Grand Prix Tennis Circuit
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Grand Prix Tennis Circuit

The Grand Prix tennis circuit[1] was a professional tennis tour for male players that existed from 1970 to 1989. The Grand Prix and World Championship Tennis (WCT) were the two predecessors to the current tour for male players, the ATP Tour, with the Grand Prix being more prominent.[]


Before the Open Era, popular professional tennis players, such as Suzanne Lenglen and Vincent Richards, were contracted to professional promoters. Amateur players were under the jurisdiction of their national (and international) federations. Later professional promoters, such as Bill Tilden and Jack Kramer, often convinced leading amateurs like Pancho Gonzales and Rod Laver to join their tours with promises of good prize money. But these successes led to financial difficulties when players were paid too much and falling attendances resulted in reduced takings.[clarification needed][]

In the late-1950s, the professional tour began to fall apart. It survived only because the U.S. Pro Tennis Championships, having been unable to give prize money to its 1962 winner, received prize money from the First National Bank of Boston for its 1963 tournament. At the same time, the concept of "shamateurism" – amateur promoters paying players under the table to ensure they remained amateurs - had become apparent to Herman David, the chairman of the Wimbledon Championships.[]

In 1967, David announced that a professional tournament would be held at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club after the 1967 Wimbledon Championships. This tournament was televised by the BBC and built public support for professional tennis. In late 1967, the best of the amateur players turned professional, paving the way for the first open tournament. Some professionals were independent at this time, such as Lew Hoad, Luis Ayala, and Owen Davidson, but most of the best players came under contract to one of two professional tours:[]

When the Open Era began in 1968, tournaments often found themselves deprived of NTL or WCT players. The first open tournament, the British Hard Court Championships at Bournemouth, was played without WCT players, as was that year's French Open. In 1970, NTL players did not play the Australian Open because their organization did not receive a guarantee.[]

Formation of the Grand Prix

The manipulation of Grand Slam tournaments by professional promoters at the start of the Open Era led promoter Jack Kramer, the top male tennis player in the world in the 1940s and 1950s, to conceive of the Grand Prix in 1969.[2][3] He described it as "a series of tournaments with a money bonus pool that would be split up on the basis of a cumulative point system." This would encourage the best players to compete regularly in the series, so that they could share in the bonus at the end and qualify for the special championship tournament climaxing the year.[4]

When only a few contract players showed up for the 1970 French Open, the International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF) approved Kramer's Grand Prix proposal. In April 1970, its president Ben Barnett announced the creation of the Grand Prix circuit, on an experimental basis during its first year.[5]

ILTF--WCT rivalry and the Association of Tennis Professionals

The first World Championship Tennis tournament was held 1-3 February 1968 in Kansas City, U. S. The first NTL tournament was held 18-21 March 1968 in São Paulo, Brazil. In July 1970, the WCT absorbed the NTL. In 1971, WCT ran a twenty-tournament circuit with the year-ending WCT Finals held in November. At the end of 1970, a panel of journalists had ranked the best players in the world. The best thirty-two men based on this ranking were invited to play the 1971 WCT circuit, which included Ilie N?stase, Stan Smith, Jan Kode?, ?eljko Franulovi?, and Clark Graebner.

The Australian Open was part of the WCT circuit while the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open were Grand Prix events. The conflict between the ILTF (running the Grand Prix) and WCT was so strong that Rosewall, Gimeno, Laver, Emerson, and other WCT players boycotted the 1971 US Open. The third professional circuit that year was the U. S. Indoor Circuit run by Bill Riordan, the future manager of Jimmy Connors.

In July 1971, the ITLF voted to ban all WCT contract professionals from competing in ITLF tournaments and from using ITLF facilities from the beginning of 1972 onwards. The 1972 editions of the French Open and the Wimbledon Championships excluded all contract professional players. Then in April 1972, the ITLF and WCT agreed to divide the 1973 tour into a WCT circuit that ran from January through May and a Grand Prix circuit that ran for the rest of the year. The conflict between the ITLF and WCT led all tennis players to attend the 1972 US Open where they agreed to form their own syndicate, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), through the efforts of Jack Kramer, Donald Dell, and Cliff Drysdale.

In 1973, there were four rival professional circuits: the WCT circuit battled with the U. S. Indoor Circuit from January to April and the Grand Prix until July; both tours competed with the "European Spring Circuit"[6] until June.

In that same year, the ATP created controversy by calling for a boycott of the 1973 Wimbledon Championships after one of its members, Niki Pili?, was suspended by the Yugoslav Tennis Federation for failing to play in a Davis Cup tie against New Zealand. The ATP boycott went ahead after negotiations failed, with only three members of the organisation – Roger Taylor, Ilie N?stase, and Ray Keldie – breaking the picket. They were later fined for this. The men's draws for that year were subsequently made up of second-string players, lucky losers, and older players such as Neale Fraser, who reached the final of the men's doubles with fellow Australian John Cooper. The draw also showcased future talents such as Björn Borg, Vijay Amritraj, Sandy Mayer, and John Lloyd amid record crowds.[]

Integration and the end

The WCT and Grand Prix circuits were separate until 1978, when the Grand Prix circuit integrated the WCT circuit. In 1982, the WCT circuit split from the Grand Prix again and created a more complex WCT ranking, similar to the ATP ranking. The split was short-lived, however, and in 1985 the Grand Prix absorbed the four remaining WCT tournaments.

