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Sporting Chance : Tennis

Southland Owners: What does the future hold for professional sports in the Los Angeles area? The owners of the Southland's pro teams provide some insight on what ot expect. Last in a Series

May 18, 1997|JULIE CART

Like a convoluted weather forecast, the future of tennis in the L.A. area is bright, in spots.

The sun is shining in the desert, where the side-by-side Newsweek Grand Champions and State Farm Evert Cup events flourish each spring. For the second year, the men's and women's tournaments have been running concurrently--one of the few coed tennis events other than the Grand Slam tournaments.

That makes the tournaments at Indian Wells a perfect fit for the still-evolving future of tennis worldwide. With the ATP and WTA tours discussing the possibility of promoting as many as five such shared events a year, the desert events are on the cutting edge.

Also ensuring the financial health of the events is the top-flight status of each. The men's tournament is designated as one of the elite Super 9, and the women's is at Tier I, the highest possible prize-money tournament.

Money, of course, attracts top-ranked players, who are vital to the success of any tennis event.

Lack of stellar playing fields causes the other L.A. events to pale in comparison. The men's Infiniti Open at UCLA in July has a scant purse and suffers from its scheduling the week before a Super 9 tournament in Montreal.

The women's Acura Classic at Manhattan Beach last year drew the elusive Steffi Graf, but competes for players with the popular Toshiba Classic, held in San Diego the week before.

This comes at a time when the women's tour is considering dropping some events. The WTA Tour has, at times, considered eliminating one of the tournaments on the theory that the greater Los Angeles area cannot sustain interest in two tournaments.

It remains to be seen if there is fair weather in the forecast for them.

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