The Grand Slam Cup, the eccentric tournament of the 90s


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The Grand Slam Cup, the eccentric tournament of the 90s

ATP Finals. ATP World Tour Finals. Tennis Masters Cup. All these happen in time to what was the Grand Slam Cup. A contest that was not organized by the ATP but by the ITF and in which the ranking was in the background: the important thing was to have performed well in the big four to get the Golden Ticket entry.

Between 1990 and 1999, this Cup was held, which brought together the 16 best male talents – women entered with only two years to go until their extinction – and distributed more money among its participants than any other tournament. With peaks of $ 2 million for the winner, with the possibility of extending it to one more if whoever kept the trophy had kept a Grand Slam throughout the year, the economic appeal was unavoidable. ATP points? No thanks.

To be more graphic: this tournament gave more money than the most important contests in the world do at the time. A logistical detail: from 1990 to 1996, it was played in December, but was relocated in mid-spring from 1997 to 1999. “No one is able to resist the temptation of money for a long time,” said long ago who was the director of the ITF, French Philippe Chatrier.

Just imagine: the economic scale was overwhelming. Those who lost in the first round took $ 100,000, those who fell in the quarterfinals 300,000, the semifinalists 450,000 and who was at the gates of the title … A million dollars! Even the substitutes saw ‘easy money’. Just to say yes as replacements they were guaranteed $ 50,000. It was not necessary to stay too long in Munich, those who did not participate could leave between Tuesday and Wednesday.

With a particular entry scoring system ranging from 2 units for the first round of Grand Slam to 600 for being champion, players would know if they could enter only after finishing their last game at the US Open. From there it was defined whether they entered the table or not: as a color note, the Grand Slam champions did not have a guaranteed position.

In this way, different talents from around the world gathered at the multi-purpose stadium of Olympiahalle in Munich. The surface? Banned today, since 2009, at the threshold ATP: synthetic folder.

The form of competition was based on a direct elimination in matches to three sets. The initial matches were played like this and, in the semifinals and final, five without tiebreak, something that would be touched up in the last two years of the competition. Pete Sampras was the winner of this tournament with two Cups in 1990 and 1997, while David Wheaton (1991), Michael Stich (1992), Petr Korda (1993), Magnus Larsson (1994), Goran Ivanisevic (1995), Boris Becker (1996), Marcelo Rios (1998) and Greg Rusedski (1999) were the other champions.

Over the years, the Grand Slam Cup was losing economic power and, ultimately, would face its termination as a result of the agreement between the ITF and the ATP: the Tennis Masters Cup would be born a year later …


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