Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Should Tennis Consider Rotating the Locations of its Grand Slams?

When tennis was in its earlier days, most of the top players came from the United States, Australia and Western Europe.  Naturally, it made sense that all four grand slams were held within these places.  It's no secret that tennis is now more global than ever, and some have begun to float the idea of rotating the locations of the grand slams (at least once every few years) to take advantage of and bolster the sport's worldwide popularity.    

Wimbledon would be the least likely of the grand slams to move, based on its deep tradition and the lack of other places that have suitable grass courts for such a big event.  It could be like the Masters in golf, which is always played in Augusta even though the other Majors rotate locations. 

Moving the Australian Open to somewhere in Asia every so often is the most realistic scenario, and the marketing for the tournament has even begun to refer to it as the "Grand Slam of Asia/Pacific."  While hosting the Australian Open in Asia may be confusing from a marketing perspective (stay tuned for the "Australian/Asian Open" on ESPN2), it may otherwise be a smart idea.  The ATP and WTA tours have been working feverishly to take advantage of the growing tennis markets in Asia, and hosting a grand slam there once every 3 or 4 years would be the next logical step. 

Australia obviously wouldn't be happy about this, and the Australian Open has done a great job of closing the gap with the other slams over the last several years.  However, a generous financial deal could presumably be worked out with Australia's tennis federation to lessen their anger.

The US Open would obviously stay in America, but it might be interesting to let a different city than New York host the event every 4 or 5 years.  There are a few other cities in the country capable of hosting, even though New Yorkers would certainly object.  Indian Wells is close to grand slam status already, so why not make it official and let it host the Open at one point.  Cincinnati and Miami would be the other possible options, given that they also host Masters 1000s and have the facilities in place.  However, Indian Wells would make the most sense given its Southern California location, prestige and ability to ensure a strong turnout.

It's also well known that the tours are trying to take advantage of tennis' popularity in South America, so the French Open (name change required) could potentially be moved to clay courts in Brazil or Argentina once every four years as well.  Confusion could be an issue for the casual sports fan, but tennis is largely watched by diehard fans who would adjust to the concept.  (Doesn't the "French/South American Clay Court Open" just roll off the tongue?).

This isn't to say moving locations of the Grand Slams is necessarily the best idea, but it's a conversation worth having.  Tennis players and fans aren't concentrated in a few powerhouse countries like they used to be, and it may help further grow the sport by hosting tennis' biggest events in some new locations.  

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