By HOWARD FENDRICH, AP Tennis Writer
April 20, 2004
NEW YORK (AP) -- In a bid to boost tennis' exposure leading up to the U.S. Open, 10 summer hard-court tournaments will be packaged together for TV this year and offer bonus money for players.
The U.S. Tennis Association said it would announce the formation of The US Open Series at a news conference Tuesday.
The events will be marketed as a group, with telecasts of semifinals and finals slotted for 4-6 p.m. EDT each week. In the past, there was no consistent time slot for television coverage of these tournaments.
Arlen Kantarian, the USTA chief executive for pro tennis, has been working with the ATP Tour, WTA Tour and individual tournament organizers for three years to put together the series.
It will start July 12 with the men's tournament in Los Angeles and the women's tournament at Stanford.
Also participating in 2004: ATP events at Indianapolis (starting July 19), Toronto (July 26), Cincinnati (Aug. 2), Washington, D.C. (Aug. 16) and Long Island (Aug. 23), and WTA events at Los Angeles (July 19), Montreal (Aug. 2) and New Haven (Aug. 23).
The U.S. Open, the year's final Grand Slam tournament, starts Aug. 30.
Players faring the best overall during the new series will earn extra prize money at the U.S. Open. This year, the top man and woman in the summer circuit will each get a 50 percent bonus on top of their U.S. Open winnings; that will rise to 100 percent in 2005.
A new $150 million contract the USTA and CBS Sports agreed to last year for U.S. Open broadcasts included the possibility of live telecasts from a new series.
CBS will air matches from at least two of The US Open Series tournaments, ESPN will televise seven events, and NBC one. That will give tennis 100 hours of coverage on national television over the six-week series. The series is looking for an exclusive sponsor, a USTA source told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.