After the formalities of the press conference detailing the CitiOpen merger/acquisition of the Legg Mason Tennis Classic had concluded yesterday, I wanted to talk one-on-one with former U.S. Davis Cup Captain, current super-agent and Tournament Director Donald Dell. He’s spent forty years marketing the game, and he’s the yin to the yang of former law partner and tennis statesman Ray Benton, who I interviewed two months ago. After our brief discussion on the roof of the W Hotel in Washington, D.C., I’m inclined to buy anything he’s selling. I’m sold on the notion of a joint tournament, and I think the WTA is in very good hands.
I began by asking him where pro tennis stands today.
They just announced yesterday that three new sponsors came in this week for the summer tour. BB&T just announced for Atlanta. Yesterday, the insurance company in Cincinnati just extended for another five years. And we brought Citi in, so three of the top six tournaments just had big new sponsors. There’s a really big rebirth.
Is this a sign that the US Open Series could be considered a success?
“A month ago, I would have to said to you, ‘it’s scrambling’, but today we’ve announced three news sponsors”, he said. “It’s been a while, and the support is welcome.”
What happened with CitiOpen getting a late start out of the gate last year in terms of visibility, despite the best efforts of his firm, Lagardere Unlimited, and the host, Tennis Center at College Park?
I’m not making this up. This was the first time Citi had done tennis. Their lawyers in New York were very cautious, and we didn’t get final approval for the logo and the advertising until eight days before the first ball was hit. We couldn’t announce it and couldn’t promote it, and a tournament can’t survive that way. This year, Citi was fully on board, not just for the women’s event, but to take over the title sponsorship of the men’s event too. So, we had a deal. We’re out starting promoting this (year’s CitiOpen) tomorrow. And we have a few months this time. If we didn’t get that (the timely contract), we wouldn’t be doing it. We couldn’t be doing it. But without a title sponsor, the tournament would have a difficult time surviving.
The CitiOpen runs from July 28-August 5 and the official website is citiopentennis.com.
It was a beautiful day to be perched on the biggest rooftop in all of the Nation’s Capital–the W Hotel Roof Bar and Ballroom. Directly adjacent from the White House, it has kept the eyes of watchful Secret Service agents on the VIP-neighboring rooftop very busy for many years. Today, the eyes were on tennis in Washington, and like all gossip in this town, the major details had crept out before the announcement was officially made.
The ATP Event Formerly Known As Legg Mason Tennis Classic (TATPEFKALMTC) is now CitiOpen. What’s more, the WTA event known as CitiOpen is also coming to D.C., ending a one year run only twenty minutes away in College Park, Maryland.
The old Grandstand, behind the main stadium, will be upgraded and a second Grandstand show court with 2,500 seats will be added at the north (entrance) end of the Rock Creek Park facility.
As you can see from the Q&A conducted by 2012 Tournament Director (and no introduction needed) Donald Dell, you are assured that:
* Parking will not be affected during construction
* Practice Courts will continue to be open for public viewing
* Ticket prices for this year will probably not go up
* No Hawk Eye on Grandstand for now, as that requires a Jumbotron for fan engagement
* No set plans to use the Washington Kastles Stadium at the Wharf in D.C., but not ruling it out
After the conference, we spoke briefly with 2011 ATP Legg Mason Tournament Director, Jeff Newman, on the long-term sustainability of the CitiOpen from the WTA perspective.
“We know what the public wants, and we feel we’re meeting that demand. We really feel we’ve added a great deal of value to the event for 2012, so hopefully over time that is going to elevate the tournament”, he said.
Will the fact that an established ATP event is already taking place on the grounds help the WTA side of the tournament?
“I think so. If you look at the demographics of tennis fans, it’s 50/50 men and women. It will clearly help us get more fans.”
I’m no Woodward, nor am I a Bernstein. I’m more like a Berenstain Bear, and these leaks from Washington are hitting me right in the head. The latest confirmation of the Legg Mason Tennis Classics metamorphosis comes not from a journalist, but from the ball person coordinator for the tournament.
In an email sent to Legg Mason tournament volunteers in the wee hours of this morning, the Ball Person Chair noted that “the site will be rearranged with Grandstand being where the north practice courts have been for years and will be constructed to fit a larger capacity than the old Grandstand court. In conjunction with this change, they will be paving over a row of the clay courts, making them hard courts, which may be where they put the practice courts. However, we won’t get the official word on the site change until it gets closer to tournament time.”
