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  Sunday, 2 September, 2001, 01:37 GMT 02:37 UK
Public shut out US Open
The US Open struggles to emerge from the shadows of American team sports
US Open has been overshadowed by other sports
The greatest tennis players in the world are at the US Open this week, but few in America seem to care. BBC Sport Online's Kevin Asseo reports on the event's diminishing appeal.

The US Open Tennis Championships are in full swing in New York, but the question is - has anyone in America noticed?

The tournament, billed by its organisers as the most prestigious event in tennis, is making little more than a blip on the radar screen of the American sports landscape.

News of the National Football League and Major League Baseball has pushed the US Open far into the back pages of sports sections across the country.

It is a trend that began when the two favourite sons of American tennis, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, hung up their rackets and moved to the broadcast booth.

The play is secondary to American sports fans.

Personality is what captivates them, and tennis has been sorely lacking in that department for some time now.

Look no further than Pete Sampras, possibly the greatest champion ever, who enjoys a fraction of the popularity of McEnroe or Connors thanks to his absence of flair.

When tennis does make news in the States, it is just that - news.

The sporting aspects are often forgotten.

Time, a popular weekly news magazine in America, featured Venus and Serena Williams on their most recent cover, but the article focused on their conflicts with other female tennis stars, not their fantastic skills.

If the US Open takes a back seat to sports such as baseball and football, it is not due to a lack of effort on the part of the tournament organisers.

They have done everything possible to push the event into the spotlight.

Indifference

A television deal that provides hours of daily coverage and a new, enormous, state-of-the-art stadium in Flushing are designed to back the claims that the US Open is tennis' premier event.

Yet the US Open has little chance to reverse its flagging popularity.

In addition to its current dearth of marketable stars, the tournament suffers from awful timing.

This time of year is when the baseball season is coming to a close, bringing the drama to a high point.

Hilary Clinton and Billie Jean King
At least Hilary Clinton is enjoying the tennis

It also marks the beginning of the football season, which is easily the most popular spectator sport in America.

That means the most insignificant item of information from either of those sports takes precedence over a major development at the US Open.

America's indifference towards tennis extends to most other individual sports as well.

Take away Tiger Woods, and team sports would be the only recipient of American sports fans' attention.

All the empty seats at the recent World Athletics Championships, held in Edmonton, Canada, served as evidence of the current attitude.

Athletics, tennis, boxing and other individual pursuits simply do not have the appeal they once held.

Unless each sport can find a fresh, dynamic, Tiger-like superstar, they will continue to fade away.

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See also:

01 Sep 01 | US Open tennis
01 Sep 01 | US Open tennis
Links to more US Open tennis stories are at the foot of the page.


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