Tennis Auckland works to get more star power

Last updated 05:00 13/07/2014
Ana Ivanovic
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RETURN: WTA rule changes would help entice Ana Ivanovic back to Auckland.

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Tour rules mean new pre-Wimbledon event could be a problem, DAVID LONG reports.

The chances of the ASB Classic continuing to get top-10 players could increase dramatically if the WTA approves a proposed rule change.

Tennis Auckland tournament director Karl Budge and Venus Williams' agent, Carlos Fleming, have co-operated to push through a motion which would end restrictions on top-10 players.

The Classic is classed as an International tier tournament, on the second tier of WTA competitions below Premier events. Currently, top 10 players can play only one International tournament every six months.

This makes it harder for Budge to recruit top-10 players for January each year, because it means whoever he gets is waving away their chances of playing another International event until July.

Budge has done a good job of pulling in drawcards such as Ana Ivanovic and Agnieszka Radwanska over the past couple of years, as well as Williams, who is a big name but no longer high in the rankings. However, his job will be harder next year with the introduction of an International tournament in Nottingham, England. This is a grass court event and offers the players some much-needed match time on this surface for Wimbledon.

Although someone like Ivanovic would like to return to Auckland to defend her title, it may suit her better to play Nottingham instead.

But if Budge, who sits on the WTA Council as the Asia Pacific representative, can get the rules changed, it will not only help the Classic, but also other tournaments.

"It's something that's in the best interests of everyone," Budge told Sunday News.

"It gives the players the opportunity of playing more International tournaments over the first six months, which we all want and need.

"I'm not suggesting that we need to have more top-10 players in our week, we're happy with our level, but we need the ability of getting a top-10 player and making sure every year we can and we're not competing with a tournament like Monterrey three months after us."

Budge and Fleming would like the players to be able to play as many International tournaments as they'd like each season, but it's more likely the rule will be changed to allow them to compete in two every six months.

Currently International tournaments get more than one top-10 player, but have to pay a huge fine to do so. Budge would like to see this loophole closed.

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"My argument is that we enforce the rule that you can only have one top-10 player," he said. "Tournaments can't take a fine to get them over the line."

This year Tennis Auckland could have paid a US$250,000 (NZ$283,000) fine and had Serena Williams appearing alongside her sister.

Protecting the one-player rule means tournaments such as Shenzen, held during the same week as the Classic, cannot buy drawcards and disadvantage other events.

Meanwhile, Budge says he hopes to make some Heineken Open player announcements soon.

"We've put some pretty hefty offers out there," he said. "I'm hoping that in the next few weeks we can start making some noise. I feel quite confident with three players and I definitely think we'll have a top 10 player and some strong, quality players around that."

- Sunday News

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