The email also promises “many new surprises that are unfolding as we get closer to the tournament.”
I, for one, can’t take any more surprises. As a Marylander and a tennis fan, this has been a rough week. The State lost the CitiOpen WTA event, lost the naming rights of a Baltimore-based corporation with an 18-year history at the DC ATP event, lost a pro training facility in Howard County, and lost a full week of tennis for fans. As one who covered both of last years pro tennis events in the DC area, it was exhausting. Now, local bloggers will get to spend an extra week poolside this summer. But it’s not about the bloggers, is it? It’s about the fans. The more I think about it, it is lost tennis opportunity. It would be better for fans to have two weeks worth of Orders of Play to catch more matches. It’s TOO MUCH VACATION!
If the event thrives, it will all be worth it. I think.
Just in case all the news fit to print hasn’t already leaked out, you can expect live tweets from @TennisEastCoast this afternoon beginning at 12:30 p.m. from the W Hotel in Washington. Also, @KelynSoong will be tweeting for Tennis Grandstand. I’m excited to see what the W folks have done to the old Hotel Washington, where my grandfather worked as a busboy on the rooftop restaurant in the 1940s. With all these leaks, though, you’d think the Watergate would have been better-suited for the event.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, the US Open Member pre-sale starts in 45 minutes.
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.
We’re pleased to introduce Annabel, Tennis Maryland’s newest contributor. Annabel has been a tennis fan since she attended the Rogers Cup ATP event in Montreal, Canada on her first birthday in 2009, watching Novak Djokovic win on Court Banque National and Andy Roddick prosper at Stade Uniprix.
She followed that experience with a debutante appearance at Legg Mason Kid’s Day in 2010 and a return visit to Montreal, this time for the WTA event.
Around this time, Annabel’s mom put her tennis foot down and declared that Annabel ought never to be seated in the front row at a pro match for reasons involving the child prodigy’s then-inability to keep quiet. Imagine!
Thereafter, Annabel’s involvement in the game has exclusively involved tournament Kid’s Days (Washington, Newport, CitiOpen), annual pilgrimages to the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Wii Grand Slam play and on-court Quikstart instruction. She even took a lesson from Sebastien Decoud last summer.
Though she’ll only be contributing on a part-time basis, you can expect full-court coverage from this li’l Jimmy Olsen. Her first product review will appear on the site tomorrow.
His office substantially resembles the International Tennis Hall of Fame in miniature. The walls of his paper-piled workspace are adorned with posters and photos from tennis events from the last forty years. With all of his energy, it is difficult to believe he is 71. He still competes in senior tournaments “when my body’s working”, he said.
Benton is an Iowa native who moved to Washington in 1971. He started playing the game at 15 and “really took to it right away”. Later, he spent two years with the Iowa Hawkeye team in Big Ten play. While attending college, law school and a year of business school, he worked in the summer as the tennis pro at Dubuque Country Club in Dubuque, Iowa. He was brought in to start a tennis program at a “golf wacko club where tennis was a nuisance”. It had “two broken-down courts and 35 tennis playing club members”. He was up for the challenge, and within a few years, Benton had installed six lighted courts, attracted 500 players and even trained 20 state-ranked juniors there. ”That’s when I figured out maybe I should be in the business”.
Mark McCormick started IMG and based it around golf and Donald started ProServ around tennis. After all, he was the Davis Cup captain and Stan Smith and Arthur Ashe were on his team.As a law firm, we couldn’t solicit clients. We could write a letter to a company saying ‘I’m writing on behalf of Arthur Ashe to see if you might have interest’. We couldn’t put out a promotional brochure for Arthur, so we started the company Proserv. It was an affiliated marketing company to the law firm. When our firm split in ’83, Donald and I kept the name ProServ and made it the major identity.
It is, but it needs to regain the stature it once had, and not only Washington, but many other area of the country. Tennis is totally a bottom-up sport. The great majority of energy comes from the grassroots. And that’s what advances tournament play, pro play, collegiate play. Frankly, I think we got lazy in this sport. We had so much momentum, so much success and great stars and I think the leaders of tennis, everyone became deluded that tennis was driven by Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe. And the fact of the matter is in the days of Connors, Borg and McEnroe, participation in tennis in the United States decreased. We didn’t develop the next generation of Nick Bollettieris, of Vic Bradens or Dennis Van Der Meer or Peter Burwash. Who are the biggest names of teaching pros these days? Still those guys. If I asked you that same question 35 years ago, you’d have the same answer.
