Join Date: Sep 2002
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US Summer Series: Pilot Pen becomes a mixed event
May 11, 2005
Tennis Adds to Summer Series Leading Up to the U.S. Open
By LYNN ZINSER
The United States Tennis Association has created a combined men's and women's tournament leading into the United States Open to bolster the summer series it began last year as a warm-up to the Open.
By purchasing the men's event formerly staged in Westbury, N.Y., and adding it to the women's Pilot Pen tournament it owned in New Haven, the U.S.T.A. created only the fifth combined event in the country. The Pilot Pen will be the finale of the United States Open series, the 10-event hardcourt summer schedule the U.S.T.A. considers its regular season.
The Pilot Pen will remain in its calendar slot, with the women's final Aug. 27 and the men's final Aug. 28, the day before the Open begins. In the future, organizers plan to stage both finals on the Saturday before the Open.
"Combined events are now the wave of the future for tennis," Arlen Kantarian, the chief executive for professional tennis at the U.S.T.A., said yesterday. "It's proven that they get higher attendance and higher television ratings. It makes a lot of sense."
ESPN2 and CBS have agreed to televise 18 hours of the Pilot Pen. As further encouragement for top players to enter, the U.S.T.A. has increased the bonus for the men's and women's winners of the United States Open series. Last year, the bonus was 50 percent of whatever the players won at the Open. This year, the bonus will double the series winners' Open paychecks.
Last year, the Australian star Lleyton Hewitt entered the finale of the United States Open series only because he was leading the points standings. By winning the event in Westbury, he won the series; as the runner-up in the United States Open, his bonus was $250,000 in addition to his $500,000 Open winnings. In the same situation this year, he would earn $1 million. Lindsay Davenport won the women's series last year.
The U.S.T.A. wanted the event close to New York so players would face little travel before the Open.
Kantarian said the men's and women's finals for this summer's United States Open series would be televised each Sunday, a consistent time slot in ESPN's planned 110 hours of tennis coverage.