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
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.