A feasible option?
The President of the Asian Tennis Federation, Anil Khanna came up with an interesting suggestion last month.
He felt that a fifth Grand Slam should be added to the tennis calendar & should take place in the Asian sub-continent. He felt that such a tournament would go a long way in the development of the sport in the Asian countries. At the moment 4 Grand Slams are played - Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.
Considering the already hectic calendar, it is not a feasible idea to host a 5th grand slam in Asia, at the moment.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) needs to answer several questions before looking at the possibility of staging a 5th Grand Slam in Asia.
Players should alter their schedule
One among them being with the amount of tennis that is played in the time span between two majors, is there an available time slot that is to play a 5th Grand Slam championship?
In between two grand slam tournaments,players play several ATP competitions and also represent their countries in Davis Cup matches and adding another major to the already existing four,would mean further increasing a tennis player’s workload.
Another important consideration is the balance between playing time and rest time. Several players are already complaining about the busy schedule and another grand slam would lead to players suffering injuries, burning-out and hence pulling out of other major tournaments. Also, players spend a considerable amount of time in training and remaining fit for tournaments and squeezing in another slam could prove to be detrimental.
On the contrary, staging a tournament as big as a Grand Slam in Asia could prove to be beneficial for players coming from the sub-continent.It could serve as a motivation for upcoming talent to take up the sport and showcase their potential on a world stage. But, as much as that thought sounds encouraging, statistics have shown that out of the number of players coming out from the sub-continent, only a handful have gone on to be successful on the professional circuit.
TV ratings matter
Another question to ponder is Will the championship gather as much audience in Asia as it does in other countries?
If you consider a country like India, then a large section of the audience would be inclined to watch a cricket match than a tennis match whereas in a country like Japan,the number of people watching tennis would be more than say football. So the country where the championship is staged could be a crucial factor in the deciding whether the tournament is a success or not.
However, I do feel that popularity for any sport comes only by taking it to different parts of the world and promoting it in a way, so as to get more people to watch it.The example to vindicate this statement is that off Li Na. Popularity of the game in China and other Asian countries grew by leaps and bounds after the former World no. 2 went on to win two Grand Slams. Japanese player Kei Nishikori reached the final of the US open which is an indication that tennis in this part of the world is growing fast.
Spread the sport in Asia
However, Mr Khanna feels that before staging such an event, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) needs to have a clear idea of the financial fallouts that it may face.
“The ITF is not a financially successful body. Right now it is not making a surplus, at best it is making $500,000 a year and our development expenses have gone down significantly to what it was 10 years ago,” Khanna said.
“That money will not belong to one nation it will belong to 201 nations. It will be money well spent in Asia, in Africa, in Central America, in South America. Today we find tennis getting centred around only Europe making it is easier for Europe-based players to succeed.” Khanna added.
Hence,I would conclude by saying that on one front,a Grand Slam in Asia could benefit a lot of players but a lot of work still needs to be put in to increase the popularity of the sport in the Asia.