Grand Prix tennis circuit

The Grand Prix tennis circuit[1] was a professional tennis tour for male players that existed from 1970 to 1989. It was the more prominent of two predecessors to the current tour for male players, the ATP Tour, the other being World Championship Tennis (WCT).


Prior to the Open Era popular professional tennis players were contracted to a Professional Promoter. Players such as Suzanne Lenglen and Vincent Richards were contracted to these promoters while amateur players followed their national (and international) federation. Later professional promoters, such as Bill Tilden and Jack Kramer, often convinced leading amateurs such as Pancho Gonzales and Rod Laver to join their tours with promises of good prize money, but these successes led to financial difficulties when players were paid too much and falling attendances resulted in reduced takings.

In the late-1950s the professional tour began to fall apart. It only survived when the U.S. Pro Tennis Championships, having been unable to give prize money to its winner in 1962, received prize money from the First National Bank of Boston for the following year's tournament. At the same time the concept of "shamateurism" – amateur promoters paying players under the table to ensure they remained amateurs – had become apparent to Herman David, the chairman of The Wimbledon Championships at that time.

In 1967, David announced that a professional tournament would be held at Wimbledon after the Championships that year. The tournament was televised by the BBC and succeeded in gaining public support for professional tennis. In late 1967, the best of the remaining amateur players turned professional, paving the way for the first open tournament. Some professionals were independent at this time, such as Lew Hoad, Luis Ayala and Owen Davidson, but most of the best players came under contract to one of two professional tours:

When the Open Era began in 1968, tournaments often found themselves deprived of either NTL or WCT players. The first Open tournament, the British Hard Court Championships at Bournemouth, was played without WCT players, as was that year's French Open. In 1970, NTL players did not play the Australian Open because their organization did not receive a guarantee.

The formation of the Grand Prix

The manipulation of Grand Slams in particular by professional promoters at the start of the Open Era led Jack Kramer, the former No. 1 male tennis player in the world in the 1940s and 1950s and a promoter himself, to conceive the Grand Prix in 1969.[2][3] He described it as "a series of tournaments with a money bonus pool that would be split up on the basis of a cumulative point system." This would encourage the best players to compete regularly in the series, so that they could share in the bonus at the end and qualify for a special championship tournament that would climax the year".[4]

When only a few contract players showed up for the 1970 French Open, the International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF) approved Kramer´s Grand Prix proposal and in April 1970 its president Ben Barnett announced the creation of the Grand Prix circuit, on an experimental basis during its first year.[5]

ILTF—WCT rivalry and the Association of Tennis Professionals

The first World Championship Tennis tournament was held in February 1–3, 1968, at Kansas City (US) and the first NTL tournament in March 18–21, 1968, at São Paulo (Brazil). In July 1970 WCT absorbed the NTL. In 1971, WCT ran a twenty tournament circuit with the year-ending WCT Finals held in November. At the end of 1970, a panel of journalists had ranked the best players in the world, and the best thirty-two men based on this ranking were invited to play the 1971 WCT circuit: among these 32 players were Ilie Năstase, Stan Smith, Jan Kodeš, Željko Franulović and Clark Graebner.

The Australian Open was part of the WCT circuit while the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open were Grand Prix events. The conflict between the ILTF (running the Grand Prix) and WCT was so strong that Rosewall, Gimeno, Laver, Emerson and other WCT players boycotted the 1971 US Open. There was a third professional circuit that year with the U.S. Indoor Circuit run by Bill Riordan, the future manager of Jimmy Connors.

In July 1971, the ITLF voted to ban all WCT contract professionals from competing in ITLF tournaments and from using ITLF facilities from the beginning of 1972 onwards. The 1972 editions of the French Open and Wimbledon excluded all contract professional players. Then in April 1972, the ITLF and WCT reached a resolution that divided the 1973 tour into an WCT circuit that ran from January through May and a Grand Prix circuit that ran for the rest of the year. The conflict between the ITLF and WCT led all tennis players to attend the 1972 US Open where they agreed to form their own syndicate, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), through the efforts of Jack Kramer, Donald Dell, and Cliff Drysdale.

