Hopman Cup the prize in tennis power struggle
Jan 1, 2012, 7:05 GMT
Perth, Australia - Thus week's Hopman Cup mixed teams event is shaping up as the pawn in a high-stakes bureaucratic battle with a soon-to-be-complete 500-million-dollar Perth stadium as the main bargaining chip.
As the 24th edition began over New Year's, the event has become the unwilling prize as the International Tennis Federation and the Western Australia government jockey for control of the annual money-spinner, the only major tennis event in the massive state.
With the new Perth convention centre due to open after mid-year - it was built with a moveable roof specifically for the Hopman event - negotiations and power struggles are erupting from Western Australia to London.
Lurking in the background is Tennis Australia, the local federation which would reportedly love nothing more than to gain control of the Hopman event before burying it quickly to provide more audience for it's rival ATP-WTA Brisbane International, also staged during the first week of the year.
The Hopman Cup consistently produces a better field than Brisbane, with the top two women in the world on hand at this edition in Caroline Wozniacki and Grand Slam champions Petra Kvitova (Wimbledon) plus China's fifth-ranked Li Na, the Roland Garros winner.
Brisbane features former Hopman regular Andy Murray in its draw along with fading American Serena Williams.
Tennis Australia struck the tournament from its promotional calendar in 2007 and is said to be after the job of its own former tournament directors Paul McNamee, the one-time Wimbledon doubles finalist who has run the Hopman since he helped to found it in the 1980s.
The tournament honours the late Australian coach Harry Hopman, with his widow Lucy still attending from her home in Florida at age 91.
West Australian tourism officials are keen to make sure the big tennis event stays on their patch. 'We are aware that the ITF (which owns the Hopman) is reviewing the management structure and that tennis Australia wants to manage it,' Tourism WA head Stephanie Buckland told the WA Sunday Times.
'As a major sponsor of the event, we want to see the best outcome for Perth. We have concerns, as Tennis Australia also runs the Brisbane International.'
Local observers believe that a deal is being done behind closed doors between the government and the ITF to keep the event in Western Australia as its quarter-century of life begins in a year, using the long-delayed stadium completion as a bargaining chip.
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