September 22, 2023

Open Court


Stanford event forced to look for new home

It’s tough enough for WTA-only events to find solid homes and consistent success.

But the powers-that-be at Stanford University have just made it that much harder.

The university has decided that it will no longer allow corporate sponsorship of events on its campus.

And according to the Oakland-based website Inside Tennis, that leaves the Bank of the West Classic scrambling to find a new home for 2018.

The tournament, owned by IMG, has been around for a long time.

For much of that period, it was part of a series of WTA tournaments in California that, for many players, constituted their entire warmup season for the US Open.

The San Diego WTA Tour event, in its various incarnations, drew top fields. But it couldn’t survive. (Wikipedia)

Players like Venus Williams and Lindsay Davenport were only occasional visitors to the Rogers Cup, the big Canadian event.

And until 2009, the women’s tournament in Cincinnati was a much lower-level event.

Until 1996, the tournament was held at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena across the bay.

It took place in November, on a fast indoor carpet, part of a late-season set of events that also is no more.

It moved to its current home in Palo Alto the following year.

Once a series, only Stanford remains

With time, the others have disappeared. The tournament in Los Angeles (actually, Manhattan Beach, current home of Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka),  began as part of the original Virginia Slims tour in 1971, in Long Beach.

It changed ownership several times and bit the dust in 2007. Three years later, it was relocated to Carlsbad, California. In 2014, the sanction was sold to Tokyo, Japan.

The San Diego-area location had previous played host to a very popular event, which changed sponsors numerous times but was best known as the Toshiba Classic and later, as a Tier I event, the Acura Classic.Embed from Getty Images

Maria Sharapova won the last two editions in 2006 and 2007 before it, too, was no more.

As you can see by the list of finalists above, it was very well supported by the top players for many, many years.

IMG looking for solutions

Hopefully the big agency will be able to find it a home. It’s not a realistic option to sell the license to Asia, even if the WTA Tour has put a lot of its eggs in that basket in recent years.

That part of the season is resolutely North American, time for hard-court tuneups in preparation for the US Open. The Bank of the West Classic also is part of the US Open Series of tournaments.

That’s a good thing. Enough tournaments have disappeared from the U.S. in recent years.

But if IMG can’t find a local solution, perhaps there are other options.

Given the WTA Tour’s love of joint events, could they move it up a week and merge it with the ATP event in Atlanta?

Other options?

The Washington, D.C. tournament welcomes both the men and the women the following week. But in that case, the women’s event is an International-level tournament, not a Premier event, and definitely plays second fiddle. Also problematic is that the Atlanta tournament is owned by a competing entity, GF Sports. That company also owns the New York Open (the former Memphis Open).

It would require a major investment in infrastructure. As it is, the tournament is a temporary set up at Atlantic Station; it can’t double in size.

Could Vancouver host its first Tour-level event? The Canadian city has hosted Davis Cup several times, and has a $200,000 joint men’s and women’s Challenger event in August.

Could Chicago, which will host the Laver Cup next fall but is a huge city with a vibrant tennis culture and doesn’t have any kind of pro event, finally get one?

Could Los Angeles or San Diego make a comeback?

Those are just random thoughts. Obviously the best solution is to keep it in the same area, after it has built a loyal core of fans through the last two decades.

The Cali kids aren’t happy, including Stanford alum Nicole Gibbs.

Hopefully IMG can get it done.

Inside Tennis reported Tuesday that the tournament is looking to relocate not far away, to the new tennis complex at San Jose State University. Nothing has yet been announced, though.

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