In 1973, there were four rival professional circuits: the WCT circuit battled with the U.S. Indoor Circuit from January to April and the Grand Prix until July; both tours competed with the European Spring Circuit[6] until June. In that same year the ATP created controversy by calling for a boycott of the 1973 Wimbledon Championships after one of its members, Niki Pilić, was suspended by the Yugoslav Tennis Federation for failing to play in a Davis Cup tie against New Zealand. The ATP boycott, despite negotiation, went ahead, with only three members of the organisation – Roger Taylor, Ilie Năstase and Ray Keldie – breaking the picket. They were later fined for this.

The men's draws for that year were subsequently made up of second-string players, lucky losers and older players such as Neale Fraser, who reached the final of the men's doubles with fellow Australian John Cooper. The draw also showcased future talents such as Björn Borg, Vijay Amritraj, Sandy Mayer and John Lloyd, and record crowds helped to defy the boycott.

Integration and the end

The WCT and Grand Prix circuits were separate until 1978, when the Grand Prix circuit integrated the WCT circuit. In 1982, the WCT circuit split from the Grand Prix again and created a more complex WCT ranking, similar to the ATP ranking. The split was short-lived, however, and in 1985 the Grand Prix absorbed the four remaining WCT tournaments.

During the 1988 US Open the ATP, led by then-World No. 1 Mats Wilander, staged an impromptu meeting known as the Parking Lot Press Conference during failed negotiations with the MTC over the organisation of the Grand Prix and key issues such as player fatigue. During the Conference the ATP declared that it would be starting its own tour in 1990, meaning that the 1989 Grand Prix would effectively be its last.[7] The final event of the Grand Prix was the Nabisco Masters Doubles held at the Royal Albert Hall in London in the United Kingdom from December 6 through December 10, 1989. Its last champions were Jim Grabb and Patrick McEnroe, who beat John Fitzgerald and Anders Järryd.


The governance of the Grand Prix was led by the Men's International Professional Tennis Council (MIPTC) from 1974 until 1989; its name was shortened to the Men's Tennis Council (MTC) in 1988.[8] The Council's duties included imposing fines for violations of its Code of Conduct, drug testing and administrating the Grand Prix circuit. It also moved the Australian Open from its December date – which had been adopted in 1977 so that it could be included in the Grand Prix points system – to January for the 1987 edition so that the Grand Prix Masters could be held in December from 1986 onwards. However, it failed to reduce or maintain the number of tournaments on the Grand Prix circuit, with 48 Grand Prix events being held in 1974 compared to 75 in 1989.

Sponsors and Grand Prix tour names

Based on USLTA Tennis Yearbooks and Guides and World of Tennis yearbooks the history of sponsors is as follows:

Formation of the ATP Tour

In 1990 the Association of Tennis Professionals, led by Hamilton Jordan, replaced the Men's Tennis Council as the sole governing body of men's professional tennis and the ATP Tour was born. The nine most prestigious Grand Prix tournaments became known as the Championship Series Single Week[14] from 1990-1995. In 1996 Mercedes then began to sponsor these series of events named as the Super 9 until 1999.[15] In 2000 they became known as the Tennis Masters Series until 2004, then the ATP Masters Series until 2009. Now called the ATP World Tour Masters 1000. Grand Prix tournaments below this level were originally called the Super Series, were retained by the ATP and renamed as the Championship Series. All remaining Grand Prix Tour events became part of the World Series.

Grand Prix Season End rankings

NB: All rankings were calculated using the Grand Prix points system and do not necessarily reflect the ATP rankings at the same time.

