Tennis: Battersea to host indoor Tour event

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Thanks to the endeavours of Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski in raising the perception of the British men's game, a mainstream indoor ATP Tour event is in the process of being transferred from Milan to Battersea Park.

The promoters plan to stage the pounds 500,000 tournament in a marquee in the last week of February 1998. It is emphasised, however, that the temporary structure, to be erected by a Dutch company, seats 5,000 and is more elaborate than it sounds.

Subject to final approval by the ATP Tour, the venture will be Britain's first men's indoor event of stature since the demise of the annual Wembley tournament, which ran from 1976 to 1990 and featured such notables as Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl. A move to the NEC in Birmingham in 1991 proved to be a one-off.

Jeremy Dier, a former British player, and Cino Marchese, an Italian entrepreneur, bought the date for the tournament from the owners in Milan. A consortium that included Henman and his coach, David Felgate, also made an enquiry, with the intention of staging the event in 1999.

"Our two priority players are Henman and Rusedski," Marchese said. "Obviously we want Henman, and I think it would be in his best interests to play. You need to be flexible in where you stage tennis these days and, with British men's tennis on the way up, London is the right place at the right time." With regard to the venue, Marchese said: "We have agreed with the ATP that we will look for a permanent structure."

The promoters hope to secure a deal for television coverage in the next few days.

On Thursday night Rusedski reached the third round of the US Open by beating Marcos Ondruska in straight sets.

US Open report, page 22