Re: Hong Kong 2008
Here's the whole article -
Oct 24, 2007
The Women's Champions Challenge may still be searching for a title sponsor but organisers have already hit the jackpot by securing two of the biggest drawcards for January's showpiece with Russian glamour girl Maria Sharapova and American star Venus Williams.
Williams and Sharapova will be among four of the world's top 10 stars who will take part in the annual tournament at Victoria Park in the first week of January.
The Hong Kong Tennis Patrons Association (HKTPA), organisers of the annual tournament, will officially announce the line-up for the eight-player event next Wednesday. But it is understood Hong Kong's sweetheart, Sharapova, will return once again. "Maria will be back again this year, while Venus, who did not play last year, will also make a return. Unfortunately we have not been able to secure Serena Williams as she has other commitments," a source close to the organising committee said.
"The presence of Sharapova [world number five] and Venus [number eight], and two others from the world's top 10, will once again ensure this tournament will be of the highest calibre."
It is believed organisers are also looking at Serbian Ana Ivanovic (world number four) and Russian Anna Chakvetadze (number seven) among others.
There had been fears the pull-out of long-term title sponsor Watsons Water would harm the tournament, which has traditionally netted the world's best players. It was estimated the costs of bringing in the stars and running the tournament was in the region of HK$14 million.
Watsons Water ended a seven-year relationship with the Champions Challenge this summer, citing a change in its marketing strategy. But it is understood the real reason for the blue-chip company's withdrawal was the retirement of tennis enthusiast Ian Wade as group managing director.
"Their absence [Watsons] will not jeopardise the tournament and Hong Kong fans will still be able to see the big names in action next year," tournament director Terry Catton insisted in August, when the news broke that the tournament had been robbed of its title sponsor.
"We are still looking for a title sponsor. But the event will go ahead like in previous years. We will have a similar format inviting eight players," long-standing HKTPA official David Ho Wai-tak said.
It is understood the HKTPA has dipped into its own pockets this year to pay the sizeable appearance fees for Sharapova and the other stars. "They don't come any cheaper than in previous years," said one official.
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