Friday, April 06, 2018

Tennis History from the Open Era to the Present

The Open Era lasted from 1968 to the present. This was when Grand Slam tournaments allowed professional players to compete with amateurs. Before 1968, only amateurs were allowed to compete in Grand Slam tournaments and other events organized by the ILTF (including the Davis Cup). There were power struggles between the ILTF plus the commercial promoters. This led to the boycotts of Grand Slam events. The first open era event was the 1968 British Hard Court Championships. It was held in April at The West Hants Club in Bournemouth, England. The first open Grand Slam tournament was the 1968 French Open in May. Both tournaments were won by Ken Rosewall. The open era allowed all tennis players to have the opportunity to make a living by playing tennis.  By 1968, many professionals became independent. They include Lew Hoad, Mal Anderson, Luis Ayala, and Owen Davidson. Most of the best players were under contract. George McCall operated the National Tennis League or the NTL. He managed Rod Laver, Ken Emerson, Andres Gimeno, Pancho Gonzales, Fred Stolle, and Roy Emerson. Dave Dixon (later succeeded by Lamar Hunt) ran the World Championship Tennis (WCT) and managed eight people. Their names are  John Newcombe, Tony Roche, Nikola Pilić, Roger Taylor, Pierre Barthès, Earl "Butch" Buchholz, Cliff Drysdale and Dennis Ralston.

In 1968, the original eight WCT players were not allowed to participate in the French Open. In 1970, NTL players did not play the Australian Open because their organization did not receive a guarantee. In 1970, neither WCT nor NTL players played in the French Open. The game was heavily influenced by the NTL and the WCT. Jack Kramer wanted to outmaneuver them. He made the Grand Prix tennis circuit in late 1969. He was the best male tennis player of the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. He defined his system as the following: “…a series of tournaments with a money bonus pool that would be split up on the basis of a cumulative point system. This would encourage the best players to compete regularly in the series, so that they could share in the bonus at the end and qualify for a special championship tournament that would climax the year…” In 1970, none of the contract players participated in the French Open. The International Lawn Tennis Federation, alarmed by the control of the promoters, approved Kramer's Grand Prix. Twenty seven tournaments including the three Grand Slams, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open were played that year, with Stockholm tournament ending on November 1, 1970. The independent professional players along with a few contract players entered the Grand Prix circuit.

Contract players could play Grand Prix events provided their contracts allowed it, and that they had adequate time apart from their own circuit. The first WCT tournaments existed in February of 1968 and the first NTL tournaments were held in March 1969. There was conflict between the WCT and the ILTF. The ILTF Grand Prix and WCT circuits merged in 1978. During this time, global professional athletes increased their profiles, both men and women. By the 1970’s in America, tennis courts were common features of public recreational locations. On August 23, 1973, tennis used a computer ranking system, so players can gain rightful entries into tournaments. Billie Jean King’s match hosts a record of 30,000 spectators back in 1973. She proved that women have every right to play tennis and she exposed the evil of sexism in society in general. Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum is the largest tennis museum in the world and it is very first tennis museum which was created on April 14, 1977.

The United States Tennis Association governs the U.S. Open. By 1990, the Association of Tennis Professionals, led by Hamilton Jordan, replaced the MTC as the governing body of men’s professional tennis. There is the ATP Tour too.  On 1986, the Championships adopted yellow tennis balls for the first time. This was done partly to make the speeding balls more visible for television cameras. In the year of 2000, the Grand Slam tournaments and the Masters Series tournaments became mandatory professional events if a player's ranking qualifies them for the tournament. Players were automatically entered and Masters and Slam events became the baseline for player rankings with up to an additional 5 tournaments also counted (18 in all plus the ATP Finals if they qualify). Before 2000, players' best of 14 tournaments were counted towards the ATP Point Rankings. On September 2, 2002, Venus and Serena Williams become the first sisters in tennis history to be ranked #1 and #2 in the WTA world rankings list. Venus and Serena Williams would be great tennis players and Serena Williams would be the greatest woman tennis player in history.

By 2004, Roger Federer becomes the first man in tennis history since Mats Wilander in 1988 to win three of the four grand slam events in a calendar year. He also captured ATP-best 11 titles in as many finals, including the end-of-season Masters Cup. He also set an Open Era record by winning 13 consecutive finals (dating back to 2003). Roger Federer would go on to become one of the greatest tennis players in history. In 2009, the Masters events were renamed the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 with the Monte-Carlo Masters becoming a non-mandatory event, meaning a player could use his or her results from a lower-level tournament in place of it. International Series Gold became the ATP World Tour 500 and the remaining events became the ATP World Tour 250.  America’s Serena Williams, Olympic women’s singles champion in London in 2012, have made great accomplishments in the Olympics. With her sister Venus, Serena Williams has accumulated a total of four Olympic gold medals, while her older sister has gone one better by taking the silver medal in the mixed doubles in Rio in 2016, making her the tennis player with the most Olympic medals: five. Today, tennis is an international sport with massive popularity and great influence worldwide.

By Timothy

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