Todd Woodbridge rues Hong Kong's exit from regional circuit
Former Australian ace says the city would be a wonderful stop for players on the tennis swing through China
The season-ending ATP swing through China would be wonderful if it also included Hong Kong, said former Australian ace Todd Woodbridge, who on Tuesday rued the fact the city had lost a much-loved spot on the men's professional tour.
"With the growth in tennis on the mainland - these past few weeks we have had [major events in] Beijing and then Shanghai - it would be wonderful to have a Hong Kong stop too so you can have a circuit which goes through Asia," said Woodbridge, who is in town as an ambassador for the Australian Open.
Woodbridge, a doubles specialist in his playing days, appeared on a number of occasions in the late '90s when Hong Kong hosted the Salem Open. The last tournament was in 2002 after the government brought in legislation restricting tobacco sponsorship. Hong Kong subsequently lost a tour event with the private owner of the ATP licence moving to the mainland.
"We all loved coming to Hong Kong. I think Hong Kong is a bit like the Australian Open, it is vibrant and has a lot of electricity. It's a happening city," Woodbridge said. "When you are on tour you love to get to a stop which is big and happening and Hong Kong was one of those.
"I would love to see it [the ATP Tour] stop here again. I played here many times, a number of times against Michael Chang. I think I beat him once, but he got the better of me three times."
A winner of 22 grand slam doubles titles as well as the 1996 Olympics gold partnering Mark Woodforde - the other half of the "Woodies" - Woodbridge also sounded a warning saying Singapore had grand ambitions to become a regional sporting hub and was chasing those goals hard.
"Singapore has set the bar for every other major Asian city and seems to want to take on a sporting identity," said Woodbridge. "The fact they have the WTA Championships for the next five years is huge for women's tennis in this region."
Hong Kong was the last destination on a six-stop Asian tour for Woodbridge, who has been accompanied by the Australian Open trophies given every year to the winners of the men's [this year Novak Djokovic] and women's events [Victoria Azarenka].
Woodbridge revealed that Asian players would be in the running to win a wild card for next January's tournament with the play-offs taking place in Shenzhen next month.
"Last year we staged the highly successful Asia-Pacific Wild-card play-off in Nanjing with local players Di Wu and Zhang Yuxuan winning main draw wild cards. This time wild cards will be awarded to winners in singles, doubles, and for the first time, juniors who will get a direct entry to the Australian Open Junior Championships."