Asians put up hand for grand slam
Asians put up hand for grand slam
THE maverick Asian Tennis Federation is threatening to push for its own grand slam tournament because of growing dissatisfaction with treatment by the organisers of the Australian Open. The Melbourne cash cow has been marketed since 2003 as the grand slam of Asia Pacific.
Money, predictably, is at the root of the stand-off, in which the Asian federation is refusing to sign a new memorandum of understanding that Australian Open organisers had hoped to secure by the end of the month. Wildcards have been another cause for complaint; Asia currently is allocated only one for each singles draw.
Asian federation president Anil Khanna said this week from Doha that "Australia had not really understood the feeling of the Asian nations". He accused the Australian Open of failing to fulfil its part of the current memorandum, which is due to expire at the end of 2008.
"We see Asia almost as equal partners in terms of the continent as Australia and we feel all the continents should work together and can co-operate very well together and we can help each other in building up tennis, but obviously we need to have equal terms," Khanna said, adding that if no agreement could be reached, "then maybe Asia should aspire to have its own grand slam at some time.
"I would not put a time-frame to it, but I think the aspiration of the people is there, the money power is there, the desire to do so is there in a number of countries in Asia, not one. The players will definitely want that to happen sometime because the players definitely would want a large amount of money coming into tennis. I think a grand slam in Asia will be extremely welcome."
Asked if he was advocating a fifth slam, Khanna said: "Well, I would love to see if we could have a fifth slam. Maybe it's a dream, maybe it will come some time if the players want it. It could be rotated between nations. It could be an Asian slam."
In October, the Asian federation's vice-president Chaiyapak Siriwat called on the Association of Tennis Professionals to increase the quota of Asian players in tour events on the continent. He threatened to establish a rebel circuit if that and other demands — such as Asian-only Challenger tournaments — were not met.
The latest claim, for an Asian grand slam, also appears to be a bluff; perhaps Khanna has used the opportunity to press for a greater share of the Australian Open's profits to, he insists, aid player development.
"All the people in Asia look at the Australian Open as their grand slam, but we get only one wildcard," Siriwat said. "What are they doing for Asian tennis? What kind of development is this? We have the money, we have a big population. If we make a pact, we can do it on our own."
Tennis Australia chief executive Steve Wood yesterday described Australia's commitment to Asia as "more serious than ever", citing such initiatives as the wildcards, coaching assistance, the Asian ballkids program, and its relationship with major sponsor Kia Motors.
Talk of more slams is not new. Romanian promoter Ion Tiriac has told the International Tennis Federation he wants to create more majors, while French Tennis Federation boss Christian Bimes fears "that if we don't make progress, there will one day be a fifth grand slam event in Asia and possibly a sixth in Europe". "The losers would be the French Open and Wimbledon," he said. "We want to avoid that at any cost."