The Dallas Open’s greatest challenge was always going to be traction. Strip away the pomp and circumstance of the ATP’s long-awaited return to town and you’re left with a global sport devoid of a dominant American male, trying to plant a flag in one of the country’s largest pro sports towns during Super Bowl week. That has the potential to be a Sisyphean task no matter how vibrant the local tennis scene might be.
So while it certainly helps to have Highland Park’s John Isner doing his damnedest to stump for the new event and its future—see his declaration of “Now that it’s here in Dallas, it’s going to be here for good”—the fact remains that the ATP only hosts 10 events on U.S. soil each year, which leaves no shortage of markets it could traipse off to if the Dallas Open doesn’t make a serious impact in the first year or three. This event needs to draw.
The inaugural field—which features Isner, top-ranked American Taylor Fritz, former world No. 4 Kei Nishikori, and Australian lightning rod Nick Kyrgios—is a great starting point. But some sizzle couldn’t hurt, either, which is why it means something that Naomi Osaka, the four-time Grand Slam champion and arguably the most recognizable non-Williams female tennis player in the sport, showed up yesterday to watch her friend Christopher Eubanks compete.
Osaka was in town with her boyfriend, rapper Cordae, who performed at the House of Blues last night, and of all the many ways she could have spent her limited time in town, she chose to do so at a tennis match.
Yes, that was because her good friend was there. No, she probably wouldn’t have been in Dallas this weekend were it not for personal reasons. Doesn’t matter. A very famous, very excellent tennis player gracing the stands at an upstart tournament implies something important is happening, which is exactly the message the Dallas Open needs to send. Press and advertising help, as does Isner drumming up interest for an event in his backyard. But sometimes, good ol’ celebrity does even more. Naomi Osaka didn’t set out to do that, but it got done all the same. Sprinkle in some memorable moments on the court, and the Open should be well on its way toward solidifying its foothold in town.