Tonight was another tough night to be a tennis fan. Only one match made it into the second set. Like twelve days ago, when we spent five hours at Legg Mason to see Gaels Monfils score exactly one point, tonight we saw Julia Cohen score two over three hours.
Unlike Legg Mason’s Soggy Semifinal Saturday, this was no sustained downpour. It was like Mother Nature messing with our minds. Just enough rain on the court to stop play, followed by twenty dry minutes and another little rain. Repeat the sequence over and over, and that is what happened tonight. You wish Mother Nature would just get it out of her system and be done with it. We didn’t get that lucky tonight.
The decision to play indoor matches and then the reversal was a little strange. First, they announced that the 5 p.m. matches would be moved indoors, and then they canceled the plan at 7 p.m. “We had the option to move the matches indoors, but we really want to complete the tournament outdoors weather permitting,” said Lew Brewer, USTA US Open Wild Card Playoff tournament director. “If rains hits Friday, the matches will be moved indoors and throughout the weekend if necessary. We have decided to move our semifinals to Saturday and our finals to Sunday.”
Tomorrow’s Order of Play is below. A handy PDF is also available, thanks to Steve Pratt of the USTA. Sounds like a Baltimore name to us. Sounds like a great pen name for us, too. Shame it’s already taken. Here’s Steve’s release after the OOP link.
Three first-round matches were halted in progress after approximately 45 minutes of play with the following scores:
Tennys Sandgren (5) leads Rhyne Williams (4) 3-2
Ashley Weinhold (2) leads Madison Keys (7) 4-3
Nicole Gibbs (8) leads Julia Cohen 6-0, 1-0
Friday’s schedule of play will be as follows:
Stadium Court at 11 a.m.
Julia Cohen (1) vs. Nicole Gibbs (8), in progress
Ahsha Rolle (4) vs. Beatrice Capra (5)
Denis Kudla (2) vs. Bjorn Fratangelo (7)
Not before 6 p.m.
Bobby Reynolds (1) vs. Bradley Klahn (8)
Grandstand Court at 11 a.m.
Ashley Weinhold (2) vs. Madison Keys (7), in progress
Gail Brodsky (3) vs. Jessica Pegula (6)
Not before 6 p.m.
Daniel Kosakowski (3) vs. Mitchell Frank (6)
Court 3 at 11 a.m.
Tennys Sandgren (4) vs. Rhyne Williams (5), in progress
Eight first-round matches (four men’s and four women’s matches) were to be played Thursday with men’s and women’s semifinals scheduled for Friday and finals on Saturday. Due to the postponement of play, the event has been extended through Sunday.
Saturday 4 pm: Two women’s semifinals followed by two men’s semifinals
Sunday 11 am: Women’s final followed by men’s final
Tickets will be honored at any session.
Tennis Maryland was honored to cover the WTA CitiOpen in College Park and the titan Legg Mason Tennis Classic as credentialed media, but we do keep an eye on our hits. After further review, we realize that we get higher-volume traffic from local news and events like the upcoming US Open Wild Card Playoffs in beautiful downtown College Park, Maryland. Much more so than a Gael Monfils exclusive or some other international incident. So, we’re going to do what Old Man Google says and keep with the mantra “All Tennis is Local.” Seriously, no soul searches our site for the US Open or Cincinnati results. We get traffic when the rising stars come out to play in or near the Great State of Maryland. Lesson Learned.
So, here’s the scoop. The Senior Editor’s cousin, Taylor Fogleman, who played a plurality of the men’s contingent of the US Open Wild Card draw, will break them all down for us in yet another Tennis Maryland exclusive interview. He just doesn’t know about it yet.
We didn’t know much about either of them, but the web searches for Kosakowski keep drawing visitors to the site. It was about time we said a word about the UCLA standout and California native who left Tinseltown to turn pro earlier this year. He’s beaten Ito Tatsuma and Denis Kudla in straights as a pro and outlasted Tim Smyczek in three at the Farmer’s Classic.
We said Kosakowski would be be playing Alex Domijan. We regret the error.