Tennis: Senior masters promise nostalgia: Some of the greatest names in tennis will be watched by a select few. Patrick Miles reports

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The Independent Online
ROD LAVER, Ken Rosewall and Ilie Nastase, 44 Grand Slam titles between them, playing on grass, over three sets, in London, in June . . . in your dreams? It is happening. Dreamtime tennis becomes corporate reality in the week before Wimbledon this summer when the 'Rockhampton Rocket', 'Muscles' and 'Nasty' join the winners of another 68 Grand Slam titles for the first ATP Seniors tour event in Britain.

Four days of the masters, their touch, their strokeplay and their cameraderie, provide an opportunity for the opponents of the power game to satisfy their desire for art - or not. Only those willing to pay pounds 195 a head for a minimum of 12 people representing a company, or the members of the Hurlingham Club, will have the privilege of mingling on the lawns and watching the aforementioned trio plus Fred Stolle, Bob Hewitt, Tony Roche, Frew McMillan, Tom Okker and Mark Cox playing from 15 to 18 June.

Cox, who commentates on tennis for television, spoke earnestly at the launch yesterday about the public's desire for more thrilling uncertainty in a match. 'The British public really do enjoy seeing tennis in a different vein,' the former British No 1 said. 'Some of the matches in yesteryear seemed to please the public more than they do today.' Except the public will not get to see it, although the club is waiting to see how many turn up in June before investigating other avenues of admission for future occasions.

The ATP Seniors Tour began in 1992 for players of 35 years or more and is run on a virtually invitational basis. It now finds itself in competition with the The Champions Tour, featuring more recent Grand Slam champions such as Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg.

A total of 16 men will compete at Hurlingham in singles, doubles and tie-break 'shoot-outs' for dollars 100,000 ( pounds 67,000), more than two thirds of which is allocated to doubles by order of the ATP, which favoured a doubles format for the 14- event tour. Cox is in good form, being the last British player to win an Open event (Stockholm, 1977) but the wild card remains Nastase. He was in good form at the club yesterday - some nice poached volleys and backhand interjections. But the question - would he pay to see tennis now? - produced the Romanian's longest pause on record. On the verge of committing a time violation, he replied, yes, he would, if it was Pete Sampras, the World No 1, 'but not everybody'.

Sampras it was, at the beginning of his ascent, who endeared himself to tennis followers by expressing his ambition to play in the spirit of Laver and the other Australians. The spirits will come alive for a select few in The Hurlingham Seniors. Perhaps a small, Bermuda- based limited company with family directors is not out of the question. It would be a dream day out.

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