Also, while this isn't certain, it's entirely believable. The ATP is or has already bought back the Tennis Channel Open in Las Vegas, which hasn't exactly been a blockbuster event. If the ATP is indeed buying that tournament, I'd move it out of Vegas and have a very hard look at the Carolinas, which is a very undervalued area of tennis fans.
Vegas stop on the move?
The Tennis Channel Open in Las Vegas probably will be sold this summer after an unsuccessful two-year run, and Butch Buchholz, tournament chairman of the Sony Ericsson Open, will be among those bidding to buy it and move it to Saddlebrook Resort, just outside Tampa. The ATP also is believed to be interested in purchasing the tournament and moving it to South Africa, a decision that would cause a great deal of consternation at the USTA headquarters in White Plains, N.Y., which takes a very hard line on any American tournament leaving the country.
March 29, 2008
USTA, ATP battle over future of Tennis Channel Open
Posted by Charles Bricker at 7:39:41 AM
KEY BISCAYNE -- One of my moles (not a shadowy human but an actual talking rodent) tells me that the letter sent by USTA czar Arlen Kantarian to ATP CEO Etienne de Villiers over the sale of the Las Vegas Tennis Channel Open was candid, clear and extremely tough.
I'd love to see a copy of the letter and I'm working on it, but neither organization is anxious to air this one out publicly. The ATP wants to buy the tournament from the Tennis Channel and move it out of the U.S., possibly South Africa. The USTA, which has invested $6 million in the Tennis Channel, is ready to call up the Marines if that tournament tries to leave the country.
And just to make things more interesting, Butch Buchholz, who is chairman of the Sony Ericsson Open, is putting together a consortium to buy the tournament and move it to Saddlebrook, just outside Tampa. That happens to be where Mardy Fish, the Bryan brothers, John Isner and James Blake practice and call home.
I asked Blake on Friday to comment on the possible loss of this tournament and it was obvious that he's in the loop, which is not surprising, considering his association with Saddlebrook.
"As an American, I know there's been quite a bit of a migration of tournaments from the U.S. I think not that many years ago there were 20 tournaments in the States," he said. There are now 14.
"So I would definitely like to see that number at least stay where it is. The tournament in Vegas, I know, hasn't drawn huge crowds. But if there is a possibility to have it somewhere else in the States, where we can keep kind of the swing going among Delray Beach, Memphis and San Jose, I think that would be great.
"Obviously, I'm a little biased, being an American, but I think it makes sense for the tour."
And if it moved to Saddlebrook? Did I see Blake's eyebrow raise there? "Yeah, I love playing in New Haven because it's so close my home, where I grew up. And if there's a chance to play another tournament close to Tampa, where I live now, whether it be Saddlebrook, that would be ideal. I'd do everything I can to make sure it sells out. I'd invite every single one of my friends."
There's going to be ample opportunity to keep the pressure on to hold onto that 14th U.S. tournament because no decision on sale of an event can be made without the ATP board, which doesn't meet again until Wimbledon.
Vegas For Sale?
By Tennis Week
4/3/2008 3:43:00 PM
The buzz in Miami is that Tennis Channel is close to selling its struggling Vegas tournament, The Tennis Channel Open, and there is concern it might not stay in the U.S. As it stands now, the tournament may move to South Africa or it may be shut down and removed from the ATP calendar.
According to insiders, members of the Tennis Channel board were meeting in Miami with potential buyers.
An advocate for retaining the tournament in the U.S. has emailed the media and USTA officials lobbying to keep the tournament in the States.
There were rumors that Sony Ericsson Open founder and Hall of Famer Butch Buchholz was leading a group to buy the tournament and move it to Tampa, however sources say that will not happen.
At this point, it appears there is a slight chance the tournament could be sold and move to South Africa, however it appears more likely the event will be shut down and removed from the ATP schedule. The ATP is trying to streamline its schedule and given the fact the tournament is contested the same week as the $1.4 million Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships, which traditionally attracts top players, and that it occurs the week before the Pacific Life Open at Indian Wells, the Tennis Channel Open has had trouble filling its field with top-10 players.
Since James Blake beat Lleyton Hewitt in the 2006 Tennis Channel Open final, the tournament has failed to consistently attract top draw players and has struggled to sell tickets.
Weather and location play a part: late February is traditionally one of the coldest periods of the year in Vegas with fans — including Andre Agassi on a couple of occasions — forced to bundle up in winter coats to brave the night chill.
American Sam Querrery beat rising South African Kevin Anderson, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, in last month's Tennis Channel Open final.
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