John McNeill: Tennis banks another Classic despite rain and early exits

  • 13/01/2018
Despite numerous roadblocks, the ASB Classic continues to deliver, writes John McNeill.
Despite numerous roadblocks, the ASB Classic continues to deliver, writes John McNeill. Photo credit: Photosport

By John McNeill

OPINION: Tennis is a funny game.

Tournaments can spend thousands, even millions of dollars to pull in the best players, but there's no accounting for form, early round exits that can decimate a draw, or the weather.

Two of those factors came in to play this week in Auckland at the ASB Classic.

The women's tournament, voted the best on the WTA Tour for the last three years, had to bear the brunt of the weather bomb that hit the northern region towards the end of its first week.

Two whole days were lost, leaving the organisers badly out of pocket, with a rain policy forcing full refunds to patrons - drastically affecting income return from the lucrative catering and box holder services.

At the time, tournament director Karl Budge said he didn't want to think about it, but there's no doubt the tournament took a big hit in revenue and there won't be much loose change from the first week.

Two whole days were lost due to rain.
Two whole days were lost due to rain. Photo credit: Getty Images

While the schedule did get back on track, play finished a day later than usual, but by that stage they had lost the fans with a disappointing crowd turning up for the Sunday final.

The wet weather of course raised the age-old issue of a roof over centre court.

Such a project's been on the drawing board for several years and renovations towards that end were due to have started within the next few months but have since been put on hold, because there's still a shortfall in funding.

ATP boss Chris Kermode has been in town, making his first visit to the Auckland 250 event, and was singularly impressed with the tournament as a whole, but did note the stadium does need an upgrade.

Hopefully his comments will motivate Tennis Auckland to get cracking and make it its major priority this year.

Defending champion Jack Sock lost his first round match.
Defending champion Jack Sock lost his first round match. Photo credit: Getty Images

While weather issues plagued the first week, the men's tournament fell a bit flat in the second round when the three big American seeds all lost their way.

While next-gen up-and-comers like Denis Shapovalov and Hyeon Chung provided the X-factor, there's little doubt the earlier than expected departures of Jack Sock and Sam Querrey in particular - and the withdrawal of four players took some of the quality away from the top half of the draw.

While the tennis fortnight wasn't without its problems, overall it did still provide a brilliant showcase, in its determination to put the world's best tennis players in front of New Zealand fans.

That this event can continue to punch above its weight  and be the envy of it's much bigger cousins in Brisbane and Sydney is testament to tournament director Karl Budge and his team, and the cast of hundreds of unsung volunteers who help make the Auckland stopover the best little tournament on the planet.

John McNeill is a producer and sports reader for RadioLIVE

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