Africa is on WTA radar screen

September 30th, 2008 - 9:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Serena WilliamsStuttgart, Sep 30 (DPA) Serena Williams will have to wait a little longer for a tennis tournament in Africa while the organisers of the award-winning Porsche Grand Prix hope to have found the right formula in a new-look 2009 tennis calendar.”I would love to have a tournament in Africa,” said the top-ranked African-American Williams, naming the southern part of the continent “untouched territory” in terms of tennis.

Women’s tennis CEO Larry Scott said Tuesday he was not opposed to such an idea but said the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) would first take a look at how the men fare when the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) returns there next spring for a tournament in Johannesburg.

“We will watch it carefully,” Scott told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) in Stuttgart.

“South Africa has a great tennis tradition. It has been a while … It is on our radar screen.”

The women play a spring tournament in Fes, Morocco, but have not played further south on the continent since the 1980s.

The Fes tournament coincides with Stuttgart April 27-May 3, 2009, in a new-look season designed to give players “a healthier calendar” and “less changes of surfaces,” as well as making travel “more logical” for them, according to Scott.

As the autumn season will take place almost exclusively in Asia, the Stuttgart tournament which originated in Filderstadt 31 years ago had to move into spring and from hard court to clay.

Tournament director Markus Guenthard spoke of “a new era” as the event will be the first regular indoor tournament on clay in the sport, in the build-up to the French Open clay court Grand Slam.

In order to attract a large number of stars, Guenthard has promised the same court size, the same clay and the same balls as in Paris.

“The players think of Roland Garros at this time of the year … They need practice on clay,” said Guenthard.

Guenthard and senior event official Anke Huber, a winner there in 1991 and 1994, spoke of positive feedback so far from the players, with eight of the top 10 present in Stuttgart this week.

Olympic champion Elena Dementieva has already signalled that “it is on my plan for 2009,” but it remains open whether the top players really want being assured of playing (due to the roof) or rather opt to play the following week in Rome in true outside conditions.

In this case in doesn’t even help that the players elected Stuttgart as the event they liked best in 2007, with Scott presenting Guenthard with a crystal trophy Tuesday.

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