With the Australian Open only a day away and talks emerging of a ‘premium tennis tour’, combining grand slams and Masters/1000 events into one category, it’s worth opening up a question that many have pondered:
Should we hold a WTA or ATP 1000 lead-in tournament before the Australian Open?
For the uninitiated, the ATP Masters-1000 and WTA 1000 tournaments are a step below the grand slams, as the most coveted trophies on the annual WTA/ATP Tour calendar.
With the notable exception of Wimbledon, every grand slam has at least one Masters-1000 or WTA Premier tournament leading up to it.
Roland Garros has Monte Carlo (ATP only), Rome and Madrid and the U.S. Open has Canada and Cincinnati.
In Australia, the men’s tour doesn’t even have an ATP 500 event, while the women’s Brisbane and Adelaide events are both WTA 500s.
So why should Australia host a WTA/ATP 1000 event leading up to the AO?
Offering the second-highest points and prize money behind the 4 grand slams, WTA/ATP 1000 tournaments add prestige to the tour.
Holding one in Australia would make our fair nation a destination for tennis fans around the world. For one, the tournament would most certainly attract the world’s top players which would, in turn, attract larger crowds.
What’s more, a Masters/1000 event would add a lot of excitement around town, wherever it was held.
Once a grand slam that the top professionals used to avoid completely, the Australian Open is now seen as one of the most prestigious grand slams of the year.
Holding a Masters or 1000 event before the AO would add marketing buzz and do wonders for promoting the game in Australia.
Adding a WTA/ATP event would also inject cash into the Australian economy, adding plenty of jobs and promoting local businesses.
The marketing would boost Tennis Australia’s tyres too, opening up T.V. rights, sponsorship and ticket sales revenue - something they would certainly get around.
Mandatory Player Commitment
With some exceptions, such as Monte Carlo on the Men’s side, the WTA and ATP 1000 tournaments are mandatory for players.
This means that the top 100 players would be forced to play a lead-in Masters or 1000 tournament before the AO, which, again, would add a prestige value to Australia.
Gives Players a Break
There is currently no real off-season for players on the tour, so a major 1000 event would ensure they could find time for a break, likely between the end-of-season ATP and WTA finals and the Australian swing in January.
This would be the case if we reduced the amount of 500 and 250 events and prioritised 1000 events, which would ease the workload on professional tennis players. Plus, this might reduce the amount of injuries we see on the tour, particularly after one of the longest seasons in world sport.
Why Isn’t There a WTA/ATP 1000 event in Australia?
One of the obvious reasons is the short lead-in time to the Aussie Open. Unless you were to hold a Masters or Premier event in December, there’s only a two-week window in January before the AO kicks off.
Other than that it’s hard to say. Tennis is popular in Australia but for the general public, this is limited to the two weeks of the Australian Open. When you watch Indian Wells or Miami, the crowds are always full of loud, passionate tennis fans.
There is an element of uncertainty as to whether Aussies would get around a Masters or 1000 event in Australia.
Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley has reportedly been involved in discussions of a ‘premium tour’ amid rumours Saudi Arabia is hoping to host a major early January event, which would disrupt the Aussie summer of tennis, including the new look United Cup, if top players were forced or incentivised to play in the Middle East instead.
Both the heads of the WTA and ATP have been supportive of elevating top-level events closer to the grand slams, the only place where most of the casual sports fanbase pays attention to tennis.
WTA CEO Steve Simon wants a calendar that is easier to follow, stating that, “premium drives the business.”
Meanwhile, ATP Tour CEO Andrea Gaudenzi indicated he wanted to “close the gap” between the Masters and grand slams.
With these strong statements coming straight from the top, it seems as if the wheels are already well and truly in motion for a prospective Masters 1000 event in Australia.