• U.S.T.A. launches series to promote U.S. Open
NEW YORK --The prelude to the U.S. Open is set.
The U.S. Tennis Association unveiled plans for The US Open Series on Tuesday, 10 summer hard-court tournaments leading up to the year's final Grand Slam tournament.
The package consists of six ATP Tour and four WTA Tour tournaments in the United States and Canada, with nationally televised semifinals and finals each week in a consistent time slot.
"This series delivers the regular season that tennis is yearning for," ESPN VP of programming Mark Shapiro said.
Arlen Kantarian, the USTA chief executive for pro tennis, said at a news conference that the package creates "a series of tournaments that will unify the North American season under a consistent television platform and marketing platform."
The series stands to be profitable to the players, as well. The top man and woman over the course of The US Open Series will receive a bonus equal to 50 percent of their U.S. Open earnings in 2004. The bonus will be 100 percent in 2005.
The series starts 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 series could expand to include a women's tournament in San Diego on July 26.
The U.S. Open starts Aug. 30.
ESPN will carry 92 hours of live tennis coverage during the eight-week period. CBS will air matches from at least two tournaments and NBC will have one.
"Tennis really needs to have some consistency in programming, some simplification of the major events around the Grand Slam events, and a unified and aggressive promotional campaign," CBS president Sean McManus said. "In years to come, when you look back at the history of tennis, I think today will be looked at as an awfully significant day."
So it's all about the money and making the top players play for it