Major Tennis Competitions

The Australian Open

The Australian Open is held every January and is the first Grand Slam tournament of the year. Players battle it out at Melbourne Park, under the notoriously fierce Australian sun. The tournament was first held in 1905 on a grass surface. Today, the competition takes place on Rebound Ace, which is a hard court with a rubber surface topped with acrylic. This surface tends to produce a predictable bounce, but players have frequently claimed that the surface becomes sticky under the intense glare of the sun, increasing the risk of injury and inhibiting movement.

The entrants of the Women’s Singles event compete for the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup. The trophy is named for the Australian Tennis star Daphne Akhurst, who won the Australian Open five times in the 1920s. Akhurst died tragically in 1933 at the age of only 29 following complications associated with pregnancy.

The Norman Brookes Challenge Cup is presented to the winner of the Men’s Singles. Norman Brookes represented Australia almost forty times between 1905 and 1920 in the Davis Cup. He also secured a number of personal victories, including the Men’s Singles title at Wimbledon twice; in 1907 and 1914.

The Australian Open is overseen by Tennis Australia, the national governing body for the sport.

Purchasing tickets

A number of tickets are made available to the general public each year. Tickets usually need to be purchased in advance, as early as the previous October. Bookings can be made on the Official Website or by telephone. The international booking line number is +61 (2) 8736 2711. Alternatively, tickets can be purchased in person at booking offices in Australia and New Zealand.

Prices vary, and usually begin at around $40 for an adult ticket and $34 for concessions in the earlier stages of the tournament. The cost rises as the tournament progresses. Adults should expect to pay around $100 for a Semi-Final seat and $174 for the Final, although these tickets are obviously in high demand and can be difficult to acquire. To be in with a chance of getting a ticket for one of the last stages of the competition, it is imperative to buy as soon as the tickets are released. The official website announces the exact date that tickets will be available annually.

The French Open

The French Open takes place during two weeks in late May and early June every year, and is the second Grand Slam tournament of the year. The tournament is officially called the Roland Garros Tournament, although it is usually referred to as the French Open. The tournament takes place at the Stade de Roland Garros, which was named after a French World War I aircraft hero. The competition was first held in 1891. Before the stadium was built in 1928, the Open was hosted by the Stade Français Club in Paris.

The tournament was originally held on grass, but a clay surface is now used. As balls tend to bounce higher and more slowly on clay, it can be difficult for players who are used to playing on hard courts or grass to adjust to clay. It is perhaps for this reason that it has often been the French Open which has prevented players from achieving a coveted Golden Grand Slam.

The prize purse of the tournament is generous. The prize money between the Men’s and Ladies’ is to be equal for the first time in 2007: the princely sum of €7,060,176 for the Singles’ events, and €1,666,564 for the Doubles’ events.

Purchasing tickets

Priority is always given to people who are registered with the French Tennis Federation but a number of tickets are made available to the general public. The most convenient way to acquire some is to fill out the online order form on the official website, which can be found here.

Alternatively, the form can be requested and posted back to:

FFT
Service Réservations
2 Avenue Gordon-Bennett
75016 Paris
France

Wimbledon

The Championships, or Wimbledon as it has become more commonly known, is the oldest Tennis tournament in the world. It is held annually over two weeks at the end of June and the beginning of July at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, London. Each year, the Men’s and Ladies’ Singles, the Men’s and Ladies’ Doubles, the Mixed Doubles and senior and youth events take place on the nineteen courts of the club. The competition dates back to 1877 and is one of the British sporting highlights of the year.

The competition takes place on grass and, like the other Grand Slam tournaments, proceeds on a knockout basis. Qualification for the tournament is based upon world rankings. However, each year the committee admits a player to each event who would not otherwise qualify; the so-called ‘wild card.’ It is rare for these players to progress to the final stages of the competition. The notable exception is Goran Ivanisevic who won it all in 2001 as a wild card entrant.

The Wimbledon Finals always take place on Centre Court. The winner of the Men’s Singles receives a silver cup which was first presented to a Wimbledon champion in the 19th Century. The winner of the Ladies’ Singles receives the Rosewater Dish. The winners can also expect a generous cash prize. The prize money for the Men’s and Ladies’ Singles events will be equal for the first time in 2007; both winners will receive £700,000. The winners of the Men’s Doubles and Ladies’ Doubles will receive £222,900 per pair and the winners of the Mixed Doubles will receive £90,000 per pair.

Purchasing tickets

Demand for tickets always exceeds supply. For this reason, an annual ballot is held to ensure that the allocation of tickets designated for members of the public is as fair as possible. These tickets are sold on the condition that they will be used by the people who bought them originally.

The U.K. ticket office is open for general enquiries about tickets and the ballot between 9am and 5pm on weekdays and can be contacted by calling 020 8971 2473. Those calling from abroad should dial +44 20 8971 2473.

