Tennis

Tennis boost for Hong Kong

2012-11-21 16:14
Li Na (AP)

Hong Kong - Hong Kong will gets its first elite tennis in more than a decade since the ATP circuit left town in 2000, when the city hosts one of a series of exhibitions around the world on March 4, 2013, on the inaugural World Tennis Day.

Officials on Wednesday confirmed that exhibition date at the AsiaWorld arena will feature current WTA players Li Na, China's former Roland Garros champion, and former world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki.

The men's programme will pit veteran stagers Ivan Lendl against John McEnroe in a revival of an ATP rivalry from three decades ago.

The Asian matches will take place the same night as a similar event at Madison Square Garden in New York, where Serena Williams will play Victoria Azarenka and Rafael Nadal will take on Argentine Juan Martin del Potro.

American organisers of the initiative have hopes of adding other exhibitions on the day in other parts of the world.

"With five successful years of the BNP Paribas Showdown in New York, the time is right to expand this to a global event with the World Tennis Day platform," said global event producer Jerry Solomon.

"The popularity of tennis in Asia made it natural for us to pursue an event in this region. Hong Kong is proving to be a fantastic partner. I'm excited to see this group of four players who will put on a great show.

"Lendl, McEnroe and Wozniacki have each played for us in New York in front of crowds of over 17 000 at Madison Square Garden and we now welcome Li Na to the group for the first time. The AsiaWorld arena will be the place to be on March 4."

"For me it is always exciting to play in Asia," said Li. "I hope to have the crowd support in this match. It will be a great night for tennis, and hopefully it gets more people playing the game."

The women's participants will have to sprint across the Pacific when their match is done, with the Indian Wells Masters beginning that same week in the Californian desert.

Lendl, winner of 94 titles ATP titles and the world's top-ranked player for 270 weeks, currently coaches Andy Murray.

He also won a Hong Kong ATP title 32 years ago and three straight exhibition events in the city from 1990-92.

"I've always enjoyed playing in Hong Kong. It's a place with a lot of good memories including one of my first ever wins on the pro tour. I will look forward to playing John.

That pair met 36 times over 12 years on the ATP, with Lendl holding a 21-15 advantage.

German Nicolas Kiefer won the last ATP title in Hong Kong 12 years ago as the event closed down. Women played from 1999-2011 in a pre-Australian Open exhibition event which also ended due to a lack of sponsorship.

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