ATP Axe SAP Open & Add New Event in Rio

April 25, 2012

The ATP announced they will add a new tournament in Rio de Janeiro in 2014, with SAP Open in San Jose getting the boot.

The San Jose event, the second-oldest men’s professional tennis tournament in the United States, with roots stretching back to 1889, will be held for the final time next February in San Jose.

This did not come as entirely surprising news, given the SAP Open’s struggle to attract top players and sizable crowds in recent years. But it still counted as a jolt in many ways, given the Bay Area’s rich tennis tradition.

“The history and longevity of pro tennis in the Bay Area is definitely something we didn’t take lightly,” said Mike Lehr, executive vice president of business development for Sharks Sports & Entertainment (which owns the tournament). “That’s one reason we’re going to continue to try to find ways to bring tennis to San Jose.”

Lehr was referring to potential exhibition matches, ideally involving some of the sport’s big names.

Sharks Sports & Entertainment will remain involved in the tennis business: It also owned the ATP and WTA (women’s) events in Memphis, Tenn., which it sold to a group taking those tournaments to Brazil. The ATP stop in San Jose, technically, will move to Memphis.

Lehr traced attendance woes in the Bay Area to the limitations of HP Pavilion.

“Part of it was the single court, and having to spread out the tournament a lot differently than in a facility with multiple courts,” Lehr said.

The SAP Open started as the Pacific Coast Championships in 1889, held at the old Del Monte Lodge in Monterey. The tournament has had several homes in the 123 years since then, from the storied Berkeley Tennis Club to San Francisco’s quirky Cow Palace, and ultimately San Jose beginning in 1994.

by Ismail Uddin