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The U.S. Open Series - Yea or Nay?
By: Cheri Britton

The U.S. Open Series was started in 2004, and consists of 10 tournaments (11 events) running up to the U.S. Open Grand Slam. This year it starts with the Countrywide Classic in Los Angeles on July the 16th, and carries on right through the summer, climaxing with the Grand Slam being held August 27 through to September 9th.

The Open Series was founded to promote the game of tennis in North America. It manages to do this through two very clever ways:

  • For tennis fans it brings more televised tournaments. Before, the only two televised tournaments were the ATP Masters in Montreal and Cincinnati, receiving about 60 hours of television coverage between them. Now there are 50 additional hours of tennis on the tube, a real treat!
  • But there's no real value in showing more tennis if there aren't the top tennis players entering the tournaments to bring in more viewers. The organizers of the first Open Series decided to offer a sweetener to the players by awarding points to the event's top performers that could greatly enhance their U.S. Open paycheck.

Is it working? ESPN, which broadcasts most of the tournaments, saw a 33% increase in their ratings during the first televised Series in 2004. People have a better chance to watch quality tennis, and they're taking up the opportunity.

Also the points system has kept the top players keen to play in the Series. Who wouldn't be, with the chance to double their potential U.S. Grand Slam earnings if they win the most points overall in the Open Series. Additionally a player can not reach this 'brass ring' unless they have participated in at least two Open events.

In 2005 there was heartbreak and joy for the top points scorers. Andy Roddick fought through to become the men's biggest point scorer, only to be beaten in the first round of U.S. Open. Conversely, Kim Clijsters, the top women's point earner, went on to take the Championship, and a record $2.2 million, the biggest paycheck for any women in a sporting event. Don't feel too badly for Andy, last year he was top point scorer, and this time he progressed to the Finals, and his paycheck must have been very tasty indeed.

The U.S. Open Series continues to stay up-to-date and relevant. In 2006 they included Hawk-Eye, the instant replay facility, to all the events in the Series. This was welcomed by both the players and spectators, ending the 'You can not be serious' age. Players are given a certain amount of challenges for each set. If they challenge incorrectly, they lose a challenge. Correct challenges result in the player keeping that challenge to use later.

So, to the opening question; is the Open Series good for North American tennis? After it's third year, it seems to be here to stay, so that suggests it's been a hit with tennis fans and players alike. It's brought more american tennis not only into the living rooms of the North Americans, but worldwide as well, which can't be bad. Spotlighting the best events and players, the founders of this new 'classic' event should be proud.

Cheri Britton is the editor of Womens Tennis Apparel, hand-picking and showcasing the best ladies tennis clothing, including womens tennis skirts. She also watches too much tennis and posts far too much on Tennis4you's excellent forum for her own good.