Tennis: Final service for Sydney's grass

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ONE OF Australia's traditional sporting venues will be consigned to the history books after next year's Sydney International tennis tournament.

White City, in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs, has been the site for the city's leading tennis events, including Davis Cup ties, since 1922. But the grass courts will be lost to the international circuit when the city's major tournaments are relocated to the Olympic site at Homebush after next January.

Australia's Davis Cup coach, Tony Roche, said he was saddened to see the Sydney International, formerly known as the New South Wales Open, moved away from its traditional home. Yet Roche accepted that the move was part of progress. "It's sad being the last one here but they've got to build better facilities," he said.

Organisers announced yesterday that five of the world's top 10-ranked men and 14 of the top 20 women have agreed to play at next year's event. Karol Kucera, of Slovakia, and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, of Spain, would both defend their titles, while Rafter has entered the men's tournament.

Lindsay Davenport, of the United States, and Switzerland's Martina Hingis, the woman she supplanted as world No 1, have also signed up. The tournament from 10-16 January is a warm-up for the Australian Open, the year's first Grand Slam event.