USTA's US Open Series snags all but San Diego
Schwartz: 'This is one of the most powerful messages that can be sent
to the public: Join our sport.'
Haas' US vacation; US Davis Cup on clay?
By Matthew Cronin
[img]http://www.********************/tr.net_photos_art/usta_usopen_series.gif[/img]The much-talked about US Open Series finally came to fruition in a big way on Tuesday when the USTA announced that it has struck deals with 10 of 11 North American summer hard-court tournaments (San Diego excluded) leading up to the US Open.
The US Open Series will mark the first time that there will be a consistent television schedule for the tournaments beginning the week of July 12 with the men's' Mercedes-Benz Cup in LA and the women's Bank of the West Classic at Stanford.
The USTA will spend some $3 million this year buying TV rights, promoting the Series and offering more prize money to players. USTA president Alan Schwartz said that by combining this effort with the organization's new Tennis Welcome Centers, the USTA hopes to have 30 million Americans playing in 2010, an increase of six and half million players.
broke the story in January with an interview with Schwartz.
"The bottom line is this is probably one of the two most mission driven initiatives we have ever had to promote and develop the growth of tennis," said Schwartz. "I firmly believe that if we have regular Saturday and Sunday exclusive coverage, five-hour coverage every week between Wimbledon and the US Open, we will develop more fans, we will have more stars being developed and ultimately more players. So this initiative coupled with Tennis Welcome Centers is one of the most powerful messages that can be sent to the public, which is 'Come out and play. Join our sport.' "
Tim Leiweke, the CEO of AEG, which now owns the WTA's JP Morgan Classic in Los Angeles, said he's most impressed with the USTA's commitment.
"It would have been easy for them to rest on the laurels of the US Open," he said. "That is enough of a task. They clearly generate enough success from that particular venue and event and opportunity that they didn't need to reach out and ultimately expand this relationship. It wasn't a necessary mandate, but I think the industry needed some new leadership. I think the industry needed a new vision. I think what they have done over the past three years is a vision for the future of the sport that will make the sport much better on the professional level and it will have a significant impact on the development level."
SAN DIEGO DOESN'T SEE ENOUGH INCENTIVE
But Raquel Giscafre, who co-owns the Tier 1 $1.3 million Acura Classic at San Diego's La Costa resort with Jane Stratton, didn't see the benefit of joining up this year.
"It's a good initiative for the US and for those tournaments who joined up, but the USTA's offer to us wasn't good enough," Giscafre told tr.net
. "We are the only Tier I women's tournament in the summer and didn't want to be lumped in with the others. We already had a TV deal with ESPN and we didn't want give up any other rights."
The Acura Classic has already attracted the world's top four marquee players to July 26-August 1 event: the Williams sisters as well as Justine Henin-Hardenne and Kim Clijsters.
"We already have all the ingredients in place for a successful tournament and we have been successful in the past," Giscafre said. "It's nice to be affiliated with the US Open, but we have already paid to be a Tier I and have been down a long road of challenges to get where we are. We have earned our Tier I status and are the most popular tournament for the players. We're willing to listen to any offers the USTA might make in the future, but it will have to add to our tournament. I only hope that the additional money and points they are offering the others tournaments don't hurt us in the future."
The TV agreement with ESPN provides a regular, weekly schedule of live broadcasts in prime viewing time slots for US Open Series events. In addition, CBS Sports and NBC will televise select weekend coverage. The combined coverage of 100 hours of US Open Series events and 140 hours of US Open broadcasts on CBS and USA represent a record 240 hours of pro tennis coverage over eight weeks during the summer. The Tennis Channel is scheduled to broadcast select early rounds and is in discussions with the USTA regarding additional coverage.
For the first time ever, players competing in the US Open Series tournaments will be vying for bonus prize money at the US Open. Effective in 2005, the men's and women's winner of the US Open Series will play for double the prize money at the US Open. This year, the two winners of the US Open Series will receive one and one-half times the prize money they would otherwise receive at the US Open. In addition, the second-place and third-place finishers will also receive bonus prize money based on their US Open performance.
The Series is seen by many to be the brainchild of Arlen Kantarian, the USTA's Chief Executive, Professional Tennis, who has worked diligently on the concept over the past two years. In fact, it was only a few months ago that the USTA believed that because scheduling and marketing might of the Olympics, that it might only be able to bringing in a handful of tournament in 2004. But Kantarian and 10 tournament directors saw it immediately as a win-win situation.
"This unprecedented partnership within the sport has resulted in a huge step forward for pro tennis in North America," Kantarian said. "The US Open Series creates, for the first time, a clear and concise big-league summer season for tennis, leading into and culminating with the US Open. A unified Series with a consistent television platform benefits everyone – players, tournaments, broadcasters, sponsors, and, most importantly, fans. It's a testament to the sport's shared desire to increase fan and media attention."
The US Open Series will begin with the Mercedes-Benz Cup and Bank of the West Classic. The US Open Series continues over the course of the ensuing six weeks: in Indianapolis (men), Los Angeles (women), Toronto (men), Cincinnati (men), Montreal (women), Washington, D.C. (men), New Haven (women), and Long Island (men) - leading directly into the US Open.
