Le sport

Pro Tennis Finds New Cities to Play In, but Will It Return?

The tournament, with its modest stadium court expanded to 2,000 seats, was sold out for its last four days. Above all, there was a fine field with Murray, a former No. 1, and eight top-20 players: a lineup worthy of a higher-level event than an ATP 250. The proximity to Indian Wells was a big factor in the elite players’ participation, and the winner turned out to be the 10th-ranked Ruud, a Norwegian who has won five titles in his breakout season.

But it remains uncertain, even unlikely, that Ruud will be able to defend his title in San Diego. A one-year license provides no guarantee that the tournament will return to the city. What it does provide is a chance to showcase a new venue.

“I have a lot of titles to defend next year, and I know four of them will be played next year and for this one we will have to see,” Ruud said on Sunday as he cooled down on an exercise bike after his 6-0, 6-2 demolition of Cameron Norrie in the final. “It’s obviously tough. The ATP is hosting over 60 events a year and all over the planet, so it’s not easy to find a week to fit in. This year, San Diego was able to do this in five weeks, so I see no reason why they couldn’t do it again, and I hope they will do it again not just because I won but it was a great city and great weather. These are perfect conditions for us to play in. It’s not too hot, not too humid and great atmosphere.”

San Diego has produced some fine tennis players. Maureen Connolly, who was known as Little Mo, dominated the women’s game in the early 1950s, achieving a Grand Slam by winning all four major singles titles in 1953. Karen Susman won the Wimbledon women’s singles title in 1962. Kelly Jones was ranked No. 1 in the world in men’s doubles in 1992. Recently, CoCo Vandeweghe broke into the women’s top 10 in 2018 and Taylor Fritz reached No. 24 in the ATP singles rankings last year, becoming the top-ranked American man. Brandon Nakashima, ranked 79th at age 20, is one of the most promising American men’s prospects.

But there has never been a main ATP Tour event in San Diego until now, and there has been no tour-level event in San Diego County since the women’s tournament in Carlsbad moved to China in 2014.

The United States, once the mainstay of the men’s and women’s tours, has steadily lost tournaments to Asia and Europe. In recent years, the Indian Wells event has been the only ATP event in California, and none of the biggest West Coast cities have had a regular men’s tour event.

The decline of American tennis has played a role, particularly the decline of American men’s tennis, but the shift also reflects the more global nature of the sport and the new economic strength of Asia.