The Wimbledon Museum

The home of The Championships is also open throughout the year. Visitors from all over the world visit the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum to learn more about the tournament and the history of Tennis. The museum also has a number of interesting exhibits, including a section dedicated to on-court fashions from when Tennis first became popular to the present day. Admission for adults is £8.50 (or £14.50 for a guided tour), £7.50 for concessions (£13.00 with tour) and £4.75 for children (£11 with tour). Bookings can be made online and the admission fee is payable on arrival. The museum can also be contacted by telephone or by post:

Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum
All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club
Church Road
Wimbledon
London
SW19 5AE

Tel. +44 (020) 8946 6131

The U.S. Open

The U.S. Open is the final Grand Slam tournament of the year. It begins towards the end of August and is held at the West Side Tennis Club in Queen’s, New York City. The tournament first moved to the West Side Tennis Club in 1968. Originally, the Open had been known as the U.S. National Championships and the Men’s and Women’s events were held as completely separate competitions. The men’s event took place at the Newport Casino in Newport, Rhode Island and the women’s event was held at the Philadelphia Cricket Club. At first, only members of the U.S. National Lawn Tennis Association were allowed to participate but orgnanisers later permitted foreign tennis players to enter.

Like all of the Grand Slam tournaments, the competition was once held on grass. In the mid 1970s, a clay court was introduced, before this was replaced with a hard court in 1978. Players now compete on a hard court coated with acrylic; a surface known as Deco-Turf. The ball moves slightly faster on this surface than on the Rebound Ace used at the Australian Open.

The U.S. Open has pioneered the use of an electronic device known as the ‘Hawk-eye’ in recent years. The Hawk-eye is the best piece of equipment produced yet for detecting whether a ball was in or out. Each player is allowed to question two decisions in every set, but is not penalised if it turns out that they were correct. If the Hawk-eye continues to be successful it is likely that they will be used more in professional Tennis tournaments. Some competitions already use similar technology; for example, the ‘Cyclops’ used at Wimbledon.

Purchasing tickets

Tickets can be purchased for either day or evening games. Prices start at around $48 for adults, rising to around $79 for a seat in the upper promenade in the later stages of the competition. The best way to purchase tickets is through Ticket Master.

The Davis Cup

The Davis Cup is a Men’s competition (the Women’s equivalent is the Fed Cup) which originated in 1900, when a coterie of Harvard students including Dwight D. Davis and Holcolme Ward challenged British players to a tournament. The first tournament took place in Boston in 1900. The event was a great success and a number of other national teams, including the Belgian, French, Austrian and Australasian (which combined players from Australia and New Zealand) teams, had become involved by 1905. The Davis Cup is overseen by the ITF.

The Structure of the tournament

The tournaments which make up the competition are known as ties. Each of these ties is comprised of five matches, played over the course of three days. The individual matches in each tournament are referred to as rubbers. Five sets are usually played in each rubber. The first two matches are usually Singles matches and teams tend to choose their best players to compete in this initial stage. On the second day of the tie, attention turns to the Doubles competition, before returning to Singles on the third day. There are no rules against fielding the same team members for the second round of Singles matches as were used on the first day, so long as the players face a different opponent from the opposing team.

Those who qualify for the main competition are known as The World Group, which is comprised of sixteen national teams. These teams face each other in a knock-out tournament before an overall champion is declared. Eight members of the World Group will be the teams which won in the first round in the last Davis Cup. The eight teams who lost in the previous year’s competition may still be allowed to re-enter the World Group, but must first prove themselves in a Play-off tournament. Their opponents in this tournament will be the winners of the top regional groups.

These regional groups are made up of national teams which did not qualify for the World Group in the previous year, but have been competing in separate regional tournaments. These regions are: the Americas; Europe/Africa; and Asia/Ocean. These zonal competitions involve dividing the teams in their region into four groups, the first group being the most successful teams and the fourth group being the least successful. These teams take part in a separate competition to determine the final placing of each team; teams are promoted and relegated between the groups based on the outcome.

Each year, eight successful teams from the first groups of these regional tournaments are invited to participate in the Play-offs; two each from the Asia/Oceania group and the Americas, and four from the Europe/Africa group. If these teams are successful in the Play-offs, they qualify for the World Group and take part in the main Davis Cup tournament.

Purchasing tickets

If you are interested in supporting your national team, the best way to go about acquiring tickets is to contact your national association. Contact details for each national association are listed on the ITF website. The website can also tell you which group your team is currently in, and the date and location of their next fixture.

The Fed Cup

The Fed Cup is a Women’s competition and the equivalent of the Davis Cup. Each year, national teams compete in a tournament over the course of one week. The location of the competition varies from year to year.

