There are many great tennis tournaments scheduled to take place around the world in 2021. No country, however, will host more top tier events than the USA. The best American tournaments carry a lot of prestige, making sure that most of the world’s best players will participate. The locations offer impressive stadia and, usually, great weather. So, what are the six events not to be missed?
The US hosts several of the top tennis tournaments in the world, but the best and most popular ones are the Hall of Fame Open, Cincinnati Open, Miami Open, Indian Wells, US Open, and in some years the Laver Cup.
The Hall of Fame Open has a charm derived from its extensive history, whilst Cincinnati and Miami are prestigious hard court events. Indian Wells has sometimes been referred to as the ‘fifth major’ due to its scale. However, nothing compares to the mighty US Open, although the Laver Cup gives an opportunity to see the top players playing as a team.
Hall of Fame Open
Although the tournament has only been in existence since 1976, it is played at the International Hall of Fame Club in Newport, Rhode Island, the original site of the US National Tennis Championships.
The tournament, therefore, offers a glimpse into the history of the game. The event takes place on the historic grass courts, and the atmosphere is a throwback to the events of the past, a world away from today’s bustling, raucous, US Open. It marks the end of the grass-court season each year, and the start of the North American swing, taking place as it does in the week following Wimbledon.
The Hall of Fame Open is an ATP World Tour 250 event for men and offers around $600,000 of total prize money. This places it in the third tier of ATP Tour events.
This, along with its scheduling directly after the only grass-court Grand Slam event, means that only players with a fondness for grass courts and who did not reach the final at Wimbledon directly beforehand are likely to attend.
The last winner of the event, in 2019, was big-serving John Isner, and other mighty servers like Ivo Karlovic and Greg Rusedski also feature on the roll of honor. One of the quirks of the tournament, until Isner broke the hoodoo in 2011, was that the top seed had never won it until that time.
Although the Hall of Fame Open does not carry the same kudos as the other events in this list, it is very much worth watching. The opportunity to see some of the best grass-court players in the world plying their trade on American soil is a rare one these days and should not be missed.
The Cincinnati Masters, currently named the Western & Southern Open after its sponsors, is the oldest tennis tournament in the US, which is still played at its original venue, having started in 1899. It hosts both men’s and women’s events and is a prestigious tournament for both.
The men’s event is a top tier Masters 1000 event, and the women’s version has now been a second-tier Premier 5 tournament. In the future, it will be a Premier 1000 event for women, possibly enhancing its stature. There has so far been a significant imbalance in prize money since it has not been a top tier event for women, with the men sharing over $6.7 million in 2019 while the women’s prize fund was just under $3 million.
Until 1978, the competition was played on clay, primarily at the Cincinnati Tennis Club. From 1979 it moved to Mason, Ohio, and from then on, it has been played on hard courts. It is played at the impressive Lindner Family Tennis Centre, which has 17 courts, including four stadia.
In 2020, as (hopefully) a one-off, the event was moved to New York to minimize player travel in the midst of the coronavirus global pandemic. Although the event is likely to attract the majority of the world’s leading players, it is renowned for having a slightly more intimate atmosphere than the US Open, with fans being more likely to see players close up.
The honor roll includes virtually every top player, with Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, and Murray all featuring prominently in the men’s event in recent years. On the women’s side, winners have included Serena Williams, Muguruza, Clijsters, and Azarenka.
Miami Tennis Open
The Miami Open is another highly prestigious men’s and women’s event that takes place in the run-up to the US Open. It was first played in 1985, and by 1987 it had moved to Crandon Park in Key Biscayne, where it would remain until 2018. The hard courts at Crandon Park were renowned for being slow, resulting in long rallies in what could be extremely hot conditions.
The organizers tried to upgrade it and build some new stadia, but the conditions under which the land had been donated to them ultimately prevented this. Hence, they instead moved the event to the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens from 2019. This offers a large main stadium, along with more freedom to develop the rest of the complex. There are currently 12 match courts, including 4 stadium courts and 18 practice courts.
The said tournament is a huge event, with a 96-player singles draw for both men and women and 32-draws for doubles. It is a Masters 1000 event for men and has been a top tier Premier Mandatory tournament for women (changing to a Premier 1000 event for the future).
The Miami Open offers equal prize money for men and women, with a total prize fund of over $9 million for each, reflecting its stature. It can normally boast a very strong entry, and past champions include Federer, Djokovic, Murray, Agassi, and Sampras on the men’s side.
