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Friday, March 1, 2024

Creation of History-making Premium Tour in Tennis Gathers Steam

  • Top players briefed on the potential effort combining Slams with top WTA and ATP events.
  • The Australian Open smashes its prior attendance record.
Mike Frey-USA TODAY Sports

The prospect of a premium-level tour in pro tennis, including the four Grand Slams and other top men’s and women’s tournaments, is moving closer to reality after key stakeholders were briefed on the effort at the recently concluded Australian Open. 

Advancing a discussion held back in the fall regarding the potentially transformative notion, Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley and U.S. Open tournament director Stacey Allaster briefed top players during the tournament, according to The Telegraph in London, and the WTA is said to be particularly receptive to the idea. 

The effort, somewhat resembling how Formula 1 operates, seeks to achieve several goals. Perhaps foremost among them is the creation of an aggregated set of media and sponsorship rights that could garner more revenue than the ATP and WTA do separately. Additionally, the creation of a new tour would represent another major move for gender equality in pro sports while also creating a more streamlined schedule that is easier for both players and fans. 

A premier tour working group is now due to report to tennis leaders at the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells in March. But there are still obstacles, including synchronizing commercial contracts across the sport and getting buy-in from both the ATP and WTA to downgrade some events into a lesser, developmental tour. 

“All the stakeholders in tennis have been working on a solution for the game. And it’s a journey to get to that point,” Tiley told The Telegraph. “The Slams are united in their resolve, but it’s a complex problem to solve. If it wasn’t complicated, it would have been solved already. These ideas aren’t new, but what may be new is the motivation to give it a go, and see if there’s that opportunity.”

G’Day, Mate

There was more history at the two-week Australian Open that ended Sunday as the first Grand Slam of 2024 finished with a total attendance of 1.02 million, beating the prior tournament record of 839,192, set last year, by a whopping 22%. Despite initial player concerns about match scheduling and new tournament offerings to attendees, such as a two-story courtside bar, Tiley hailed the event and its appeal to fans.

“It was the best Australian Open ever,” Tiley said, somewhat echoing a common Olympics refrain from former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch. “All of our metrics show that, from player feedback to fan experience.”

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