SAN JOSE -- The storied Bay Area men's tennis tournament has bounced around the region over the decades with a list of champions that includes some of the all-time greats.
But Sunday, after 125 years in operation, the tournament now known as the SAP Open will see its final Northern California volley -- served away by a decline in big-name player fields and a single-court setup at HP Pavilion that new tournament director Mike Lehr said is not ideal for scheduling tennis.
The event will be played in Memphis, Tenn., next year, with the current Memphis tournament moving to Brazil.
"I think it's sad," said John McEnroe, who won the Bay Area tournament singles title five times, tied with Andre Agassi for the most in the event's modern era. "We've had that problem in not just the Bay Area but other cities in America."
Although Lehr called this year's field probably the best in years, noting the presence of top-ranked American John Isner and doubles stars Bob and Mike Bryan, the tournament that begins Monday does not include one player ranked in the top 12 or any of the sport's superstars.
That is vastly different from the event's glory years, when tournaments in the 1990s included both Pete Sampras and Agassi and matches in the '70s and '80s featured the likes of Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors and McEnroe -- all U.S. greats.
The tournament, led by then-promoter Barry MacKay, was so successful in its heyday that it outgrew its home at the roughly 6,000-seat Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco and moved in the mid-1990s to San Jose's new arena (now HP Pavilion).
MacKay, who died in June after a long illness, said at the time of the move, "It's a state-of-the-art, big-league sports facility, and we think we're a big-league event."
The tournament was big league for several years in San Jose. The 1996 final in which Sampras defeated Agassi was a battle for No. 1 in the world rankings. The 2002 final was a three-hour epic in which world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt of Australia outlasted Agassi in a third-set tiebreaker to win the championship.
But as American players began sliding from the top of the rankings -- and current superstars chose to play closer to their home countries -- midlevel tournaments such as the SAP Open had a harder time luring premier names.
"Clearly if we could get a guy that would be winning Slams and contending on a more frequent basis, that would help generally," McEnroe said. "But this does tend to go in some sort of cyclical nature.
"(Andy) Roddick was at the top or close to it for quite a few years. But as he's gotten older, it's been tougher to sort of grab the fans."
Roddick retired after last year's U.S. Open but is still part of the SAP Open's marquee. He will play in a mixed doubles exhibition match Saturday night that includes former women's stars Stefanie (formerly Steffi) Graf and Lindsay Davenport.
Lehr said a major problem the SAP Open faces at HP Pavilion is the setup, which he says causes scheduling headaches because only one match can be played at a time.
"San Jose and the Bay Area have supported this for 125 years," Lehr said. "But sustainability, as you go forward, you have to look at all the factors, and from my standpoint HP Pavilion for a tournament is not the ideal place to play. You don't have practice (facilities) right here. We're doing our (qualification matches) off site."
Bill Rapp, whose 12-year run as SAP Open tournament director ended last year, said the issue is the lack of big-name Americans on tour, not the single court.
"The fact is when Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras are playing for the No. 1 ranking in the world, trust me, one court got it done," said Rapp, now the athletic director at his alma mater, Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho.
The tournament had many lasting moments.
As McEnroe reflected on his memories of the event, he recalled a 1977 match at the Cow Palace in Daly City against Cliff Richey, a three-time runner-up in the Bay Area.
"We are playing at about 12 or 1 in the morning, and I was acting sort of a little crazy," McEnroe said. "He literally stopped the match and said, 'I'm not going to take this from this kid. I've had enough.' It was sort of an eye-opener, to put it mildly, that he went public with the crowd."
Embarrassed, a determined McEnroe won the match.
"At least now I can sort of laugh about it," McEnroe said.
But he can't laugh about the end of an era for men's pro tennis in the Bay Area.
"To me, it's a shame," McEnroe said. "I played the San Francisco one something like 15 years in a row. To see it go just kaput completely is a bummer."
Follow Darren Sabedra on Twitter at twitter.com/DarrenSabedra.