The women’s honor roll is equally star-studded, featuring names like Barty, the Williams sisters, Azarenka, Hingis, and Graf. Heat is a big factor in Miami, so players who cannot handle high temperatures will struggle there.
The Miami Open is a great event where spectators can watch the world’s best players competing for valuable ranking points and big money at a newly developed venue. If you get the opportunity to go, it will certainly be worthwhile- just don’t forget your sunhat!
If Miami is a big tournament, Indian Wells is possibly just that little bit bigger. It is played at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, which was completed in 2000, and which features 12 match courts, including two stadia and six practice courts.
The stadia are particularly impressive, with Stadium 1 being the second-largest tennis-specific venue in the world, boasting a capacity of 16,100, and Stadium 2 offering a still-substantial capacity of 8,000. The tournament was initially held in 1974, and by 1987 it was established as a top-tier event. Today it is a Masters 1000 event for the men and will be a Premier 1000 event for the women, having been a Premier Mandatory event. The total prize fund was planned to be over $9.7 million for both men and women when the event was scheduled in 2020.
The tournament at Indian Wells lasts almost two weeks, marking it out as a bigger event than most on the professional tours. Once again, it features a 96 player singles draw for men and women, with doubles events running alongside.
Indian Wells is the best-attended tennis event outside of the four Grand Slams, with a record of over 450,000 spectators attending during the tournament. Although the matches are played over the best of three sets, you can see why some people regard Indian Wells as the ‘fifth major.’
The entry is always strong, and virtually every player who has risen to the top of the game has featured there. Federer and Djokovic have each won the event five times. Interestingly, no woman has won the tournament more than twice. However, the group who have achieved this includes Serena Williams, who, along with Venus, boycotted the event for 13 years due to how the crowd treated them in 2001.
Indian Wells is not a Grand Slam event, but it as close as a tournament can get to this without actually being one. Any keen tennis fan should try to get there to watch it at least once.
Quite simply one of the world’s greatest tennis events, the US Open is one of the four ‘Grand Slam’ events, offering the most prestige, ranking points, and prize money. It first began in 1881 as the US National Championship played on grass at Newport, Rhode Island.
For many years the event was held at Forest Hills, also on grass, with a brief switch to clay courts in the 1970s. Finally, in 1977, it was switched to its current venue at Flushing Meadows, New York, today popularly recognized as the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
The venue has four stadium courts, plus 13 other match courts, with five practice courts (plus 12 others available nearby). All are hard courts. The main court is the colossal Arthur Ashe Stadium, with its retractable roof and 23,771 capacity.
The other three stadium courts are also impressive on a smaller scale, and the event is renowned worldwide for its lively atmosphere and big crowds- in 2019, the total attendance was just under 738,000.
In relation to the other Grand Slam events, the singles event draws at the US Open feature 128 players and is played out over two weeks. Alongside these, there are men’s and women’s doubles, mixed doubles, wheelchair events, juniors, and seniors. In every event, the world’s best players will be trying their utmost to win each match.
The men’s singles draw features matches played over the best of five sets, which can become real tests of endurance. For historical reasons, the women still play over the best of three sets. The total prize fund for the event in 2020 was $53.4 million.
If you want to see sporting drama in an electric atmosphere, try to get a ticket for one of the famous night sessions at the US Open. The organizers tend to schedule the big names to play in these slots, and the packed crowds add massively to the experience.
Laver Cup 2021 (Boston)
The 2021 Laver Cup will take place in Boston in September. This will be the fourth edition of the relatively new event. It is an indoor hard court tournament, pitting a team of Europe’s highest-ranked men against the best from the rest of the world, under the captaincy of legends Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe.
Named after Australian great Rod Laver, the event aims to mimic the success of golf’s Ryder Cup, putting players who normally compete as individuals together in a team environment.
Players compete in singles and doubles, with each match being played over two sets and deciding 10 point tie-break if necessary. The format is designed to keep the event alive until the final day, with matches counting for more points as the event progresses.
This was necessary, as there was a fear that Europe, who had most of the highly ranked players, would win too quickly. Although Europe has always won, the format worked well in 2019 as the score was quite close.
All of the players are paid to appear at the Laver Cup, although a bonus is paid to the winning team. On paper, it is just a sanctioned exhibition tournament, but it is fascinating to watch how much the top players start to care about the result when they play with a team of their peers. It is certainly worth watching if you get the chance.
The US has an array of fantastic tennis tournaments featuring the best players in the world. They are great to watch on TV, but there is nothing to compare with being part of the crowd. If you afford it, try to get some tickets for 2021.
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