Tennis: COVID-19 gives ASB Classic organiser Karl Budge rare summer off

Karl Budge is still organising tennis, but on a much smaller scale.

"That was a bad throw, daddy," two-year-old daughter Ivy protests.

Monday would normally be the opening day of the ASB Tennis Classic and one of the busiest days of Budge's year.

Instead, the tournament director is taking a summer holiday for the first time in 16 years, after COVID-19 put a halt to the Auckland event.

Spending time with his daughter offers a change of pace after a topsy-turvy year.

"Not having player demands to be running after at this time of year's been quite a different one, but the two-and-a-half-year-old's probably got as equally, demanding requests," Budge says. 

2020 started off brilliantly for Budge, with tennis legend and 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams winning the ASB Classic in January - her 73rd career title. 

"To start the year with Serena Williams winning the ASB Classic, joining sister Venus on our trophy, is something that, forever and a day, I'll be proud of."

But COVID-19 hit and the setbacks started.

His launch of the inaugural Piha Pro in March, featuring legendary surfer Kelly Slater, was cancelled just days before the event.

"That was absolutely gut-wrenching,"  Budge says. "We had the 'king' here and the scene was set for a pretty epic week.

"It was early days with COVID and everything like that, and not many events had been cancelled and what-not, so we took it quite personally," wife Briar Budge says. 

With his surfing event wiped-out and the 2021 ASB Classic also canned, Budge suddenly had nothing on his plate.

Having him home during lockdown was a welcome change for his wife.

"For us, Karl's away for 100 days of the year overseas, so to be able to spend solid family time together was a bit of real privilege that we may not get again for quite a while," she says.  

"It's the first time in my career that I've had a chance to stop, so I've really enjoyed that," Budge says. "It's been bloody good taking some time to reflect on what we've done and where we want to go next."

Not one to sit idle, Budge vows that both the Piha Pro and ASB Classic will be back, and hopes to bring two of the biggest names in tennis to the summer's premier sporting event.

"You always want Roger and Rafa," he says. "It's the one thing I've not been able to achieve in the eight years I've been here.

"I thought we were gonna get it this year, we got pretty close." 

But for now, taking it easy poolside, rather than courtside, suits Budge and his family.

Watch the full story above.