.S. Events
Opportunities for pro tennis players to play in the U.S. are "dwindling as tennis tournaments are relocating to Europe, South America and Asia at breathtaking speed," according to Liz Clarke of the WASHINGTON POST. The ATP World Tour Citi Open, which begins today in DC, is a "key stop on many top players' road to the season’s final major, the U.S. Open, as well as a staple on the calendar of most American contenders." But while there were 26 ATP men's events in the U.S. 30 years ago, this season "there are only 11," with the Citi Open the "longest running among them." Lagardere Group President Donald Dell, who co-founded the event, said, "It is complicated, but it’s all economics." Retired American tennis player and Fox Sports 1 analyst Andy Roddick said, "It’s pretty simple in my mind. Tennis is second worldwide as far as popularity. Frankly, it’s just in the U.S. that it’s not. Americans like watching sports that they know, but the sports that get covered mainstream have heavy American participation, like NFL -- 99 percent of the guys are American, and the rest are place kickers." Clarke noted three of the eight North American hard-court tournaments leading up to the U.S. Open "lack a title sponsor," the ATP’s Winston-Salem Open, the WTA Tour Southern California Open and the WTA New Haven Open. But in countries where tennis is "more prominent, it’s easier to come by public and private money to buy and relocate tournaments, pay appearance fees or underwrite existing events." Dell said, "If you’re the second-most popular sport in Great Britain or Germany and you’re 10th or 11th in America, it’s a little easier in Europe to get big-name sponsors" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/28).