Bill - Houston, TX | Read Bill's Second Entry
NEW YORK (AP) - The new governing body of tennis announced today the formation of several regional tours to increase the popularity of tennis globally. Effective in 2008, there will be a European tour, Australian/Asian tour and a North/South American tour. As part of this move, no tennis tournaments will be held in November and December to help prevent injuries in the sport.
"Tennis is truly a global sport, and it's time the tour structure reflects that,"said new tennis commissioner Bill Zander, who rose from obscurity to take the top position after the ATP and WTA merged into the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA).
Zander said this move replicates the success of golf.
"Golf has been very successful with this format,"he said. "I believe the action and athleticism of tennis far exceeds golf."
Top tour players such as Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova endorsed the move.
"I will continue to play the most prestigious events worldwide that help me prepare for each Grand Slam," said Federer. "I support the move to increase fan interest and opportunities for other players on these three tours."
"I was fortunate enough to have success at an early age,"said Sharapova. "The new regional tours will be excellent training grounds for up and coming players before they begin playing events worldwide."
Each regional tour will crown overall men's and women's champions in both singles and doubles, similar to the concept of the U.S. Open Series.
Zander cited one example of how this new tour structure will make tennis more marketable.
"Right now, Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand is ranked No. 52,"he said. "He is popular in his home country, but he has also had his share of first- and second-round losses. Imagine if Paradorn won several tournaments on the Australian/Asian tour as well as the overall men's championship of that tour. This would increase tennis's popularity in the Asian region even more. We see potential for similar stories worldwide."
The new tour structure will also encourage surface specialists to broaden their game.
"The North/South American tour will primarily feature hard courts in the United States before the U.S. Open and clay courts in South America before the French Open,"said Zander. "A player who wants to do well on this tour will have to succeed on both surfaces. While there may be some short-term pain, over time this will increase American success at the French Open, which will increase TV ratings in the United States for this Grand Slam."
Zander is confident that the new format will encourage the development of new personalities who may have been overshadowed in the sport's prior format. It will make it easier to sell TV coverage rights of tournaments in each continent to networks in each country. He predicts the sport's surge in popularity will surpass the interest during the Connors/McEnroe/Borg and Evert/Navratilova era.
"Frankly, this regional approach is long overdue, and we predict a tennis boom in the years ahead,"said Zander.