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Sport – like most aspects of life – is trending towards premium and streamlined offerings.


Modern society is moving faster than ever before, and entertainment mediums are having to adapt through the creation and capitalisation of premier and high-quality content.


While organisations such as the NBA – through its new play-in and in-season tournaments – and FIFA, with an expansion of the men’s world cup to 48 teams from 2026 have enhanced their premium products, there has been speculation that tennis will follow suit.


Initial suggestions of a ‘premium’ tennis tour came in November 2023, with The Athletic reporting on a proposed new calendar to host a fourteen-event circuit for the world’s top-100 players.


The revolutionary shift would aim to create a more succinct schedule for fans, reduce travel and competition demands on players, and help the Grand Slams and other major events to stave off Saudi Arabia’s pursuit of tennis as part of the nation’s ‘vision 2030’.


However, Peter Johnston – tournament director of the Kooyong Classic and tour level tournaments across multiple continents – believes tennis is too global for such a streamlined circuit.


All the speculation around the super tour is exactly that, pure speculation,” Johnston told The First Serve.


A move towards the Grand Slams taking over is simply not going to happen because there is so much money driven from the global nature of the sport.”


The current professional tennis tour sees players explore more parts of the globe than athletes in any other sport and allows a wide range of fans to enjoy the world’s best competitors in their home country.


To begin 2024, the men’s top-flight tour alone has visited ten countries across five continents and we’re still in February.


By the end of the season, thirty-eight nations will have hosted an ATP or WTA tournament and upwards of seventy countries will have held a professional tennis event at some level (ATP, WTA, or ITF).


It’s ‘the circus comes to town’ right around the world and that’s what ignites the sport and creates global heroes,” Johnston said.


When the tours come to these places, they’re igniting facilities being built and they’re igniting interest in the sport.”


Having directed ATP and WTA 250 events, bringing big names to smaller markets, Johnson understands the developmental benefits of taking the sport and its stars to different parts of the planet.


When Novak [Djokovic] started coming to the China Open and Roger [Federer] to Shanghai, that springboarded the growth of the game in China.


I ran Tel Aviv (Israel) a couple of years ago and we had Novak play in an ATP 250 and then he played in Kazakhstan (also a 250), and that was massive for those countries,” he added.


Additionally, tennis is only growing on a global scale with more countries than ever hosting events and being represented in national team competitions.


In 2023, the men’s Davis Cup saw a record 156 nations compete, leading to Italy’s triumph over Australia in the final, while the women’s Billie Jean King Cup had a record 135 countries in action.


Among these nations is Rwanda, who from Monday (February 26) will host a fortnight of ATP Challenger events in its capital Kigali – where 1983 French Open champion Yannick Noah will be in attendance to welcome tennis at this level to the sub-Saharan African region for the first time in history.


And while the lower tiers of the tour continue to expand globally, the ATP and WTA need to protect their ‘250’ and ‘500’ events and host cities that would majorly suffer from a premium tour revolution.


“The lower-level tournaments need to be nurtured. They’re providing year-round content for broadcasters which is generating revenue for all the events,” Johnston explained.


While few details have been provided, a proposed fourteen-event tour would see many nations lose the ability to host top-10 or top-20 level players.


And with a streamlined calendar, players who suffer a first-round loss at a premium tour event will naturally be looking for an instant rebound tournament with their next scheduled event three or so weeks away, creating deeper issues beyond just the tour itself.


“There’s already so much in place and there’s not going to be an upheaval in throwing a lot out for something which we’re not even sure what it will look like,” Johnston believes.


The reality is, [the premium tour] just won’t happen.”


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