US Open 2017 — Big goof up and economic nightmare

(article also published in www.messyfractals.in)

US Open Economics

Total Staff: 9,000

2015 Attendance: 691,280

Estimated Revenue (2016): $330,000,000

Total Purse (2017): $50,400,000

US Open 2017 Seedings

US Open announces seedings and draws on 22nd August 2017, a week before the start of the tournament.

Men’s Singles : Nadal, Andy Murray followed by Roger Federer seeded 1, 2, 3. Novak Djokovic was taking an injury break. Meanwhile, German youngster Alexander Zverev was seeded 4th. Second seed Andy Murray was set to make his return to the tour from a hip injury, which has sidelined him since Wimbledon.

Men’s Singles
1 Rafael Nadal
2 Andy Murray
3 Roger Federer
4 Alexander Zverev
5 Marin Cilic
6 Dominic Thiem
7 Grigor Dimitrov
8 Milos Raonic
9 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
10 David Goffin
11 John Isner
12 Roberto Bautista Agut
13 Pablo Carreno Busta
14 Jack Sock
15 Nick Kyrgios

Two days after seeds were announced, Andy Murray pulled out of the tournament putting USTA in a fix. Whether to move Roger & rest of the pack up by a seed or to leave the draws untouched? USTA went with the latter.

Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal in same half of the draw means they play on the same day (every alternate day). Most of Asia won’t bother watching when Roger is not on court. Every alternate day the viewership dips (as google trends show!).

Search on Google : US Open (blue), Roger Federer (red), Rafa Nadal (yellow)

To improve the economics in ticket bookings, Rafa pays the price. He ends up playing in the morning session when the sun beats down in one of the hottest tournaments. That means TV timings are not optimised for Rafa matches!!

Thanks to the dependence on the Big 4 and decision not to change the draws, US Open will leak lots of possible revenue this year.

This is how the lower half of the draw going into the 2nd week of the tournament. There is not one match I feel inspired to watch and that doesn’t do any good for USTA!

This is how the lower half of the draw looked few days into the tournament

What earns US open the whopping 350 million dollars?

<quote ESPN data from 2015>

“ESPN’s first exclusive US Open resulted in the tournament’s biggest TV audience in four years — capped by a Men’s Championship seen by 43 percent more people than last year and more young males than in six years — plus an explosion of live streaming on WatchESPN across computers, smartphones, tablets and connected TV devices. In addition, more men 18–34 watched the US Open than any in six years, an average of 101,000–68 percent higher than 2014 (60,000) and the highest since 121,000 in 2009.”

The reasons for the stupendous growth in viewership numbers are obvious

  • Rise of Big 4 in Men’s Tennis — RF, RN, ND, AM. Tennis was seeing a new brand of super-competitive perfection in the sport.
  • Reach of smart phones and internet

US Open 2016 Djokovic v Wawrinka final was viewed by 1.4 million lesser viewers compared to 2015 Djokovic — Federer final!

If Federer loses the quarters vs Del Potro, USTA will hit a new low this season. Then, what when Federer retires!!

On the side while we are talking about the millions USTA makes : How much do ball boys and ball girls get paid ?

275 ball kids — there are 92 rookies; the rest are veterans. During the tournament, they’re formed into teams of six and rotate on-court shifts, which last about two hours. Ball persons are paid an hourly wage of about $11. Without doubt, the ballkids get the best seats in the house while on the job.