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Tennis Tourney To Continue To Scintillate Kiwis

Tennis Tourney To Continue To Scintillate Kiwis

By Syed Akbar Kamal

New logo of
Auckland City Council, with Starbursts.After the botched up controversy surrounding new logo of Auckland City Council settled down, the make-over version of three starbursts with the 'dreaded' triangle has made its first appearance at the ASB Classic, country's professional women's tennis event.

The makeover version of starbursts forms a part of a trio of logos reached as part of a deal between the council and Triangle Television bounding Auckland City Council to use it in the domain of events.

While relegating the council as the lone entity in the country assuming the unenviable grade of having to do with a threesome, the council earns the distinction of being associated with a phenomenal 2,350 events in one calendar year.

For the first time in 16 years since 1991, three kiwis Marina Erakovic, Sacha Jones and Ellen Barry will grace the premier tournament, first instituted in December 1985. The Women's tourney will begin today with the finals slated for Saturday January 5th.

The tournament director Richard Palmer was all smiles at the 'meet the seeds' articulating the feast in store for tennis lovers at the event seen as a precursor to the Australian Open that begins two weeks after its conclusion.

Mr. Palmer beamed "we have the new blue look on the courts" with the rubberized Rebound Ace. While terming each year's tournament as "different from some perspectives" he expressed his happiness at the steady rise in crowds over the years and especially the response "has been good even for the qualifiers'".

This year's event has seen 23 direct entries with no top20 ranked players gracing the courts.

Highlighting the achievements of Lindsay Davenport he reeled off "she is the best performing player ever to come to New Zealand; former world no1, 53 singles title with 3 Grand Slams, 37 doubles titles with 3 Grand Slams. We are delighted to have her here."

When asked about the looming threat to the tournament coming under pressure regarding Prize money Mr. Palmer disclosed that "the extra $80,000 have been raised which we need to have and we have found the backer to fund being a part of the tour. We had to buy a franchise which costs US$450,000. That's been taken care of. So, ASB Classic will exist post 2008 which is fantastic news."

When asked to elaborate further, he said "With WTA restructuring the tournament from a current tier4 to 2tier system with two series; series A and series B. And with series B you have to buy the franchise and we have been asked if we want to be a part of the tour, we do; we have found the finance that we need. So we will be a part of the tour and its great news."

To a question whether the tournament has motivated enough youngsters in the country to take up tennis as a career path, he observed "it's very hard to say" and urged Marina, Sacha and Ellen to "kick in hard and move up the ranking to motivate and inspire others to take up the sport in a big way."

Last year's winner Jelena Jankovic of Serbia who defeated this year's top seed Russian Vera Zvonereva is not eligible to cast her charm in the city of sails for having attained ranking inside the threshold of top 10.

With the current rules under which the tournament operates, the top10 ranked players are barred from taking part. This however will change from 2009 "with ASB Classic as part of the new landscape, we will have the possibility of getting even those players," said Mr. Palmer expressing his optimism.

The mesmerizing job has been delegated to 31 year old American Lindsay Davenport who has become the cynosure of all eyes with her seven month baby in tow. The no: 72 ranked versatile player comes to Auckland after sounding a warning to her opponents with two title facile wins from three outings.

Lindsay will be a tough nut to crack with three-time Grand Slam credentials, US Open 1998, Wimbledon 1999 and the Australian Open 2000, making her the first player in the history of the event to have ever been ranked No1 in the world. She held the top position for a phenomenal 54 weeks.

The Californian took a 7 month break to have a baby Jagger who was born on June 10th this year. This represented a slide in her ranking which has since been on a rising note ever since her return to the circuit.

The American is expected to cause avoidable hat-trick of sorts for Vera Zvonereva who has lost the finals since 2006.

The flamboyant Marion Bartoli won the finals packing the Russian in straight sets 6-2 6-2. The following year she lost to Jelena Jankovic in what is billed as one of the tantalizing finals seen in recent times in three pulsating sets 7-6(9) 5-7 6-3.

Zvonereva while acknowledging that "Lindsay is a great player and a legend" she said that she is determined to give her best and enjoy herself "no matter who is out there on the court whether Lindsay or anybody else".


Syed Akbar Kamal is Producer/Director of current affairs programme Darpan-The Mirror on Stratos.


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