1970 1971 1972 1973
  • 1. Ilie Nästase
  • 2. John Newcombe
  • 3. Tom Okker
  • 4. Jimmy Connors
  • 5. Manuel Orantes
  • 6. Jan Kodeš
  • 7. Stan Smith
  • 8. Tom Gorman
  • 9. Björn Borg
  • 10. Arthur Ashe
  • 1. Guillermo Vilas
  • 2. Manuel Orantes
  • 3. Björn Borg
  • 4. Arthur Ashe
  • 5. Ilie Năstase
  • 6. Jimmy Connors
  • 7. Raúl Ramírez
  • 8. Adriano Panatta
  • 9. Harold Solomon
  • 10. Eddie Dibbs
1976 1977
  • 1. Guillermo Vilas
  • 2. Brian Gottfried
  • 3. Björn Borg
  • 4. Manuel Orantes
  • 5. Eddie Dibbs
  • 6. Roscoe Tanner
  • 7. Raúl Ramírez
  • 8. Jimmy Connors
  • 9. Vitas Gerulaitis
  • 10. Harold Solomon
  • 1. Jimmy Connors
  • 2. Björn Borg
  • 3. Eddie Dibbs
  • 4. Raúl Ramirez
  • 5. Harold Solomon
  • 6. John McEnroe
  • 7. Guillermo Vilas
  • 8. Brian Gottfried
  • 9. Corrado Barazzutti
  • 10. Arthur Ashe
  • 1. John McEnroe
  • 2. Björn Borg
  • 3. Jimmy Connors
  • 4. Guillermo Vilas
  • 5. Vitas Gerulaitis
  • 6. Roscoe Tanner
  • 7. José Higueras
  • 8. Harold Solomon
  • 9. Eddie Dibbs
  • 10. Víctor Pecci
1980 1981
  • 1. Ivan Lendl
  • 2. John McEnroe
  • 3. Jimmy Connors
  • 4. José Luis Clerc
  • 5. Guillermo Vilas
  • 6. Björn Borg
  • 7. Roscoe Tanner
  • 8. Eliot Teltscher
  • 9. Vitas Gerulaitis
  • 10. Yannick Noah
1982 1983
  • 1. Mats Wilander
  • 2. Ivan Lendl
  • 3. John McEnroe
  • 4. Jimmy Connors
  • 5. Yannick Noah
  • 6. Jimmy Arias
  • 7. José Higueras
  • 8. Andrés Gómez
  • 9. José Luis Clerc
  • 10. Eliot Teltscher
  • 1. Ivan Lendl
  • 2. John McEnroe
  • 3. Mats Wilander
  • 4. Stefan Edberg
  • 5. Boris Becker
  • 6. Jimmy Connors
  • 7. Yannick Noah
  • 8. Anders Järryd
  • 9. Johan Kriek
  • 10. Joakim Nyström
  • 1. Ivan Lendl
  • 2. Boris Becker
  • 3. Stefan Edberg
  • 4. Joakim Nyström
  • 5. Yannick Noah
  • 6. Mats Wilander
  • 7. Henri Leconte
  • 8. Andrés Gómez
  • 9. Jimmy Connors
  • 10. Miloslav Mečíř
  • 1. Ivan Lendl
  • 2. Stefan Edberg
  • 3. Mats Wilander
  • 4. Miloslav Mečíř
  • 5. Boris Becker
  • 6. Jimmy Connors
  • 7. Pat Cash
  • 8. Brad Gilbert
  • 9. Tim Mayotte
  • 10. Andrés Gómez
1988 1989 (last year)

Grand Prix circuit wins by player

Name Titles
1. Czechoslovakia Ivan Lendl 5 (1981, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989)
2. United States John McEnroe 3 (1979, 1980, 1984)
Argentina Guillermo Vilas 3 (1974, 1975, 1977)
4. United States Jimmy Connors 2 (1978, 1982)
Romania Ilie Nastase 2 (1972, 1973)
Sweden Mats Wilander 2 (1983, 1988)
7. Mexico Raúl Ramírez 1 (1976)
United States Cliff Richey 1 (1970)
United States Stan Smith 1 (1971)

