rakes_take_400Perhaps it’s not the week to lament sitting outside in the 90-plus degree heat.

Let alone playing professional tennis in those same conditions.

But this week would have been the date on the calendar where the ATP Tour would have been visiting Indianapolis. This is now the fourth consecutive summer that top flight professional tennis has been absent from the Indianapolis sports landscape. The Indianapolis Tennis Championships, which before that were the RCAs, and even the US Clay Court Championships, had been around in some form or fashion since the 1920s. The tournament won by Robby Ginepri in 2009 brought a conclusion to an event that had lost its footing as one of the major dates on the sports calendar of this city.

Nearly as soon as the event rights were sold to Atlanta, not only was the tournament gone, but the facility was soon to follow. Where the Indianapolis Tennis Center once stood, parking lots have taken the place of most of the outside courts. The indoor portion of the facility lasted a little while longer, but it has since made way to NCAA expansion.

The movement of the tournament was the beginning of a disturbing trend in American tennis. Or maybe the it was a continuation of the product on court becoming more and more of an international game.

In the years that have followed Indy’s demise, events in Los Angeles and San Jose have both gone by the wayside. And as opposed to Indy’s tournament, which found another home in this country, those previously mentioned stops on the tour now take place in South America.

So for example, even though this would have been the opening weekend of the North American hard court season, Atlanta now will take place next week. This week’s hard court stop on the ATP Tour is in Bogota, Colombia.

Atlanta draws most of the “big names” of American tennis to play in the event, but using that phrase these days is a stretch. As of this week’s ATP World Tour rankings, all of two Americans (Sam Querrey and John Isner) are in the top 60 in the world. No player ranked in the top 20 of the rankings will appear in Atlanta.

A similar fate is one of the reasons that a tournament with the pedigree of Indy no longer exists. Once the tournament was moved from a mid-to-late August date to mid-July in 2003, the success of Andy Roddick, and subsequent rise of James Blake kept the tournament going for a few years. Once Blake fell off and Roddick stopped coming to Indy, there wasn’t much left.

So you can blame the heat, the date, the fact that it was simply going to cost too much money to update facilities that weren’t used that often like the stadium court, or even the proximity of an event like Cincinnati where the top players are mandated to play because of its status as Masters/1000 level event on the tour, there are a myriad of reasons why Indianapolis is no longer a part of the tennis global traveling road show.

With the weather finally acting like July over the last few days, the idea of sitting through the heat isn’t missed by me. What I do miss is seeing players like Andy Roddick, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Patrick Rafter, and dozens of others playing the sport at a level far greater than I could ever imagine, on courts I had the privilege of playing on from time to time.

So, here’s to an old friend. Gone, but not forgotten.

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2 Responses to Missing an old friend: ATP Tennis in Indy

  1. Loved your article – brought back so many memories of the great tennis I saw as a kid!

  2. So true, Greg – even in the heat, it was a not-miss-event. I got my feet wet in media relations learning from the amazing Judy Burnett. 20 long years I spent my summer vacation volunteering – truly a great week in Indy!

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