Well it’s about time professional tennis makes a change and beats golf to a 5th Grand Slam. Indian Wells (IW) (which happens to be hosting the first Masters 1000 event of the season right now) has the physical/logistical capabilities to host this 5th GS…and the kind of player and fan-friendly pizazz to make it an instant hit! With the Aussie Open (AO) being the GS of Asia/(the) Pacific, IW could become the GS of the West and showcase the cultures and business opportunities of Latin and Native American communities from South America, Central America and the West Coast of the US. Within the overall 5th GS formula, the venue variable would be the relatively easy part. Larry Ellison and the gang probably already have a nascent plan in place to make this transition a reality. The bigger challenge would be the calendar. While Ellison is probably already prepared, the calendar is certainly already packed from Melbourne to London. There’s hardly enough room in which to spin around as they say. But with some ingenuity, even the crazy pro calendar could be made to play nice. Let’s break it down and see how this could work! The first point to note is that the scheduling of the 5 GS events would only need some slight tweaking and would look as such:
The ATP World Tour Finals (WTF) would continue to operate in Mid-Nov and bring the calendar year to a close. Of note also is that the 5 GS events plus the WTF event would be played almost exactly two months apart. In fact, they could be scheduled such that the middle Sunday of each event be exactly 8 or 9 weeks from each immediately preceding and succeeding tournament. Whether to go with an 8-week or a 9-week gap between any two events would depend on how many Masters 500 and 250 events the tour decides to squeeze into these spaces.
The ATP calendar needs some overall adjusting to make it more systematic, logical and just plain common sensible. It currently operates too much like it was piece-mealed together without much of a rational, guiding structure in place to ensure maximal profitability, efficiency and player/fan satisfaction.
Here is one significant suggestion. There are currently 9 Masters 1000 events, of which 6 are hard court and 3 clay. There is simply not enough time to cram another tourney of this level into the calendar before the AO, and thus the AO will remain the only GS without a 1000 lead-up event. But this is OK. In fact, it is one of the attributes that makes Melbourne such a unique and charming event. Why not start things off with a bang, eh mate! Then…since we have 5 two month gaps between the 5 proposed GS events plus the WTF, we could theoretically place two 1000 events in each of these gaps for a total of ten 1000 events. My solution would look as such:
Gap 1 (between AO and IW)
Gap 2 (between IW and FO)
Gap 3 (between FO and WB)
Gap 4 (between WB and US)
Gap 5 (between US and WTF)
Not only would this make the grass court season a “real” season, it would ensure no player need play more than two 1000 events between GS (plus WTF) events. 500 events such as Barcelona, Acapulco, etc. would fill in nicely as additional lead-up options. Much more could be said on this…and perhaps we will take a second look soon. In the meantime, let me know what you think! And, get your racquets restrung…spring is here (except in places where it is freezing and blowing snow)!