See also


  1. ^ "ILTF agreement for Grand Prix tennis circuit to start". New York Times. 9 April 1970. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  2. ^ "How It All Began". ATP.
  3. ^ "Grand Prix for Open Tennis Suggested by Jack Kramer". Schenectady Gazette. AP. 3 January 1969. p. 19.
  4. ^ Jack Kramer, with Frank Deford (1979). The Game : My 40 Years in Tennis. New York: Putnam. pp. 275–276. ISBN 978-0399123368.
  5. ^ "Tennis Gets A Grand Prix". The Sydney Morning Herald. 9 April 1970.
  6. ^ "Grand Prix Tennis European Circuit". The Lakeland Ledger. 26 January 1976. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  7. ^ Andrew Warshaw (15 January 1989). "Men's tennis officials preparing for tour turmoil". The Daily Union. AP. p. 15.
  8. ^ "History". ITF.
  9. ^ "Pepsi Cola Company Sponsorship". New York Times. 23 June 1970. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  10. ^ "Commercial Union Drops Sponsorship of Tennis". The Daytona Beach News-Journal. April 14, 1976. Retrieved October 16, 2015.
  11. ^ "Colgate Palmolive sponsorship". Sydney Morning Herald. 5 November 1976. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  12. ^ "Volvo Sponsorship". New York Times. 5 September 1988. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  13. ^ "Nabisco Sponsorship". New York Times. 28 September 1989. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  14. ^ "Newsbank Archive LA Times Reference to name". Los Angeles Times. 5 March 1990. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
  15. ^ Chloe Francis (May 9, 2009). "Masters 1000 Tournaments: The Toughest Test?". Bleacher Report.

Further reading

1976 Commercial Union Assurance Masters

The 1976 Commercial Union Assurance Masters was a tennis tournament played on indoor carpet courts at The Summit in Houston in the United States. It was the 7th edition of the Masters Grand Prix and was held from December 7 through December 12, 1976. Manuel Orantes won the singles Masters title and $40,000 first-prize money.

1978 Colgate-Palmolive Masters

The 1978 Masters (also known as the 1978 Colgate-Palmolive Masters for sponsorship reasons) was held in Madison Square Garden, New York City, United States between 10 January and 14 January 1979. It was the year-end championship of the 1978 Grand Prix circuit tour.

ATP Athens Open

The ATP Athens Open is a defunct Grand Prix and ATP Tour affiliated tennis tournament held annually in Athens in Greece from 1986 to 1994 and played on outdoor clay courts. In 2008 the tournament was renewed under the new name of the Status Athens Open on the ATP Challenger Series, awarding $75,000 in prize money.

ATP Bordeaux

This is a defunct men's tennis tournament that was held annually under various names, The Bordeaux Open Grand Prix Passing Shot and was part of the Grand Prix tennis circuit tour from (1979-1989) it then became an ATP Tour event until 1995. The tournament was played on two different surfaces during its tenure: clay from 1979 through 1990 and hard from 1991 through 1995.

Guy Forget was the only man to win the tournament more than once, doing so in 1990 and 1991. Yannick Noah, the only other Frenchman to triumph in the singles event, won the inaugural event of 1979.

ATP Florence

The ATP Florence is a defunct men's tennis tournament that was played on the Grand Prix tennis circuit from 1973 through 1989 and the ATP Tour 1990 through 1994. The tournament was held in Florence, Italy and was competed on outdoor clay courts. From 1973 through 1989, it was played in the weeks preceding the French Open; however, from 1990, it was played the week immediately after.

Italian Paolo Bertolucci won the event a record three consecutive times from 1975 through 1977, with clay court specialist Thomas Muster repeating the feat from 1991 through 1993.

It was replaced on the ATP calendar in 1995 by the Oporto Open.

ATP Itaparica

Known by various names, ATP Itaparica is a defunct men's tennis tournament that was part of the Grand Prix tennis circuit from 1986 to 1989 and the ATP Tour in 1990. The event was held in Itaparica, Brazil and was played on outdoor hard courts.

One Brazilian reached the final, Luiz Mattar in 1987, when he was beaten by Andre Agassi. It was Agassi's first win on the main ATP Tour. In 1990, Mats Wilander won his final career tournament here.

In 1991 the tournament was replaced by the ATP São Paulo.

Alan King Tennis Classic

The Alan King Tennis Classic was a men's tennis tournament held in Las Vegas, Nevada from 1972-1985. It was an event of the WCT Tour in 1972 before joining the Grand Prix tennis circuit from 1978 until 1985, and was one of the major ranking tournaments of both tours. It was part of the Grand Prix Super Series between 1972 and 1981. The event was hosted by American comedian Alan King and was played on outdoor hard courts of the Caesars Palace hotel.