The Fed Cup (originally known as the Federation Cup) originated in 1963 to mark the 50th anniversary of the ITF. The first tournament took place in London, when the United States became the first winners. In 1963, only sixteen national team chose to enter the competition. In recent years, entry has become much more competitive, and qualifying rounds were introduced after 1992. The structure of the Fed Cup is now similar to the Davis Cup tournament, with a World Group made up of eight national teams, and a World Group II made up of a further eight.

The World Group is comprised of the four teams which won the first round tie in the previous Fed Cup. As is the case in the Davis Cup tournament, the remaining places in the World Cup can only be secured by participation in a Play-off tournament. The opponents of these losing teams in the Play-offs are the four most successful teams of World Group II. The four losing teams of the Play-offs will become part of World Group II, and the four winners go on to compete in the main competition.

The final placing of each national team in the World Group and World Group II are determined by a committee which seeds each team after careful consideration of a number of factors. Points towards Fed Cup rankings depend on such things as the position of a team’s opponents in the rankings. Performance over a four year period is taken into account, although recent performance is considered to be most relevant.

Fed Cup Ties have a similar structure to those of the Davis Cup. Individual matches are also played to the best of three sets in the Women’s tournament. On the first day, two Singles matches take place, generally involving the best players on each team. Further Singles matches, against different partners are held during the second round. The Doubles matches are held last.

The Olympics

Tennis was one of the original Olympic sports at the Athens Olympics of 1896. However, after 1924, a decision was taken to exclude Tennis as an Olympic Sport. After considerable lobbying by organisations including the ITF, it was decided that Tennis should return as a demonstration sport in 1984. When this proved to be successful, the IOC re-introduced Tennis as a full medal Olympic sport in time for the 1988 Games.

Olympic Tennis has been popular ever since, attracting a number of famous Tennis stars. Steffi Graf won a Gold medal in the Singles event at the 1988 Olympics and a Silver medal in 1992. Serena and Venus Williams teamed up in 2000 to win the Gold medal for the Women’s Doubles. Andre Agassi is another renowned Tennis player to take home a Gold Medal; he won the Men’s Singles in 1996.

The competition is a knockout tournament. Most matches are played to the best of three sets, although the Men’s Singles and Doubles Finals are played to the best of five. Players are allowed to compete in both the Singles and Doubles events if they wish to do so.

Whether or not a player qualifies for the Olympics is decided by a committee, which admits 48 players based on their position in the world rankings. A further two players who do not meet this requirement are invited to take part in the tournament by the committee. When allocating places in the tournament, a number of factors are taken into account, including whether or not a player’s nation is already being represented at the event, and the number of ITF ranked players in the country of the player in question.

The Tennis event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics will be held at the Beijing Olympic Tennis Centre. Further information about the competition can be found here on the ITF website.

The ATP Tour

The ATP Tour is a men’s competition overseen by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). The Tour is comprised of a series of international Tennis tournaments, in which players compete for prize money and to accumulate points towards their ATP ranking. The number of points allocated to each player depends upon the prestige of the tournament in which they are competing, and their final position in the competition.

The least notable series of events in the ATP Tour are the Challenger Tournaments. Lower seeded players tend to compete in this series, and the prize purse for its events tends to be significantly smaller than for the Masters Series events and the Grand Slams.

The International Series Tournaments and the International Series Gold Tournaments also allow players to accumulate points towards their overall ATP ranking. The ATP website is the best source of information about upcoming tournaments in these categories.

The Masters Series attracts Tennis stars of the highest calibre from across the world. In fact, the Masters Series is compulsory for the highest seeded male players. The tournaments which comprise the Masters Series are listed below:

The ATP Tour climaxes in the annual Masters Cup, which pitches the eight most highly ranked players in the ATP against each other to determine an overall champion. The event also involves the International Tennis Federation.

Players are divided into two equal groups, each of which plays a round robin tournament. The two most successful players from each group are invited to progress to the Semi-finals, where two players are eliminated. The player who goes on to win the Masters Cup Final becomes the ATP Champion.

The Sony Ericsson WTA Tour

The WTA Tour is the Women’s equivalent of the ATP Tour. The Tour is overseen by the Women’s Tennis Association. It is organised similarly to the ATP Tour, with players competing for prize money and points towards their overall WTA rankings. Points are awarded in proportion with the prestige of the tournament and the final position of the player in the competition.

Tournaments which allow players to accrue points include the Tier Tournaments, which are divided into four groups, from Tier I to Tier IV.

The The Sony Ericsson Championships is the most important part of the WTA Tour and the equivalent of the Masters Cup. The competition pitches the highest ranking players against each other to determine the overall champion.

The WTA Tour Calendar, with the dates and locations of all major tournaments and links to the relevant websites can be found here on the Tour’s official website.