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Tennis

The Dallas Open’s Future Is a Step Forward For Tennis and a Step Back for Dallas

After three years at SMU, the tennis tournament moves to Frisco for 2025. That moving was so obviously a good idea is part of the problem.
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Even brighter days are ahead for the Dallas Open. They just won't take place in Dallas. Photo courtesy of Tony Fay PR.

The third annual Dallas Open is in the books, and things are undeniably on the upswing. One year after Taylor Fritz, the top-ranked American on the ATP Tour, participated in the tournament, the 2023 field featured three of the top four American men—all ranked inside the top 20—plus another ATP top-20 player in Adrian Mannarino. That’s a seismic leap from the inaugural event just two years ago, in which the intended headliner—a past-his-prime Grigor Dimitrov—was a late scratch, leaving a then-36-year-old John Isner to carry lead billing.

All of this has laid the groundwork for what’s coming in 2025, when Dallas will join tournaments in Munich and Doha in being bumped up from an ATP 250 event to an ATP 500. There are only 16 such events worldwide, and with that increased cachet comes more prize money and ranking points. That in turn means motivation for more of tennis’ biggest names to show up in North Texas, further entrenching the Open as a staple event on tour.

So that’s the considerable good news. Far less cheery is the realization that none of this glow up will take place in Dallas proper.

We covered the Open’s impending move to Frisco back in November and how it is the latest step in Frisco lapping the field as the most powerful sports suburb in America. This makes sense. Why wouldn’t the Open eagerly relocate to The Star, which promises to be a gargantuan upgrade over SMU’s Styslinger / Altec Tennis Complex in everything from aesthetics to capacity to (presumably) functional climate control? (Take it from someone who was there for the quarterfinals: air flow is not the tennis complex’s strength.)

More damningly, why wouldn’t a marquee sporting event relocate to a city that has spent the last two decades assembling a thriving pro sports ecosystem, away from a city showing little similar aptitude for it?

That is the score as it stands now in Dallas, where the only tentpole properties—the Stars and Mavericks—are the same ones stationed here for decades. You are welcome, of course, to debate where pro sports should stand on a city’s list of priorities. What’s indisputable is they matter quite a bit to Mayor Eric Johnson, so much so that he formed the Ad Hoc Committee on Professional Sports Recruitment and Retention almost two years ago to combat Dallas losing pro sports teams and events to the suburbs, a subject he has winged about a time or three.

That committee is currently failing. A healthy portion of that was inevitable; the mayor is well aware that the major properties are all dug in, give or take the upcoming Mavericks arena-resort-presumptive casino that maybe, possibly could be ticketed for Irving.  

But Dallas losing its biggest recent coup just three years after the Open arrived was not fait accompli. And so the greater the event gets, the larger the blight that the city let this slip away. Because while more pro sports will come to town—up next is the National Cricket League, which will host its tournament in South Dallas in May—there is no obvious opportunity looming that can replicate what the Dallas Open represented as a fresh event tied to a major, established sporting brand, which is the stuff local traditions are made of.

It would be an exaggeration to say that the entire tennis world had its eyes trained on SMU for the past week—or, for that matter, that a lot of Dallas did. What isn’t debatable is there’s ample reason to believe the event could reach that kind of fame in time. If it does, Dallas will only be a footnote in the story. Like so many other things, the Open was made here. Its future shouldn’t be made so much brighter by deciding to leave.

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Mike Piellucci

Mike Piellucci

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Mike Piellucci is D Magazine's sports editor. He is a former staffer at The Athletic and VICE, and his freelance…

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