Monfils and Ferrer on their wayto SA Open

2010-01-30 00:00

RAIN that plagued Johannesburg this week has not held up final preparations for next week’s R3,75 million SA Tennis Open that begins at Montecasino on Monday.

Tournament director and SA Tennis CEO Ian Smith said in a conference call on Thursday that everything is good to go.

“The team is more experienced after last year’s tournament and all is set for an outstanding tournament,” he said.

Top seed and world number 12 Gael Monfils of France arrives tomorrow morning and will likely play his first-rounder on Tuesday evening, while number two David Ferrer of Spain (world 17) jets in today. The pair are favoured to meet for the $80 000 first prize in next Sunday’s final.

Asked about attracting players to South Africa, Smith said that among the issues to consider are players’ schedules, while the timing of the Montecasino tournament is not ideal after the gruelling Australian Open fortnight.

”We took three years to get this slot with the ATP, but that’s not to say the SA Open dates won’t change in future. If ATP decides to shorten the number of tournaments, especially at the end of the year, which is what the players want, we’ll see what they [tennis’s governing body] come up with.”

Smith said looking at who was defending big ATP ranking points from the previous year also plays a role in player availability, but increasing numbers want to come to Montecasino as “more players who come here tell them what we’re doing”.

“You have got to be realistic, though. This is an ATP 250 event, so getting a Rafael Nadal is not going to happen.

“We would have liked [last year’s winner, Jo-Wilfried] Tsonga back, but his medical team advised him to rest after Australia. He said he would be back in 2011.

“Monfils is a great athlete and we are happy … with his exit from the Australian Open as it’s allowed him to rest up in France and he’s ready for Montecasino.”

SA tennis’s front man said negotiations with targeted players began in May last year. He finds talking face to face with them and their agents at overseas tournaments is always better than over the phone.

The speed with which the semi-finals and final were sold out has surprised many tennis fans and Smith said increasing centre court’s seating capacity with more temporary stands is being considered.

“With all-day tickets covering the afternoon and evening sessions, we will see some fantastic tennis during the week.”

And this is not to forget an enticing doubles line-up, where grand slam champions Wesley Moodie and Kevin Ullyett are top seeds, while this week the 2010 Braaiketts KZN Open winner, Raven Klaasen, his fellow Kershaw Park finalist, Ruan Roelofse, and participant Andy Anderson were all in with a chance of earning the SA Tennis Open wild card that will go to the SA Closed champion.

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