Haas' US vacation; US Davis Cup on clay?
Susan Mullane/Camerawork USA
Tommy Haas takes out Andy Roddick to win in Houston.
After watching Tommy Haas play so miserably in his first match back in San Jose in early February, it was inspiring to see the talented German rediscover himself in Houston, where he beat Andy Roddick in the final. Haas should be a factor the rest of the year.
Roddick – who has played every week save for one since second week of January – said he wouldn't have played if weren't for his close ties with promoter Jim McIngvale. The No. 2-ranked American then pulled out of Monte Carlo, joining Rogr Federer and Andre Agassi as top players who decided not to play the first clay court Masters Series of the year.
Juan Carlos Ferrero should have been so lucky. The two-time defending champion was schooled 6-2, 6-by Alex Corretja on Tuesday. It was the defending Roland Garros champ's second consecutive clay court defeat following his loss to Fernando Verdasco in last week's Valencia semis. His RG defense is looking very shaky.
It looks like few of the top guys are paying attention to the ATP's stated desire that they play all the Masters Series, even though the players automatically lose points if they don't. Most of the top guys are correctly assuming that the others will skip a Masters Series or two, so what's the incentive to show up at all nine?
The Monte Carlo field is still pretty decent, with Guillermo Coria, Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin, David Nalbandian (playing his first event in six weeks) and Carlos Moya still in.
Of course, tournament play is increasingly becoming hard to follow on the ATP's web site, with the tour pushing fantasy Euro weekends, monopolistic partnerships with ISPs, DVDS and backyard courts of the rich and famous. The tour is becoming capitalistic to the point that it's obscuring the beauty and meaning of the sport in its headstrong drive to creating more centers of profitability.
Sometimes it's hard to tell what the tour is selling: tennis, or fantasy camps with bobblehead dolls.
HARD OR SOFT IS THE QUESTION
Where will the US-Belarus Davis Cup semis be played? Houston or Charleston on clay, or Carson or Flushing Meadows on a slow hard court? Correct me if I'm being too macho, but if I'm Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish and the Bryans et al, I would ask Captain Pat McEnroe to play the tie on slow hard courts. The US can't possibly fear facing Belarus on their favorite surface at home and choose clay instead, would they? Roddick and the Bryans both have enough weapons to down Max Mirnyi and Vladimir Voltchkov on hard. The only surface they have to fear these two on is grass.
Sick Justine and Fed Cup
It's undetermined as to whether Henin-Hardenne really has mono, but she's sick enough to have pulled out of Berlin and now she's not scheduled to play until Roland Garros. Her No. 1 ranking will be at risk there, but how serious her top spot is threatened will also depend on Kim Clijsters' health and [possible] performances in Berlin and Rome. Serena Williams has entered Rome and may take a wild card into Berlin.
Martina Navratilova will play Fed Cup doubles in Slovenia.If we manage to make it across the Italy-Slovenian border, tr.net
will be reporting live from the US-Slovenia Fed Cup tie beginning on Thursday. Venus Williams leads Captain Zina Garrison's US squad, which will include Lisa Raymond doing double duty in singles and doubles; Martina Navratilova, who is hoping to follow up on her fine play in Charleston last week; and rookie Laura Granville sitting and learning.
The Slovaks could trot out 24-year-old Maja Matezvic to play singles, who in the same locale last year, was crushed by Russians Vera Zvonareva and Anastasia Myskina. Or Captain Mima Jausovec may go with competent standbys Tina Pisnik and Katernia Srebotnik. It should be a very interesting, sold-out tie on outdoor red clay.
Frenchwoman Emilie Loit has had an amazing two week run, winning Casablanca and Estoril back to back. She beat the rising Iveta Benesova 7-5, 7-6(1) in the Estoril final. Will Loit have a chance to play Fed Cup singles against Germany in Amiens this week, or will she have to settle for doubles play and let veterans Amelie Mauresmo and Mary Piece do the individual lifting? It's on Guy Forget.
Another tie to keep your eyes on is Italy and its veteran team (Farina and Schiavone) at home vs. the Czech teens of Strycova and Vaidsova. Spain is playing at home on clay against the Swiss and is bringing back old warrior Conchita Martinez, but captain Miguel Margats hasn't decided yet between Marta Marrero and Maria Sanchez Lorenzo to play singles, both of whom are having good seasons. If I'm Swiss captain Zoltan Kuharszky, I'm going with Myriam Casanova over Emmanuelle Gagliardi. Patty "the ball hider" Schnyder will play No. 1 singles.
Jennifer Capriati and coach Craig Kardon hooked up last week in Charleston for a try out. … Safin is being coached by Roger' Federer's old coach, Peter Lungren. … By the way, yours truly made an appearance on the TTC's Tennis Insiders last week. If you're interested in watching me struggle like Sampras on clay against the likes of Miles, Laver and Pasarell, I'm sure it will be re-run again.
tr.net friend and "Jimmy Connors Saved My Life" author Joel Drucker is on the women's Tennis Insider's panel with Larry Scott, Gavin Forbes and Giscafre.