During the 1988 US Open the ATP, led by then-World No. 1 Mats Wilander, staged an impromptu meeting known as the "Parking Lot Press Conference" during failed negotiations with the MTC over the organisation of the Grand Prix and key issues such as player fatigue. During this press conference, the ATP declared that it would be starting its own tour in 1990, meaning that the 1989 Grand Prix would effectively be its last.[7] The final event of the Grand Prix was the Nabisco Masters Doubles held at the Royal Albert Hall 6-10 December 1989. Its last champions were Jim Grabb and Patrick McEnroe, who beat John Fitzgerald and Anders Järryd in the final.[]


The governance of the Grand Prix was led by the Men's International Professional Tennis Council (MIPTC) from 1974 through 1989. (Its name was shortened to the Men's Tennis Council (MTC) in 1988.)[8] The MIPTC's duties included imposing fines for violations of its Code of Conduct, drug testing, and administrating the Grand Prix circuit. It also moved the Australian Open from its December date – which had been adopted in 1977 so that it could be included in the Grand Prix points system - to January for the 1987 edition so that the Grand Prix Masters could be held in December from 1986 onwards. It failed, however, to prevent the number of tournaments on the Grand Prix circuit from growing, with 48 being held in 1974 compared to 75 in 1989.

Sponsors and Grand Prix tour names

Based on USLTA Tennis Yearbooks and Guides and World of Tennis yearbooks the history of sponsors is as follows:

Formation of the ATP Tour

In 1990, the Association of Tennis Professionals, led by Hamilton Jordan, replaced the MTC as the sole governing body of men's professional tennis and the ATP Tour was born. The nine most prestigious Grand Prix tournaments became known as the "Championship Series Single Week"[14] from 1990 through 1995. In 1996, Mercedes began sponsoring these series of events, renamed as the "Super 9" until 1999.[15] In 2000, they became known as the "Tennis Masters Series" until 2004, then the "ATP Masters Series" until 2009. They are now called the ATP World Tour Masters 1000. Grand Prix tournaments below this level were originally called the Grand Prix Super Series. They were retained by the ATP and renamed as the "Championship Series". All remaining Grand Prix Tour events became part of the "World Series".

Grand Prix season-end rankings

NB: All rankings were calculated using the Grand Prix points system and do not necessarily reflect the ATP rankings at the same time.

Grand Prix circuit wins by player

Name Titles
1. Czechoslovakia Ivan Lendl 5 (1981, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989)
2. United States John McEnroe 3 (1979, 1980, 1984)
Argentina Guillermo Vilas 3 (1974, 1975, 1977)
4. United States Jimmy Connors 2 (1978, 1982)
Romania Ilie Nastase 2 (1972, 1973)
Sweden Mats Wilander 2 (1983, 1988)
7. Mexico Raúl Ramírez 1 (1976)
United States Cliff Richey 1 (1970)
United States Stan Smith 1 (1971)

See also


  1. ^ "ILTF agreement for Grand Prix tennis circuit to start". The New York Times. 9 April 1970. Retrieved 2011.
  2. ^ "How It All Began". Association of Tennis Professionals.
  3. ^ "Grand Prix for Open Tennis Suggested by Jack Kramer". Schenectady Gazette. Associated Press. 3 January 1969. p. 19.
  4. ^ Jack Kramer, with Frank Deford (1979). The Game: My 40 Years in Tennis. New York City: Putnam. pp. 275-276. ISBN 978-0399123368.
  5. ^ "Tennis Gets A Grand Prix". The Sydney Morning Herald. 9 April 1970.
  6. ^ "Grand Prix Tennis European Circuit". The Lakeland Ledger. 26 January 1976. Retrieved 2011.
  7. ^ Andrew Warshaw (15 January 1989). "Men's tennis officials preparing for tour turmoil". The Daily Union. Associated Press. p. 15.
  8. ^ "History". International Tennis Federation.
  9. ^ "Pepsi Cola Company Sponsorship". The New York Times. 23 June 1970. Retrieved 2011.
  10. ^ "Commercial Union Drops Sponsorship of Tennis". The Daytona Beach News-Journal. 14 April 1976. Retrieved 2015.
  11. ^ "Colgate Palmolive sponsorship". The Sydney Morning Herald. 5 November 1976. Retrieved 2011.
  12. ^ "Volvo Sponsorship". The New York Times. 5 September 1988. Retrieved 2011.
  13. ^ "Nabisco Sponsorship". The New York Times. 28 September 1989. Retrieved 2011.
  14. ^ "Newsbank Archive LA Times Reference to name". The Los Angeles Times. 5 March 1990. Retrieved 2011.
  15. ^ Chloe Francis (9 May 2009). "Masters 1000 Tournaments: The Toughest Test?". Bleacher Report.

Further reading

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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