USTA, ESPN Close To Completing Deal For U.S. Open Series

April 8, 2004 01:47 PM

By Richard Pagliaro, Tennis Week
03/03/2004

It's billed as the biggest of all the majors and now the U.S. Open may become an even Grander Slam. The USTA and ESPN are reportedly close to signing a multi-year contract that would enhance the two-week tournament that is the U.S. Open with a summer-long series of up to six professional tournaments serving as a lead-in to the Open and culminating with a championship climax in Flushing Meadows.

Since taking over as USTA Chief Executive Professional Tennis, Arlen Kantarian has said creating a cohesive build-up to the U.S. Open is one of his primary aims. Kantarian's plan calls for three networks — ESPN, CBS and USA Network — as many as six summer American events and possibly multiple sponsors working together with the USTA to create a U.S. Open series that would pique interest in tennis before peaking with the U.S. Open.

An unnamed ESPN executive told the SportsBusiness Journal's Terry Lefton that the network is close to a deal with the USTA, but that the deal cannot be completed until the USTA has commitments from enough tournaments.

The SportsBusiness Journal reports that at least four tournaments — the WTA's Bank of the West tournament at Stanford (July 12-18th), the ATP's Legg Mason Classic in Washington, D.C. (August 16th-22nd), the USTA-owned Pilot Pen in New Haven, Connecticut (August 23rd-29th) and either the ATP's Mercedes-Benz Cup in Los Angeles (July 12-18th) or the WTA's JPMorgan Chase Open in Los Angeles (July 19-25) or both men's and women's L.A. events — have already committed to the series.

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