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ATP Tour Brings Tennis to New York in February

The New York Open semifinals are Saturday. As the ATP Tour tournament began, players and officials spoke about how to grow tennis in the U.S.

Pro tennis is back in New York this week, and no, you aren’t looking at your calendar incorrectly. The Memphis Open, the only indoor ATP event contested in the United States, moved to Long Island this year. The tournament had been in Memphis since 1975.

This year’s contestants included U.S. Open finalist Kevin Anderson, four-time Memphis Open Champion Kei Nishikori, defending Memphis Open champion Ryan Harrison, and U.S. No. 1 Sam Querrey.

Saturday’s semifinals—at NYCB LIVE, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum—will be interesting. Players with many different challenges in their careers will face off. Querrey will take on Adrian Mannarino of France, and Nishikori will face Anderson .

Last Sunday after the qualifying matches, exhibition matches took place. John McEnroe played James Blake, which was followed by a match between the WTA Tour’s Sloane Stephens and Eugenie Bouchard. Then McEnroe and Blake took on Stephens and Bouchard in doubles.

The tournament remains indoors, and is being played on black courts, a first for an official ATP event. Harrison was interested in seeing how the black courts would play, but after two matches, he admitted that the courts were “pretty slow,” which made them difficult to play on.

The buzz from last Sunday’s press conferences and exhibition matches was about growing tennis in the United States. Many American players, as well as Blake, a former player and the tournament's director, recognized the importance of keeping tournaments in the U.S. but acknowledged that there are other issues.

On the subject of growing in the sport in the U.S., Harrison listed several key points. “First of all, Americans winning helps,” he said, “so that’s on the players. We have to do our best and really invest everything we can into getting results.”

He also mentioned the importance of fans being able to watch tennis live. But in order for American tournaments to be successful, they need to be in exciting places; decorated and accomplished players need to compete; and passionate fans need to come. He mentioned that even if you aren’t a tennis fan, seeing live tennis is an amazing experience.

Harrison also thinks that part of the problem is how tennis is covered. He believes that part of the reason it is so hard to get attention as a young player in tennis, or any player outside out of the top 20, is the way the announcers approach matches.

He went on to say that in golf, when any player hits a great shot, announcers analyze it and talk about how hard it is. Sometimes, when a top player is in an early-round match and his opponent hits a great shot, all the announcers talk about is what the top player needs to do to make a deep run in the tournament.

Blake said that keeping tournaments in the U.S. and getting more tournaments here is a big focus for the USTA because seeing tennis live is exciting. He is looking forward to being more involved in the USTA and trying to attract more people to the sport.

Said Blake, “We are just trying to get people to come out to support this tournament and have a great time.”

Photograph by Alex Smith/New York Open (Querry)