Tennis, declining in popularity elsewhere in the United States, seems to be holding strong in Washington, with one of the longest running U.S. pro tennis tournaments getting going this week and another championship season for the city’s World Team Tennis team, the Washington Kastles.
The tournament, formerly the Legg Mason Tennis Classic, is now the oldest continuously operating Association of Tennis Professionals event in the United States, outside of the U.S. Open, according to the Washington Post. “In 1983, there were 26 ATP men’s tournaments in the United States, not counting the U.S. Open. In 1993, there were 18. This season, there are only 11, with Washington’s Citi Open the longest running among them,” the paper reported.
Among the reasons are lack of interest in the sport in the United States, which scares off tournament sponsors, starves the sport of television time and venues and helps lead to under-exposure. Not having that many natives in the upper echelons of the sport doesn’t help either. (Where have you gone, Jimmy Connors?) The Citi Open is helped along by an ownership structure that weathers many of the financial pressures on the U.S. venues. It is owned by the nonprofit Washington Tennis and Education Foundation.
Elsewhere in Washington, the Kastles won their third consecutive championship on Sunday, defeating the Springfield (Mo.) Lasers. More than 2,500 fans packed into Kastles Stadium at the Wharf in Southwest D.C. for the match, according to the Post. Such a turnout for a sporting event that is not in the major leagues suggests that, in Washington at least, tennis has got a decent following.