CitiOpen and the Inevitable, Imminent Invite to DC; Tuesday Presser Called #ATP #WTA #DC

Rock Creek could be co-ed for years to come

The working title for DC’s pro tennis tournament is…
“Leggs and the Citi”!

CitiOpen, Maryland’s first professional tournament in decades, is on the verge of announcing a move across the border from College Park to Northwest Washington. The signs have been pointing in that direction for the WTA for some time.

In February, this blog broke the news that CitiOpen would not return to the Tennis Center at College Park. With the Olympics scheduled for the same period as CitiOpen, there was some concern that it would be held at all. TCCP CEO Ray Benton opined at the time that it would probably end up in DC alongside Legg Mason, and it appears that the Tennis Statesman knew exactly what he was talking about. Late last year, the WTA international event was set for the same main draw starting date, July 30, as the ATP’s Legg Mason Tennis Classic in Washington. 

Last week, I noted on twitter that the Troy Park Tennis Center in Elkridge, Maryland, which was once touted as a future permanent home for CitiOpen, had been axed as another victim of local budget cuts.

On Friday, Lynn Berenbaum reported from twitter handle @LynnLovesTennis that the Legg Mason twitter account changed last week from @LeggMasonTennis to @DCATPTennis. Of course, that news by itself could simply imply that the title sponsor had backed out.

When you factor in that CitiOpen recently changed its handle to @WTACitiOpen, you realize that it must be far more than a coincidence that these two events simultaneously decided to add the acronyms of the respective tennis governing bodies in their twitter names. It wasn’t done to pay respect to the WTA and ATP. It was almost certainly done to distinguish accounts for a separate men’s and women’s tournament in the same locale.

Why, then, would the smaller CitiOpen keep its name and the larger Legg Mason change theirs?

Also on Friday’s feed, @WTAToday noted a Tuesday press conference at the W Hotel in Washington. The advisory for the presser advises us to expect “an announcement that will change the nature of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic – D.C.’s ATP World Tour 500 event – now and in the future”. In addition to the ATP’s Mark Young, Lagardere exec and former US Davis Cup Captain Donald Dell will be there. His company effectively owns CitiOpen. I wouldn’t worry about a new sponsor for the “DC ATP 500″, since a Legg Mason rep is scheduled to speak. Finally, “a high level executive from a leading global company” will be on hand. Occupy Wall Street BFF Citigroup falls into that category.

So, there you have it. DC gets a joint event. Elementary, my dear @HeatherWatson92.

While twitterers had it right first, it was reassuring to have Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal confirm it this morning. It’s a merger. It will all be called “CitiOpen” now. The larger Citigroup has indeed swallowed smaller financial services sponsor Legg Mason, at least for pro tennis purposes.

This should work wonders for fans and the sport. Last year, CitiOpen backed right up to Legg Mason on the calendar, meaning a die-hard tennis fan needed two weeks and three weekends in a row to take it all in. A joint tournament will ensure an exciting and compact event. Legg Mason and Rock Creek Park is well-known as the place that regional tennis fans flock each August. By contrast, attendance at CitiOpen in College Park was highly disappointing. As Tennis Center at College Park’s Ray Benton told Tennis East Coast in January, “it didn’t work”.

Though I am a proud Marylander, the disappointment that the Free State will not play host to a pro tournament is mitigated by the idea that the DC/MD/VA area could sustain a successful WTA international level event for years to come. I’ll miss the Legg Mason designation, but it doesn’t matter what they call it as long as it remains in tennis perpetuity.

–S. Fogleman

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