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L.A. Tennis Tournament Gets a Real Downer

Times Staff Writer

With the force of a backhand down the line, Los Angeles’ professional tennis tournament got the stinging news it expected Friday morning.

In the 1990 tour of the Assn. of Tennis Professionals, the Volvo/Los Angeles tournament will be downgraded to an open-week event.

Top-10 players are required to play in 11 Championship Series tournaments, the highest level. Top-10 players need not play in open-week events.

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That much was expected. What was not expected, however, was the tone of the comments about open-week tournaments made by ATP officials, who announced the 1990 schedule here at a press conference.

The Volvo/Los Angeles tournament will move to new dates in 1990, starting July 30, instead of its usual post-U.S. Open dates in September.

Weller Evans, tour manager of the ATP, said that it will be easy for tennis fans to discern the difference between Championship Series and open-week tournaments.

Open-week events, such as Los Angeles, “will have a certain regional appeal,” said Evans, who added: “In those weeks, major tournament tennis is not being played.”

That came as a surprise to Bob Kramer, promoter of the Volvo/Los Angeles tournament.

“Regardless of what comments are made there, we’re going to have a good tournament,” Kramer said. “Before anyone calls anything a lesser event, they should prove it.”

The Newsweek Champions Cup in Indian Wells will be a Championship Series event. That $1-million tournament will be played the week of March 5 at Hyatt Grand Champions.

Bob Green, the ATP player liaison director, said a major tournament in Indian Wells would serve the Los Angeles market.

As for open-week events such as Los Angeles, Green said they have their own place on the ATP tour.

“Those open weeks will be smaller events and they will feed off the popularity of the championship series weeks,” he said. “They will be helped by the ATP tour emblem. When the ATP tour event comes to your town, that means the best players in the world are coming to your town.”

Kramer certainly hopes so. He believes that many of the top-10 players won’t want to commit to the same tournaments, so they could be willing to play in open-week tournaments like his.

Events in Kitzbuhel, Austria, and Bastad, Sweden, have the same dates as the $250,000 Volvo/Los Angeles tournament.

The ATP has agreed to legitimize the payments of guarantees to players to compete in open-week tournaments, a practice that was forbidden for top-level Super Series events on the Grand Prix tour.

Kramer said that Volvo/Los Angeles has not yet decided whether to pay guarantees. He estimated that such fees for top-10 players range from $50,000 to $100,000.

“We’re pretty confident we can get a good field,” said Kramer, who added that players may use the tournament as a warm-up for the U.S. Open.

In the 1990 tour, a total of 77 ATP tournaments will be played in 28 countries for $38 million in prize money. Weeks when there is only one Championship Series event, seven top-10 players are designated to play. When there are two such events, three top-10 players are designated for each tournament. However, since no top-10 players are designated to play in open weeks, it is unclear how many of them will actually commit.

“We, the top 10, have to play 11 tournaments of the big events, the $1-million events,” Boris Becker said. “If any of us want to play more, he can. If he doesn’t, he doesn’t. It’s freedom of choice.”


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