This week, the TENNIS.com Podcast is delighted to bring in a special guest, USTA CEO Mike Dowse. Dowse started his role with the USTA last January, just in time for the craziest season in tennis history.
While it was a challenging year for everyone, grassroots tennis – a natural sport in an age of social distances – saw a massive increase in participation. Three million new players have picked up a racket in 2020, with an overall increase of 22 percent in participation (with a current total of more than 21 million players).
“It was certainly not easy and there were challenges for our industry,” says Dowse. “But in recent months, literally millions of people have discovered our sport and are playing tennis for the first time.”
As a former college player, Dowse has helped cultivate and support tennis at all levels and has been at the forefront of the decisions taken to grow the game.
Dowse with a ton of famous faces in 2014 when he was Wilson’s president. (Getty Images)
He was thrown into fire at the US Open as the USTA navigated uncharted waters by staging a Grand Slam in New York City during the pandemic.
“It was really everyone’s team effort to get off the ground, which was really the first global sporting event to be held during the pandemic,” said Dowse. “And we have drawn up three guiding principles. We said: can we do it safely? Is it good for tennis? And does it make financial sense to organize the tournament?”
He shares how the impossible was made possible in New York and what he expects the US Open in 2021 will look like later this year.
Dowse on Tennis Channel during the 2020 US Open.
“The crystal ball tells us we are cautiously optimistic,” said Dowse. “We’re pretty sure we’ll get fans, but financially it’s a big difference [if] we have 25 percent fans versus 50 versus 75 versus 100. So that’s still unknown, so we have to be very careful about how we go about that for the next few months.
“But I think we would be really happy if we got to that 75 percent, and that feels pretty good now.”
While there is still so much work to be done to get professional tennis and the USTA back on track by 2021, Dowse’s main goal remains pretty simple.
“I just had the chance when this job opened to come to the USTA and hopefully give back and let other people play the sport because I know it was so generous to me,” he says. ‘And that’s my goal now: try to get people to play tennis.’
The views, information and / or opinions expressed are solely those of the podcast creators and do not necessarily represent those of The Tennis Channel, Inc., its affiliates or subsidiaries.
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