London loses ATP Tour event to Milan

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The Independent Online

Britain lost a mainstream winter tournament yesterday with confirmation that the London Indoor ATP Tour event in Docklands had been handed back by Milan.

Britain lost a mainstream winter tournament yesterday with confirmation that the London Indoor ATP Tour event in Docklands had been handed back by Milan.

Staged as the AXA Cup at the London Indoor Arena last February, the tournament lost its sponsor and then had its date taken by the Dubai Open, whose promoters agreed to underwrite the London enterprise while leaving the organisers with the task of persuading players to come to London on 29 January - a week after the Australian Open - and trying, unsuccessfully, to guarantee television coverage.

Milan leased the event to London for three years in 1998, with an option for two further years while retaining an Italian, Franco Bartoni, as tournament director. The 2001 event will take place at the Milan Pallalido.

The idea of reviving an indoor tournament in London for the first time since the demise of the November event at Wembley Arena at the end of the 1980s was inspired by the success of Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski. For the first two years, the tournament was played in a tented arena at Battersea Park, an attractive venue until gales came to unnerve the spectators and players.

Docklands proved less appealing, although matters were not helped by the reactions of certain players, notably Russia's Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who said the court was "dangerous", described the hotel where he was staying as "terrible",and expressed a preference for Battersea Park, which he described as " a civilised area".

Henman, who won the CA Trophy in Vienna on Sunday, has set his sights on taking his next title. The British No 1 insists the final win over Tommy Haas has given him more confidence for the Swiss Indoors in Basle, which starts next week.

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