Tennis has come a long way since “Open Tennis” began in 1968 and the ATP’s been part of the storied history.
The Grand Slam tournaments and all other national championships were open to amateur competitors only prior to 1968. Two years later tournaments around the world formed a unified circuit, which became the Grand Prix. In 1972, during the first week of the US Open at Forest Hills, the leading professionals joined forces to create the Association of Tennis Professionals.
This direction marked another defining moment in the history of the ATP, when a handful of the game’s leading players met in a secluded stairwell at the US Open to discuss the need for a players’ association. Under the leadership of newly elected Executive Director Jack Kramer and President Cliff Drysdale, the ATP came to life with a goal of changing the game for the better.
One of the initial acts of the organization was the establishment of a computer ranking system that provided fair analysis of a player’s performance as well as an objective means to determine entries into tournaments. The ATP Rankings began on 23 August 1973 and has continued through today as the official ranking system in men’s professional tennis.
From 1974 to 1989, the men’s circuit was administered by the Men’s Tennis Council, made up of representatives of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the ATP and tournament directors from around the world.
Although the period during which the MTC guided the game was one of tremendous progress and improvement, players began to feel more and more that they should have a greater voice in their sport. Players had realized the time had come for them to take more control over the game.
At the 1988 US Open, ATP CEO Hamilton Jordan (pictured), surrounded by many of the top players in the game, held the now-famous “press conference in the parking lot.” The ATP released “Tennis at the Crossroads,” outlining the problems and opportunities facing men’s tennis. One of the options available to the ATP was the formation of a new circuit, the ATP Tour.
Support for the new Tour was quick in coming as over 85 of the Top 100 players signed a letter of support for a new system. Later in the fall of 1988, 24 players, including eight of the Top 10, signed contracts to play the ATP Tour in 1990. Also that fall, tournament directors representing many of the world’s leading events voiced their support for the players and joined them in what was to become a partnership unique in professional sports, with an equal voice in how the circuit is run.
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