By Richard Pagliaro, Tennis Week
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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