By Mark Preston
Traditionally, the concept of a “season” had never really been a part of tennis, but with the introduction of the US Open Series in 2004, all of that changed.
The US Open Series features the world’s top pros playing in hard-court tournaments across North America, ultimately ending at this sport’s ultimate event: the US Open. Now, tennis has a very real season, one that tennis fans have come to appreciate and enjoy.
Once again in 2017, the US Open Series promises to provide tennis fans with another summer blockbuster, chock full of excitement, entertainment and more than a few plot twists.
Since its inception, the Series has helped to lift the visibility and popularity of the sport and the summer hard-court season, increasing attendance and TV viewership for Series events. In addition to making the summer tournament schedule more meaningful, the US Open Series has made watching those tournaments much more convenient, with an easy-to-follow weekly TV schedule that this year features more than 200 hours of coverage from Series events on the ESPN family of networks, including live back-to-back tournament finals on Sundays.
And by elevating the profile of the pro game and creating more fan interest, the US Open Series directly supports the USTA’s mission to grow the game.
“Arthur Ashe once said, ‘The best player development program is a successful professional sport,’” noted ESPN broadcaster Cliff Drysdale. “That is absolutely true. There is a definite correlation. If you become fascinated with a sport on a professional level on television, you’re more inclined to go and play, and if you’re a player, you’re more inclined to go to these events and watch on television.
“Those things are all interconnected. The success of the US Open Series and the US Open have helped improve the state of tennis overall.”
Indeed, the US Open Series has been a proving ground for a number of exciting innovations in the sport. It was here that the “US Open Blue” courts debuted, a playing surface that makes the ball more visible to fans in and creates a signature look and identifiable link between these events and the US Open. The Series is also where instant replay and the player-challenge system were introduced. Now, those additions have become an integral part of most tournaments.
This year, the USTA will utilize the US Open Series to bring the fun and fitness of tennis to children and families across the country, as the Series will provide the USTA with a way to highlight programming – particularly its youth tennis initiatives.
What’s more, each tournament held in the U.S. will host a youth clinic for a local National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) chapter, and the USTA Foundation, the charitable arm of the USTA, will present each of those chapters with a “Serving Up Dreams” grant so that they can continue to make the sport more accessible to more young people.
And as the USTA continues its efforts to develop the next generation of American champions, the US Open Series will provide a great stage on which the top young U.S. stars can earn their stripes against some of the game’s greats, allowing them a chance to earn valuable ranking points on their home soil.
The 2017 US Open Series kicks off July 22 with the BB&T Atlanta Open, and from there, summer’s biggest blockbuster promises more than a few scintillating storylines.
The US Open Series – it might just become your favorite season of the year.