Local Tennis Organization Targets the SpotlightSat, 12/01/2018 - 14:35
Unlike soccer, boxing or baseball, tennis has not achieved mainstream popularity in Mexico. Introduced to the country by the British in the late 19th century, the game evolved as an elite sport. Raúl Zurutuza, Director General of Mextenis, believes tennis is now ready to hit another level. “The expectations and desire to see tennis are there, we just need tournaments that are attractive enough. We are in the business of creating spectacles and events must be in place for about five years to become a permanent part of people’s schedules. It is hard but we are getting there.”
Mextenis is the organization owned by Grupo Pegaso in charge of organizing the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC (Mexican Tennis Open Telcel presented by HSBC) in Acapulco and the Abierto Mexicano MIFEL presentado por Cinemex (Mexican Tennis Open MIFEL presented by Cinemex) in Los Cabos, as well as the CDMX Open Challenger tournament.
One hurdle to growing the sport is the operational side of the international governing organization ATP, which oversees the ATP World Tour for professional men’s tournaments (WTA organizes the women’s schedule). “ATP works through franchises or properties,” Zurutuza says. “It is possible to buy a Masters 1000, a World Tour 500 or 250. The problem is that these franchises are limited and if somebody is interested in buying one, they must wait until an owner no longer wants it.” The Masters 1000 series of tournaments are the thirdhighest tier of men’s ATP World Tour tournaments after the Grand Slam events and the ATP Finals.
Mextenis has participated actively in the purchase of these properties, positioning Mexico as a destination for tennis players. Mextenis, under the umbrella of Grupo Pegaso, acquired the country’s first franchise in 1992, which would later become the Mexican Tennis Open Telcel presented by HSBC tournament. After almost four years of searching for an additional franchise, three years ago the company acquired the rights to what would become the MIFEL tournament. Starting in 2018, Mextenis also participates in the organization of a tournament that is part of the ATP Challenger Tour: the CDMX Open.
Zurutuza says having two ATP World Tour franchises places the country in a privileged position, although the ATP’s franchise structure makes it unlikely for Mexican tournaments to enter the Masters 1000 level. “There are only nine Masters 1000 franchises, 13 ATP 500 tournaments and more than 30 ATP 250 tournaments,” he says. “The best way to understand it is to imagine tournaments as cars. If you want to drive one of those cars, someone has to get out. No city wants to give up their spot at the Masters 1000.”
Still, the tournaments in Acapulco and Los Cabos position the country in the global ATP Tour and although both tournaments are owned by Grupo Pegaso and share some characteristics, each one has its own identity. “Los Cabos and Acapulco are two separate business units with their own history and their own characteristics. We work to make sure each tournament works in a different way, although both sport the Pegaso seal,” Zurutuza says.
Although tennis is not among the most popular sports in the country, Mextenis has made significant progress to position the tournaments in the market. The Acapulco tournament, for instance, is a clear example of growth. “We have been doing this event for 25 years and it is now consolidated. In 2018, we sold 90 percent of the tickets in less than two months,” Zurutuza says. However, its importance lies not only in the number of sold tickets but in what it means for the state and the city in economic terms. “The week of the tournament represents the second-most important week in terms of economic income for the city. We believe that Los Cabos will experience a similar dynamic in about four years.”
Zurutuza adds that it is hard to place a specific monetary value on the tournaments. “In general, the value of an ATP 500 franchise averages US$10 million to US$12 million but this value changes depending on where in the calendar it is placed. For Mexico, the value of this kind of tournament is much higher than that. It is a tournament with a lot of history that allows us to sell an image that we could not sell differently."