BP National Championships

The BP National Championships is a defunct Grand Prix and ATP Tour tennis tournament played from 1988 to 1995. It was held in Wellington in New Zealand and was played on outdoor hard courts.

The tournament began as part of the Regular Series of the Grand Prix before joining the World Series of the ATP Tour when it was formed in 1990. After the tournament was replaced by the Qatar Open in 1993 it became a part of the ATP Challenger Series before being wound up in 1995.

Bologna Outdoor

The Bologna Outdoor is a defunct Grand Prix and ATP affiliated men's tennis tournament played from 1985 to 1998. It was held in Bologna in Italy and held on outdoor clay courts.

Donnay Indoor Championships

The Brussels Indoor (also known as the Donnay Indoor Championships) is a defunct professional tennis tournament played on indoor carpet courts at Forest National in Brussels. It was part of the Grand Prix tennis circuit initially and later, for three years, the ATP Championship Series of the ATP Tour. The tournament was established in 1980, becoming the second tournament to be played in Brussels, along with the ATP Brussels Outdoor. The following year the outdoor tournament was played for the last time, leaving the Donnay Indoor Championships as the sole professional tournament in the region.

It was held between 1981 and 1988 and then again from 1990 until 1992.

Geneva Open

The Geneva Open is an ATP Tour (formerly Grand Prix) affiliated tennis tournament that was held annually from 1980 to 1991 in Geneva, Switzerland on clay courts.

In November 2014 the ATP announced that the Düsseldorf tournament would be moved to Geneva where it would be held in 2015 as a 250 tournament.

Guarujá Open

The Guarujá Open was a men's tennis tournament held in Guarujá, Brazil.

Lorraine Open

The Lorraine Open is a defunct men's tennis tournament that was played as part of the Grand Prix tennis circuit from 1979 to 1989. It was held in Lorraine, one of the 26 regions of France. The venue alternated annually from Lorraine's two main cities of Metz and Nancy, with Nancy hosting odd-numbered years, and Metz even-numbered. The surface in both locations was indoor carpet courts.

Madrid Tennis Grand Prix

The Madrid Tennis Grand Prix is a defunct professional men's tennis tournament played on outdoor clay courts. It was part of the Grand Prix tennis circuit initially and later, the ATP World Series of the ATP Tour. The tournament was established in 1972 and was played every year until 1994.

Open de Nice Côte d'Azur

The ATP Nice Open (or Open de Nice Côte d'Azur in French) was an ATP World Tour 250 series and, formerly, Grand Prix tennis circuit affiliated men's tennis tournament. It was held in Nice, France at the Nice Lawn Tennis Club and played on outdoor clay courts. The last singles champion is Dominic Thiem from Austria.

Originally part of the Grand Prix tennis circuit between 1970 and 1989. The event was played under various names from 1971 through 1995 and then again starting in 2010. The tournament was known as the Phillips Open from 1990 until 1995.

Ilie Năstase, Björn Borg, Henri Leconte and Dominic Thiem have each won the singles title twice.

Prague Open (1987–1999)

The Prague Open is a defunct Grand Prix and ATP affiliated tennis tournament played from 1987 to 1999. It was held in Prague in the Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia) and played on outdoor clay courts.

Seoul Open

The Seoul Open is a defunct Grand Prix and ATP Tour affiliated tennis tournament played from 1987 to 1996. It was held at the Seoul Olympic Park Tennis Center in Seoul in South Korea and played on outdoor hard courts.

Singapore Open (men's tennis)

The Singapore Open is a defunct Grand Prix and ATP Tour affiliated tennis tournament played from 1989 to 1992 and from 1996 to 1999. It was known as the Epson Singapore Super Tennis until 1992 and the Heineken Open from 1996 to 1999. It was held at the National Stadium in Singapore and was played on outdoor hard courts.

Taipei Grand Prix

The Taipei Grand Prix, ATP Taipei in its final year, was a men's tennis tournament played in Taipei, Taiwan. The event was held from 1977–1984 and was part of the Grand Prix Tennis Circuit It emerged for one last time in 1992. The event was played on indoor carpet courts.

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