A sports pro­moter’s an­guish

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT -

Who’d be a tour­na­ment pro­moter? Karl Budge must have been feel­ing a mil­lion dol­lars after the ASB Clas­sic women’s ten­nis open in Auck­land this month.

He se­cured two of the big­gest drawcards in world ten­nis, Caro­line Woz­ni­acki and Venus Wil­liams, and they de­liv­ered su­perbly, reach­ing the fi­nal, where Wil­liams won a high-qual­ity match.

The whole tour­na­ment was a pro­moter’s dream.

How dif­fer­ent it was the fol­low­ing week, at the men’s equiv­a­lent, the Heineken Open.

Budge had signed up a fan­tas­tic ar­ray of stars, led by David Fer­rer, John Is­ner, Gael Mon­fils and Tommy Ro­bredo. Tick­ets were snapped up and ten­nis fans looked for­ward to a great week.

Then Is­ner with­drew be­cause he was tired after play­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion event in Perth, Mon­fils pulled out for per­sonal rea­sons, Fer­rer backed out with a back strain, and Ro­bredo with­drew with a hip in­jury. The big­gest re­main­ing name, Spa­niard Roberto Bautista Agut, de­faulted mid­way through his match against French­man Adrian Man­nar­ino.

The rather muted tour­na­ment was won by Czech qual­i­fier Jiri Ve­sely. It won’t be a week Budge looks back on too fondly.

Lots of times tour­na­ment direc­tors strike it lucky, and the Auck­land ten­nis events have drawn great play­ers over the years.

I re­call watch­ing in awe in 1969 when Rod Laver, John New­combe, Tony Roche and Pan­cho Gonzales turned up to contest the men’s crown, and Ann Jones and Bil­lie Jean King led the women’s field.

Since then Tom Okker, Roger Tay­lor, Bjorn Borg, Gus­tavo Kuerten, Marcelo Rios, Juan Martin del Potro are among the world stars to have shone in Auck­land. Even Rafael Nadal and Roger Fed­erer played there early in their ca­reers.

On the women’s side, Mar­garet Court and Evonne Goolagong (Caw­ley) dom­i­nated early opens, and re­cent win­ners have in­cluded Ana Ivanovic, Ag­nieszka Rad­wan­ska, Elena De­men­tieva, Lind­say Daven­port, Je­lena Jankovic and Mar­ion Bar­toli. Other lead­ing women like Maria Shara­pova and Li Na have also been head­line acts in Auck­land.

All a tour­na­ment di­rec­tor can do is lure the big names to the event. The rest is in the lap of the gods.

Think of the 2002 New Zealand golf open at Para­pa­raumu Beach.

After en­treaties from his caddy, Steve Wil­liams, Tiger Woods agreed to play (for a re­ported $5 mil­lion ap­pear­ance fee).

Ticket prices were raised alarm­ingly, but it might still have been okay if there hadn’t been truly abysmal weather – high winds and tor­ren­tial rain – for two days. The crowds were not as big as ex­pected and tour­na­ment or­gan­is­ers took a fi­nan­cial bath.

Aus­tralian Craig Parry won that open, not that many peo­ple no­ticed, or re­ally cared.

Tiger turned up, took the money, did the pub­lic re­la­tions stuff and left tour­na­ment or­gan­is­ers lick­ing their wounds.

Be­fore I fin­ish, let me just say how em­bar­rass­ing it is to see our na­tional men’s cricket team for­mally called Black Caps.

Bren­don McCul­lum ap­par­ently doesn’t lead a New Zealand team; it’s Black Caps.

So in the World Cup, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial New Zealand Cricket press state­ments, it will be Black Caps v Aus­tralia, Black Caps v Eng­land, Black Caps v Sri Lanka and so on.

What a tri­umph for the mar­ket­ing gu­rus over logic.

Photo: FAIR­FAX

Low-key: Czech Jiri Ve­sely, world rank­ing 63, won the Heineken Open ten­nis in Auck­land after all the big names with­drew.

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