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The Grand Prix tennis circuit was a professional tennis tour for male players that existed from 1970 to 1989. The Grand Prix and World Championship Tennis (WCT) were the two predecessors to the current tour for male players, the ATP Tour, with the Grand Prix being more prominent.
- The National Tennis League (NTL), run by George McCall and Fred Podesta.
- World Championship Tennis (WCT), run by David F. Dixon, Albert G. Hill Jr., and Lamar Hunt.
Formation of the Grand Prix
The manipulation of Grand Slam tournaments by professional promoters at the start of the Open Era led promoter Jack Kramer, the top male tennis player in the world in the 1940s and 1950s, to conceive of the Grand Prix in 1969. He described it as "a series of tournaments with a money bonus pool that would be split up on the basis of a cumulative point system." This would encourage the best players to compete regularly in the series, so that they could share in the bonus at the end and qualify for the special championship tournament climaxing the year.
When only a few contract players showed up for the 1970 French Open, the International Lawn Tennis Federation (ILTF) approved Kramer's Grand Prix proposal. In April 1970, its president Ben Barnett announced the creation of the Grand Prix circuit, on an experimental basis during its first year.
ILTF—WCT rivalry and the Association of Tennis Professionals
The first World Championship Tennis tournament was held 1-3 February 1968 in Kansas City, U. S. The first NTL tournament was held 18-21 March 1968 in São Paulo, Brazil. In July 1970, the WCT absorbed the NTL. In 1971, WCT ran a twenty-tournament circuit with the year-ending WCT Finals held in November. At the end of 1970, a panel of journalists had ranked the best players in the world. The best thirty-two men based on this ranking were invited to play the 1971 WCT circuit, which included Ilie Năstase, Stan Smith, Jan Kodeš, Željko Franulović, and Clark Graebner.
The Australian Open was part of the WCT circuit while the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open were Grand Prix events. The conflict between the ILTF (running the Grand Prix) and WCT was so strong that Rosewall, Gimeno, Laver, Emerson, and other WCT players boycotted the 1971 US Open. The third professional circuit that year was the U. S. Indoor Circuit run by Bill Riordan, the future manager of Jimmy Connors.
In July 1971, the ITLF voted to ban all WCT contract professionals from competing in ITLF tournaments and from using ITLF facilities from the beginning of 1972 onwards. The 1972 editions of the French Open and the Wimbledon Championships excluded all contract professional players. Then in April 1972, the ITLF and WCT agreed to divide the 1973 tour into a WCT circuit that ran from January through May and a Grand Prix circuit that ran for the rest of the year. The conflict between the ITLF and WCT led all tennis players to attend the 1972 US Open where they agreed to form their own syndicate, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), through the efforts of Jack Kramer, Donald Dell, and Cliff Drysdale.
In 1973, there were four rival professional circuits: the WCT circuit battled with the U. S. Indoor Circuit from January to April and the Grand Prix until July; both tours competed with the "European Spring Circuit" until June.
Integration and the end
The WCT and Grand Prix circuits were separate until 1978, when the Grand Prix circuit integrated the WCT circuit. In 1982, the WCT circuit split from the Grand Prix again and created a more complex WCT ranking, similar to the ATP ranking. The split was short-lived, however, and in 1985 the Grand Prix absorbed the four remaining WCT tournaments.
During the 1988 US Open the ATP, led by then-World No. 1 Mats Wilander, staged an impromptu meeting known as the "Parking Lot Press Conference" during failed negotiations with the MTC over the organisation of the Grand Prix and key issues such as player fatigue. During this press conference, the ATP declared that it would be starting its own tour in 1990, meaning that the 1989 Grand Prix would effectively be its last. 
The governance of the Grand Prix was led by the Men's International Professional Tennis Council (MIPTC) from 1974 through 1989. (Its name was shortened to the Men's Tennis Council (MTC) in 1988.) The MIPTC's duties included imposing fines for violations of its Code of Conduct, drug testing, and administrating the Grand Prix circuit. It also moved the Australian Open from its December date – which had been adopted in 1977 so that it could be included in the Grand Prix points system – to January for the 1987 edition so that the Grand Prix Masters could be held in December from 1986 onwards. It failed, however, to prevent the number of tournaments on the Grand Prix circuit from growing, with 48 being held in 1974 compared to 75 in 1989.
