Masters Cup May Move To Shanghai
By Tennis Week
As the tennis world converges on Paris for the season's second Slam, the ATP is close to completing a reported $20 million contract that could return its season-ending Masters Cup event to Shanghai for a three-year run starting next November.
The Shanghai deal has not yet been sealed, but is expected to be finalized by the ATP board of directors during this two-week French fortnight, according to a published report in the SportsBusiness Journal written by Daniel Kaplan.
Shanghai successfully staged the Tennis Masters Cup in 2002. As the ATP World Championships, the event was held in Frankfurt from 1990-95 and Hannover from 1996-99 before making one-year stops in Lisbon, Sydney and Shanghai.
In November, the tournament completes its two-year run at Houston's Westside Tennis Club whose owner, Jim McIngvale, paid $7 million for the hosting rights and spent another $4 million building a new stadium to stage the tournament.
Last November's tournament marked the first time since 1989 the year-end event was held in the United States. Roger Federer defeated Andre Agassi in the rain-delayed final. During the rain delay, McIngvale sat in his stadium suite and showered ATP CEO Mark Miles and WTA CEO Larry Scott with his proposal to merge the two Tour's year-end tournaments and stage the combined "Super Bowl" of tennis at the 7,500-seat Westside Tennis Club. According to McIngvale, Miles and Scott requested a combined $12 million sanction fee for a combined ATP/WTA season-ending tournament, proposing that each Grand Slam contribute $1 million toward that total, but the Slams denied that request and the proposed "Super Bowl" concept has not been revived.
The man nicknamed "Mattress Mac" is not taking the news of the tournament's move to Shanghai lying down. In an interview with the SportsBusiness Journal, McIngvale blasted the ATP for taking the tournament to Shanghai.
"The ATP is a terrible partner, absolutely terrible," said McIngvale, who reportedly spent nearly $15 million on the event last year, but did not submit a bid to retain hosting rights. "A great product, great kids, but the senior management of the ATP is terrible."
McIngvale created controversy when he appeared in his court-side box clad in the American flag shirt he sports when working at his Gallery Furniture business and openly cheered for Americans Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick. McIngvale's public support of the American pair drew criticism from some competitors in the field, including Argentina's David Nalbandian.
Incensed by McIngvale's support of Agassi, including cheering and clapping during periods of the match, Nalbandian took the tournament owner to task for his behavior.
"I think it's a lack or respect towards the players," Nalbandian said.
During one stage of the match, Nalbandian punctuated a winner by yelling "Applaud that!" at McIngvale.
Asked if he believed McIngvale's vocal support of Agassi influenced lines people or the chair umpire, Nalbandian replied: "I don't know. That's very difficult to say. I don't know."
If the contract to conduct the Masters Cup in Shanghai is completed, it would benefit the ATP Tour financially, but would come at the expense of the Tour's largest fan base — U.S. and European fans — who would be pressed into late night and early morning viewing or miss seeing matches played in the Asian time zone.
"Taking it to Shanghai is not good for the U.S. tennis market," McIngvale told the SportsBusiness Journal. "It's hard for us to see that at three in the morning."