Rain-delayed final highlights old problem

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 March, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 March, 1998, 12:00am

It was Monday morning and organisers were supposed to be taking down the marquees that surrounded the centre court at Victoria Park and congratulating each other on yet another successful Salem Open.

But all the dismantling had to be put on hold. There was still some tennis to be played - in fact, the completion of an important match.

Around 18 hours after it had started, the 1997 Salem Open final would finally finish, with Michael Chang needing just two rallies to convert the match point he had held over Patrick Rafter the day before when the match was interrupted by rain.

For the first time in the tournament's history, rain forced play to spill over from Sunday to Monday.

Since the event was launched in 1990, rain has played havoc with the schedule but it was only last year that the final had been affected to such an extent.

The scenario again highlighted the need for Hong Kong to have an indoor venue if it wants to continue staging big tournaments.

The Hong Kong Tennis Association (HKTA) has been asking the Government to build a suitable rain-proof arena for many years.

Their cries have not exactly fallen on deaf ears. However, it is unlikely such a stadium for a major tennis tournament will be built before 2003 at the earliest.

HKTA executive director Ed Hardisty said the relevant government departments were already awaiting a final design for a proposed stadium in Causeway Bay, opposite Victoria Park.

'The association has been crying out for a stadium for a long time,' he said.

'Either an indoor venue or one with a retractable roof.

'We've been consulted and have given our thoughts, but it has yet to be decided what will be built.

'We've heard that it may be a multi-purpose stadium, but we really think there needs to be a proper venue for major tennis events.' Hardisty feels Hong Kong lags way behind its neighbours when it comes to world-class tennis arenas.

'If you look at places like Japan, Korea and Singapore, they have some great indoor venues. Hong Kong does lose out over these countries when it comes to stadiums for tennis.

'Victoria Park, while intimate and providing a good atmosphere, needs renovation with various things like floodlights.' An indoor stadium in Hong Kong would not only safeguard a tournament from rain but would help the SAR should it want to stage bigger sanctioned tennis events with larger purses.

Hardisty, though, believes a new venue will not be ready before 2003.