Four or Five or?
The Indian Wells-Miami section of the tour is a great stretch for tennis fans. Most of the top players on the ATP and WTA play both events and great matches abound. It also leads to talk of a “Fifth Major” status for one or the other event. This talk is not limited to these two locales. Many people claim the Italian Open or Masters Roma is the fifth major. During Olympic years, the winner of the gold medal is often discussed as having won the fifth most important event of the year. What about the World Tour Finals/Masters Cup/ATP World Championships/Masters held at the end of each season? Is it the fifth most important tournament? Doesn’t BNP Paribas, who now sponsors Indian Wells, also sponsor and have longer ties with the Bercy in the fall? Is it then the fifth major?
Does Monte Carlo get Consideration or is it a Masters Emeritus?
Hypothetical Rules for a Permanent 5th Major Designation
- The World Tour Finals Despite Offering the Most Computer Points Outside of the Slams is a Different Animal so the WTF is not a Major
- During Olympic Years – The Gold Medalist Holds the 5th Major
- During Non-Olympic Years the Tournament with the Best Draw, Best Amenities and Highest Prize Money is the 5th Major
- Ignore the Defunct Volvo International and WCT Finals in Dallas Having Once Been Prestigious
- Ignore the Growth of Tennis in Asia Despite China having 5th Major Potential
More Trouble than it is Worth
I’d rather listen to “A Fifth of Beethoven” than figure out what is the 5th most important tournament. The Grand Slams have some normative status. If a player, like the young Agassi, skipped Wimbledon for several years, it would still be Wimbledon. Carlos Moya won the Masters Roma title in 2004 and won Masters Cincinnati in 2002. Moya likely places his Rome title just below his 1998 Roland Garros title and Spain’s 2004 Davis Cup win. Andy Roddick would likely value his Masters Miami, Canada and Cincinnati titles more than any clay court title outside of the French Open. Views on the most important titles shift a great deal depending upon a player’s surface preference.
For better or worse, all four Grand Slams have importance that is a given at least since Pete Sampras made breaking Roy Emmerson’s record a public goal. It is great that Indian Wells is voted as a player favorite venue right now, but that does not confer upon it an added quality to my mind. It is a great tournament and should just work at staying that way. Indianapolis was praised in John Feinstein’s book Hard Courts that chronicled the tour in 1990.* Indianapolis was sponsored by RCA at that time, and players loved the event due to having access to virtual reality and other audio visual prototypes that RCA was developing. Less than 25 years later, the Indianapolis Tennis Center is now gone, as in plowed under, and a basketball arena sits in its place. So long as Indian Wells and Key Biscayne/Miami keep holding great tennis events and don’t get plowed under, I will be happy.
Better Days for Tennis in Indianapolis
* – Feinstein referred to Key Biscayne/Miami as the 5th major in 1990. Therefore if Indian Wells is now the 5th major, it stands to reason that this title is a short term distinction at best.