By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Men's governing tennis body the ATP has announced the opening of a tender process for hosting its season-ending showpiece tournament after a decade in London.
Currently called the ATP Finals, it consists of the top eight singles players and doubles duos and has been staged at London's O2 Arena since 2009 and will be there through 2020.
Despite the huge success of the tournament in London and the popularity of the venue with the players, the ATP has opened the door for another bidder although it has not ruled out that it could remain in its current location past the current deal.
"Our season-ending tournament has been a remarkable success story since it moved to London in 2009, and we look forward to continuing the tournament's growth over the next three years at The O2 through to 2020," Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman & President, said in a statement on Wednesday.
"The tournament's popularity and stature have reached unprecedented heights in London, which has attracted significant interest from potential future host cities over the years.
"We feel the time is right to undertake this international tender process as we look to secure the event's future beyond 2020."
Last year's tournament, won by Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov, attracted a weekly attendance of 253,642, the ninth successive year it broke the 250,000 barrier.
Since the event moved to The O2 Arena on the banks of the River Thames, 2.3 million fans have attended.
Dimitrov picked up a cheque for $2.5 million last year.
"The O2 has set a very high bar, and we expect that staying in London beyond 2020 will also be among the options for consideration as we go through this process," Kermode said.
The tournament was first staged in Tokyo in 1970 and moved around on a yearly basis until a 13-year stint in New York's Madison Square Garden between 1977 and 1989.
Since then it has had spells in Hanover, Lisbon and Shanghai with London its second-longest residence.
The ATP said the bid process opens immediately and will be handled by The Sport Business Group at Deloitte.
Interested parties must submit their official applications by Nov. 2 with a list potential candidate cities being announced on Dec. 14.
A final decision on where the tournament will be staged from 2021 will be made next March.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)