Rio Open starts journey to 2016 Olympics and beyond for ATP and WTA

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February 19, 2014 by Parveer Mann

Much like the China Open returned shortly before the Beijing Olympics, this week’s inaugural Rio Open will start a new tennis tradition that both the ATP and WTA hope will benefit their immediate and future plans for the region.

Rio follows Beijing’s and China’s tennis path

It can be easy to forget now with the success of tournaments in Beijing, Shanghai  and Li Na’s ascendance to world number two (the first Asian player to do so on either tour) that China had no real tennis presence as late as 2003. The China Open in Beijing had ceased operations in 1997 and individual success was limited.  It seemed plausible that tennis would be left behind by a country going through an economic transformation that actually increased the number of people who could now afford the sport.

So when elite tennis returned in 2004, I think you could significantly attribute it to the impending 2008 Beijing Olympics and the promise of a new facility in the city. Add in more sponsorship money and both tours and players have not wavered in their participation in the region over the last decade. I think many see some of those same key indicators as the ATP expands its role in South America and Brazil starting this week.

The Diamond Court built after the 2008 Olympics is  the newest addition to Beijing's world class tennis facility.

The Diamond Court built after the 2008 Olympics is the newest addition to Beijing’s world class tennis facility.

However maligned the Olympics can be, they are a great catalyst for new infrastructure and because of it Rio will soon have a new world-class tennis facility to call its own. Also, Brazil’s economic growth has impressed many and like China, it has a population and sponsorship base that is excited to invest in the sport on a greater level.

By bringing an ATP 500 event to the city and venue, the ATP is asserting that the city, country and continent can now fully be recognized by the tennis world. The land of Kuerten and others finally has developed the resources to become the new host of global tennis. The gesture is easy to make and the part that follows will be hard. It is now up to both tours and the Brazilian Tennis Federation to keep that promise of growth and sports revitalization accessible to all so the sport can grow like it has in China.

Table 1:  2014 ATP Tournament Breakdown per continent

Continent

Grand Slams

ATP 1000/World Tour Finals

ATP 500

ATP 250

Total

Europe

2

5

5

22

34

Asia

1

3

4

8

North America

1

4

2

6

13

Australia

1

3

4

South America

1

4

5

Africa

1

1

Feel free to chime in: Is adding an ATP 500 a good strategic move by the ATP and what further actions can both tours take in South America?

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