It’s possible that the United States will be down to just one indoor tournament next year, as sources tell TENNIS.com that there is a "50-50 chance" the SAP Open in San Jose will be sold or shut down.
San Jose Sports & Entertainment Enterprises, which owns the NHL's San Jose Sharks, the tournament in San Jose, and the men's and women's combined event in Memphis, is considering moving its ATP 250 sanction from San Jose to Memphis, which if it occurs would mean the end of the second oldest tournament in the United States, which*began in 1889 as the Pacific Coast Championships. This would be in response to IMG's proposal of*buying*both the mid-February ATP 500 and WTA International Series tournaments in Memphis and moving them to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. IMG sees benefits in moving a tournament to Rio, a city that over the next five years will host the soccer World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
The ATP Board of Directors has yet to approve the sale to IMG, as there are a number of issues involved.*The WTA is said to have already signed off on the deal if the tournament stays combined. The United States Tennis Association (USTA) has sent a letter to the ATP objecting to the sale, as it could have a detrimental effect on U.S. pro tennis, leaving a hole in between the Australian summer and the March Masters Series tournaments at Indian Wells and Miami.
Currently, San Jose is the first U.S. event after the Aussie summer swing, and traditionally occurs during the second week of February. It has been followed by tournaments in Memphis, Delray Beach, Indian Wells, and Miami. If tournaments are moved, 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 events in Europe and Latin America at the same time.
An additional complication facing the ATP*is that some of the Latin American tournaments have proposed converting their playing surfaces 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 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 on clay courts.
The ATP Board of Directors will meet next week and will hear the proposals, but it is improbable that they will make a decision this early on in the process.
Further complicating the move of the 250 sanction from San Jose to Memphis is that San Jose has a title sponsor, SAP, which has a year left in its contract, while Memphis no longer has a title sponsor. SAP has an out clause that would allow it to withdraw if the tournament moves. One advantage that Memphis has over San Jose is that the Racquet Club of Memphis (which the San Jose Sports group owns) has multiple courts, while San Jose’s HP Pavilion only has space for one court, making for a crowded schedule.
The Northern California tournament moved from San Francisco to San Jose in 1994 and has generally done well in attendance, 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. In 2010, San Jose Sports & Entertainment Enterprises President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Jamison—a fan of tennis—stepped down, and the group was taken over by leaders who have little interest in the sport and are displeased that the Sharks have to*go on a two-week road trip every year to clear the arena for the tennis tournament.
Sources have also told TENNIS.com that there is another undefined 250 sanction in play that could be bought and moved to Memphis.
Outside of the Masters series 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,*of which were indoors. If San Jose leaves, there will only be one indoor tournament and five overall, including this week's event in Houston. The ATP summer tournaments in Atlanta and L.A. are both admittedly struggling.—Matt Cronin
So San Jose may move to Memphis if the 500 is moved to Rio and some of the SA clay tourneys may convert to hard court.