Oracle CEO Mark Hurd is helping drive Oracle’s support of tennis at both the collegiate and professional levels. A former top player at Baylor University who closely follows the sport, Hurd agreed to talk with OracleChallengerSeries.com about Oracle’s commitment to American tennis.
Oracle has long been known for its unparalleled support of American tennis. Where does that passion come from, and why has it been such a priority for you in your time as CEO?
I played the game and still play when I can. I also enjoy watching tennis, and I enjoy it at all levels. At Oracle, we want to help improve the overall quality of American tennis. We’re trying to come at this strategically – helping collegians and young professionals so they can develop into the game’s next stars. We’re also using Oracle’s know-how with data to help tennis players improve performance through quantitative feedback. We’re not just talking – we’re putting our resources behind it.
In addition, our founder Larry Ellison is a huge supporter and investor in the sport. He has won – and deserved – high praise for what he’s done at Indian Wells, which has become one of the top tennis tournaments in the world. So our support for the game runs deep.
And now with the expansion of the Oracle Challenger Series for 2018-2019, you’re taking Oracle’s support of American tennis to a whole new level. Why is this something that you felt was right for Oracle to invest in?
The percentage of Challenger events in the U.S. has fallen sharply over the past decade. We want to give access to quality juniors and top U.S. college players so they don’t always have to travel overseas and play frequently away from home. We strongly believe that, over time, this can improve the overall quality of American tennis.
What do you envision for the Oracle Challenger Series down the road?
We’ve made great strides this year in expanding the Series to include events in Chicago and Houston, and we are continually looking for other opportunities to expand.
Why was it important to you and your team to make the Oracle Challenger Series events free of charge?
You develop great tennis players by exposing more people to the game. Making these events free of charge allows anyone the opportunity to see great players playing a great game. We’re trying to give more people exposure to American players and give more American players the opportunity to play in front of fans. We also hope this will inspire kids and their parents to look at the sport. We want to increase the accessibility of tennis to as many people as possible.
With the Oracle US Tennis Awards, the ITA Championships and now the Challenger Series, Oracle has established itself as the premier supporter of tennis at all levels. Why is it important that Oracle support not just the top stars, players, and events?
We are looking at this holistically. All of these are pieces of an overall plan to raise the quality of American tennis.
As the CEO of a technology company, how do you think that technology will continue to play a role in the future of tennis?
From UTR (Universal Tennis Ranking) to Hawk-Eye line-calling, technology already is playing an important role in tennis. Players are using analytics to help improve the game. Sensors and technology are enabling better line calls. We know that technology will continue to play a much bigger role in the game.
Who are some of the up-and-coming American players that you have your eye on and we might see in some of the Challenger events this year?
I don’t want to pick one; there’s an amazing group of young American players coming up. We want to help them be successful. Last spring, for example, we created the Oracle US Tennis Awards, which provide $100,000 grants to young Tour players. Our first winners were Danielle Collins and Mackenzie McDonald – and we’re very proud at the progress they’ve made since then. We gave awards this year to Chris Eubanks and Francesca Di Lorenzo. Again, our goal is simple – let’s provide more opportunities that will help improve American tennis.