San Jose ATP tourney to close; Rio gets event

by: Matt Cronin | April 23, 2012

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TENNIS.com

The ATP tour stop in San Jose, California will cease to exist after 2013, TENNIS.com has learned. San Jose Sports & Entertainment Enterprises, which owns the NHL's San Jose Sharks, will move its ATP 250 sanction from San Jose to the tournament week currently occupied by Memphis, which it also owns.


At the ATP meetings in Monte Carlo last week, the board approved the sale of the Memphis 500-level sanction to IMG, which alongside Brazilian partner EBX will operate an ATP World Tour 500 event in Rio de Janeiro, beginning in 2014.


San Jose Sports & Entertainment Enterprises also sold its sanction for its WTA International Series event in Memphis to IMG, which will host a combined event in Rio on a yet-to-be-determined surface. There has been discussion of playing the Latin American events on hard courts, as opposed to red clay.


The ATP will determine the calendar and format for 2014 and 2015 later this year. The ATP tournament in Memphis will continue as a 500-level event in 2013, and then become a smaller 250-level event in 2014.


The shutdown of San Jose means the end of the second oldest tournament in the United States, which began in 1889 as the Pacific Coast Championships.


The United States Tennis Association (USTA) had sent a letter to the ATP objecting to the sale, citing a detrimental effect on U.S. pro tennis, as it will leave a hole in between the Australian summer and the Masters Series tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami in March. Currently, San Jose is the first U.S. event after the Aussie summer, and it traditionally occurs during the second week of February. It has been followed by the tournaments in Memphis, Delray Beach, Indian Wells, and Miami. USTA officials are concerned that players who have traditionally stayed in the U.S. during the five-week stretch might take their services elsewhere and weaken the fields. There are also events in Europe and Latin American at that time.


An additional complication that the ATP faces is that some of the tournaments in Latin America have proposed converting from red clay courts to hard courts in an attempt to attract more high-level players. The ATP has opposed that move in the past, but most of those current tournaments—Vina Del Mar, Sao Paolo, Buenos Aires, and Acapulco—seem ready to make the switch, even though some of the players who traditionally have played the swing, such as David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro, have said they want the tournaments to remain clay-court events.


IMG sees benefits in moving a tournament to Rio, a city that will be in the spotlight over the next five years, as it will host the 2014 World Cup (soccer) and the 2016 Summer Olympics.


The Northern California tournament was once played at the historic Berkeley Tennis Club and includes many all-time greats as past champions, including Don Budge, Rod Laver, Jimmy Connors, and John McEnroe. It moved from San Francisco to San Jose in 1994 and had done well attendance wise for the most part, but since the retirement of regulars like Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, and Michael Chang, and the declining fortunes of Andy Roddick, attendance has been up and down. San Jose Sports & Entertainment Enterprises bought the tournament from longtime promoter and former Top 10 player Barry MacKay in 1995.


Outside of the Masters tournaments at Indian Wells, Miami, and Cincinnati, no U.S. ATP tournament of the 250- or 500-level packs in fans attendance-wise.


In 1980, there were 20 ATP tournaments played in the United States between mid-January and early May, 12 of which were indoor. With San Jose’s exit, there will only be one indoor and five overall tournaments.


The ATP summer tournaments in Atlanta and L.A. are both admittedly struggling. However on Monday, Atlanta announced that it had signed a new title sponsor in BB& T, and the Masters tournament in Cincinnati announced that Western & Southern extended its deal as title sponsor through 2014.


Sports Business Journal also reported that Citigroup will become the new title sponsor of the combined Washington D.C. tournament for the next five years. The Washington ATP spot is now the only 500-level tournament in the U.S.Matt Cronin

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