Sponsors and Grand Prix tour names
Based on USLTA Tennis Yearbooks and Guides and World of Tennis yearbooks the history of sponsors is as follows:
- 1970 Pepsi-Cola Grand Prix
- 1971 Pepsi-Cola Grand Prix
- 1972 Commercial Union Assurance Grand Prix
- 1973 Commercial Union Assurance Grand Prix
- 1974 Commercial Union Assurance Grand Prix
- 1975 Commercial Union Assurance Grand Prix
- 1976 Commercial Union Assurance Grand Prix
- 1977 Colgate-Palmolive Grand Prix
- 1978 Colgate-Palmolive Grand Prix
- 1979 Colgate-Palmolive Grand Prix
- 1980 Volvo Grand Prix
- 1981 Volvo Grand Prix
- 1982 Volvo Grand Prix
- 1983 Volvo Grand Prix
- 1984 Volvo Grand Prix
- 1985 Nabisco Grand Prix
- 1986 Nabisco Grand Prix
- 1987 Nabisco Grand Prix
- 1988 Nabisco Grand Prix
- 1989 Nabisco Grand Prix
Formation of the ATP Tour
In 1990, the Association of Tennis Professionals, led by Hamilton Jordan, replaced the MTC as the sole governing body of men's professional tennis and the ATP Tour was born. The nine most prestigious Grand Prix tournaments became known as the "Championship Series Single Week" from 1990 through 1995. In 1996, Mercedes began sponsoring these series of events, renamed as the "Super 9" until 1999. In 2000, they became known as the "Tennis Masters Series" until 2004, then the "ATP Masters Series" until 2009. They are now called the ATP World Tour Masters 1000. Grand Prix tournaments below this level were originally called the Grand Prix Super Series. They were retained by the ATP and renamed as the "Championship Series". All remaining Grand Prix Tour events became part of the "World Series".
Grand Prix season-end rankings
NB: All rankings were calculated using the Grand Prix points system and do not necessarily reflect the ATP rankings at the same time.
|1985||1986||1987||1988||1989 (last year)
Grand Prix circuit wins by player
|1.||Ivan Lendl||5 (1981, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1989)|
|2.||John McEnroe||3 (1979, 1980, 1984)|
|Guillermo Vilas||3 (1974, 1975, 1977)|
|4.||Jimmy Connors||2 (1978, 1982)|
|Ilie Nastase||2 (1972, 1973)|
|Mats Wilander||2 (1983, 1988)|
|7.||Raúl Ramírez||1 (1976)|
|Cliff Richey||1 (1970)|
|Stan Smith||1 (1971)|
- "ILTF agreement for Grand Prix tennis circuit to start". The New York Times. 9 April 1970. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
- "How It All Began". Association of Tennis Professionals.
- "Grand Prix for Open Tennis Suggested by Jack Kramer". Schenectady Gazette. Associated Press. 3 January 1969. p. 19.
- Jack Kramer, with Frank Deford (1979). The Game: My 40 Years in Tennis. New York City: Putnam. pp. 275–276. ISBN 978-0399123368.
- "Tennis Gets A Grand Prix". The Sydney Morning Herald. 9 April 1970.
- "Grand Prix Tennis European Circuit". The Lakeland Ledger. 26 January 1976. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
- Andrew Warshaw (15 January 1989). "Men's tennis officials preparing for tour turmoil". The Daily Union. Associated Press. p. 15.
- "History". International Tennis Federation.
- "Pepsi Cola Company Sponsorship". The New York Times. 23 June 1970. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
- "Commercial Union Drops Sponsorship of Tennis". The Daytona Beach News-Journal. 14 April 1976. Retrieved 16 October 2015.
- "Colgate Palmolive sponsorship". The Sydney Morning Herald. 5 November 1976. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
- "Volvo Sponsorship". The New York Times. 5 September 1988. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
- "Nabisco Sponsorship". The New York Times. 28 September 1989. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
- "Newsbank Archive LA Times Reference to name". The Los Angeles Times. 5 March 1990. Retrieved 20 August 2011.
- Chloe Francis (9 May 2009). "Masters 1000 Tournaments: The Toughest Test?". Bleacher Report.
- Bud Collins, History of Tennis: An Authoritative Encyclopedia and Record Book, New Chapter Press, USA, 2nd Edition, 2010. ISBN 0942257707. Accessed 11 October 2010.