SNUBBED: Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki was not invited to return to the Hopman Cup. Picture: Daniel Wilkins Source:
THE conflict of interest allegations that dogged Tennis Australia's takeover of the Hopman Cup look set to be reignited amid claims the national body has turned away and snubbed the world's best players.
The managers of former world No.1 and current world No.10 Caroline Wozniacki and German world No.5 Angelique Kerber have claimed their charges were not approached to play Hopman Cup, which starts on December 29 at the new Perth Arena.
In the case of Kerber - this year's Copenhagen and Paris champion - the women's spot on the German team was filled by world No.126 Andrea Petkovic.
John Tobias, manager of Wozniacki who headlined the 2012 Hopman Cup, said the Dane was keen to return to Perth, but had not been invited and would instead join the long list of elite women bound for Brisbane.
"Caroline would have loved to return to Perth for the Hopman Cup," Tobias said.
"She really enjoyed her experience this past event. She was simply not invited back by the new event organisers. I was surprised as Caroline very much wanted to return."
Dirk Hordoff, manager of Kerber, citied the fines as the likely reason his player was not contacted.
"She didn't got (sic) invitation," Hordoff said. "Probably in fact that her ranking would bring the Hopman Cup... in conflict of WTA fines."
A high-ranking player who cannot be named has claimed she was turned away by new tournament manager TA, stating the reason was due to the national body's unwillingness to pay the player fines applicable for the game's best women to head to Perth and not a WTA event, such as Brisbane.
Suggestions of a failure to target the world's best were vehemently refuted by TA, with event director Steve Ayles saying the body had made several unsuccessful attempts to attract top 10 women to Perth.
"It's quite simple; we approached Andrea Petkovic a long time ago, when Petkovic had been top 10 and certainly from a marquee value, we think she's a great player," Ayles said.
"In terms of marquee value, public appeal and certainly in terms of ability at the time, when we started having discussions, Petkovic was top 10.
"As with this year, we will always approach the top-10 males and females and it is absolutely our desire to make the field as strong as possible and that includes top-10 women."
TA took control of the Hopman Cup earlier this year, sparking concerns over a conflict of interest given the national body's coinciding management of rival tournament, the Brisbane International; an event the body has pumped significant resources into in recent years to upgrade the women's draw to a WTA Premier competition.
The looming fields for both tournaments will add weight to the conflict debate; Hopman Cup has no top-10 women, while Brisbane this week spruiked having eight of the top 10 as "the strongest ever women's field".
It is just the second time in the Hopman Cup's 25-year history that there are no top-10 women coming to Perth, while just four of the eight are inside the top 50.
Last year's field boasted four top-10 women, with seven of the eight in the top 50.
Of the Hopman Cup field, only two women - Serbia's Ana Ivanovic and South Africa's Chanelle Scheepers - are the top-ranked players for their countries, with Scheepers' ranking of 60 precluding her from fines.
Ayles said the conflict debate was void and that Tennis Australia had made - and would always make - attempts to attract the world's best to Perth.
"As I've said all along, the players ultimately will make the decision where they want to play," Ayles said. "We can equally argue that, when we launched the field, we had three of the top 12 men and certainly Brisbane didn't have that."
The State Government, major stakeholder in the Perth tournament, remained unfazed when contacted for comment, with CEO of Tourism WA Stephanie Buckland saying the sponsor was "very happy with the quality of the field".
The world's top-50 women are obligated to compete in WTA events and are subjected to fines if they compete in rival tournaments, with the values ranging from $100,000 for the top-three, to $15,000 for players ranked 21-50.
That means players who attend the Hopman Cup and fall into that range are fined in accordance with the rules, as the Brisbane International is a WTA Premier event.
It was previously confirmed that the 2012 Hopman Cup was fully compliant with the fines, meaning the massive $370,000 bill attracted by the previous tournament's star-studded field was paid.
The Sunday Times understands the players were not left out-of-pocket, leaving either tournament owner, the International Tennis Federation, or the previous administration as having paid the cost.
Information received has suggested Tennis Australia is no longer prepared to pay such a large sum and the women's field and the next Hopman Cup will attract a total fines value of just $65,000 - a drop of more than $300,000 from last tournament - but it is a claim denied by the national body.