Tennis: Outgoing ASB Classic director Karl Budge honours pact with two-time champ Julia Goerges

Outgoing ASB Classic director Karl Budge has revealed a private pact with an international star was the reason behind his departure from the country's leading tennis tournament. 

As reported by Newshub on Tuesday, Budge is stepping down from the role he's held for nine years. 

And the reason why provides an insight into how he transformed a little tournament at the bottom of the world into an event consistently voted as one of the best on the professional circuit. 

Budge has had some emotional moments this week, as he prepares to say goodbye to a place he's called home for a decade.

He admits it's a sad day, as he confirms his departure from ASB Tennis Centre, a day he knew was coming since late last year, when good friend and two-time tournament champion Julia Goerges announced her retirement. 

"I made a pact with Julia Goerges over dinner one night that when she retired, I'd retire or vice versa," he admits. "When she announced that in November, I had to honour my words and put it in motion. 

"There won't be an ASB Classic without either of us, which was what we agreed."

Strong relationships with players the world over have helped Budge take the ASB Classic to another level since taking over as tournament director at just 27 years old.

"I was their age," he says. "Instantly, you have a unique selling point. 

"You could relate better... Kiwi way, take the piss, laugh with them. We would do anything for players, so long as we were given the same respect." 

And as he reflects on some of the highs and lows of the last decade, Budge is most proud of the international respect the tournament's gained. 

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of this year's tournament, but that's not the reason Budge is walking away. 

The Australian Open is currently providing some perspective from afar

"You only have to look three hours that way to know we made the right decision," he says. "I'll always wonder was this the year we could have got Roger [Federer] or Rafa [Nadal], but at the end of the day, we weren't in a position to run a tournament."  

The tournament would not have been the same he's used to delivering and Budge is confident he's going out on a high, after seeing Serena Williams win last year. 

"2020 was as good as you can ever get it."

Budge is tight-lipped on his next move. He'll "never say never" to a return to tennis, but he'll definitely stay in sport. 

"I’m not very good at anything else."

Wandering off centrecourt for perhaps the last time, Karl Budge will be a hard act to follow.