Sampras and Courier on Beijing list
THE Hongkong-based organisers of the first Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Tour event in Beijing in October are hoping to entice the world's leading two players, Pete Sampras and Jim Courier, back to Asia.
World number one Sampras and his fellow American Courier, the number two, both played in last week's ATP Tour Hongkong Salem Open at Victoria Park, where Sampras beat Courier in a memorable three-set final.
The same two organisations - Spectrum and the sponsors - are also behind the US$300,000 tournament in Beijing from October 18-24 - the first senior ranking tournament to be held on the mainland since the 1980 Canton Grand Prix, in Guangzhou, won by Jimmy Connors.
And having signed up American Michael Chang to play in Beijing, they are attempting to lure Sampras and Courier back to Asia to increase the pulling power of the event.
Marcus Stapleton, the tournament director in Hongkong, said last night: ''We have approached them tentatively and they both seemed very interested, although nothing can be cast in stone just yet.
''Michael Chang's decision was taken very early because he wanted to make an announcement with all the media interest in Hongkong.
''The other leading players will not be expected to finalise their playing schedule until around Wimbledon time, or even as late as the US Open.'' Wimbledon fortnight starts on June 21 and the US Open at Flushing Meadow, New York, from August 30.
In a bid to sign up Sampras, Courier and other top players, Stapleton and Spectrum colleague Lincoln Venancio, the Beijing tournament director, will attend Wimbledon.
''We have planted the seed but it is better to follow it up in person rather than over the telephone,'' added Stapleton.
''After their experiences in Hongkong, both players know the sponsor and the management company and I think everyone appreciates that Asia is the fastest growing region in terms of the ATP Tour.'' The Beijing Open clashes with the Hongkong Marlboro Championships exhibition tournament at Victoria Park and Chang was in demand for both events. He announced his decision to play Beijing before leaving Hongkong on Sunday.
The Beijing event follows the US$1 million Seiko Super Tennis tournament in Tokyo from October 11.
While Sampras was making his debut in the territory last week, Courier was playing in his second Hongkong Open.