Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Roger & Rafa to Brisbane?

Could you see Roger & Rafa moved their Australian Open warm-up from Doha?

Tournament director Steve Ayles will chase tennis heavyweights Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for his emerging Brisbane International tournament in 2012.

After confirming on Wednesday Swedish world No.5 Robin Soderling would join American and defending champion Andy Roddick as the headline acts in the men's field in January, 2011, Ayles revealed ambitious plans to target Federer and Nadal.

Federer and Nadal have contracts to play the Qatar Open in Doha in the Middle East in January next year.

Once they expire, Ayles will make a play to lure one or both to Brisbane with the help of the Queensland Government and corporate backers in much the same way Victoria enticed Tigers Woods to Australia late last year.

"Absolutely," said Ayles, when asked if there was a possibility of getting the world's top-ranked players to Brisbane with Roddick and others, including Novak Djokovic, who played Brisbane in 2009, spreading the word about the tournament's value as a lead-up to the Australian Open.

Djokovic, who was ranked third in the world when he played in Brisbane in 2009, is still the highest ranked player to appear in the fledgling event.

"Federer and Nadal are both contracted to Doha for three years and as I understand it, those contracts finish after this upcoming event," said Ayles.

"Unfortunately for Brisbane it's meant we haven't been able to get either of them so far but in 2012 they will be in our sights.

"There's an opportunity now to have a real crack at them because they're out of those contracts.

"There's no question, with the right help, it can happen and it's something we'll look at very seriously for the future."

Soderling joins a strong 2011 cast which also includes the highly entertaining Marcos Baghdatis (world No.19), Mardy Fish (18) and Frenchman Richard Gasquet (28).

Soderling has claimed Nadal and Federer's scalps in the past 18 months, has been runner-up twice in the French Open and has steadily climbed the world rankings on the back of a career-best year.

"We thought Roddick would be our number one seed and he'll probably still finish the year with a higher ranking than number 10 in the world," said Ayles.

"But to get Soderling, who was here in 2009, when he's been offered considerably more to go to competing events in January is a huge boost for Brisbane."

Samantha Stosur will be the top seed in the women's draw, while Ayles expects to have talks soon with crowd favourite Jelena Dokic.

"I'm pretty sure she'd want to come back if she is playing good tennis and in the last few weeks she's done that after some niggling injuries," he said.

"I'm pretty confident we'll be talking in the next month."

Courtesy: Sydney Morning Herald

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