Only in Hong Kong: tennis matches in a velodrome
Exhibition featuring China's Li Na and Czech ace Tomas Berdych will be played in Tseung Kwan O facility because no other venues are available
The BNP Paribas Showdown featuring three grand slam champions has been forced to move to Hong Kong's cycling velodrome after organisers failed to secure other possible venues in town.
Part of the World Tennis Day, the March 3 event will feature Chinese star Li Na, currently fourth in the world, against Sam Stosur of Australia, while the men's match will be between Australian Lleyton Hewitt and current top 10 player Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic.
While the four players should be a major attraction for tennis fans, the 2,000-seat venue with its wide track separating spectators from the action may not be.
Organisers of the exhibition event, StarGames, said last year's venue - AsiaWorld Expo near Hong Kong Airport, which can accommodate 12,500 fans - would not be available and nor would the Coliseum, while Victoria Park's tennis stadium has been booked by the Hong Kong Tennis Association (HKTA) for a junior event.
"The velodrome will be great," insisted Jerry Solomon, president of StarGames. "You have great seats on the sides and we will build some additional seats on the infield. Everybody will be up close to the tennis ... it is a beautiful new building and it's very intimate. We are going to have a great view and be very close to the action."
There will be 1,000 temporary seats on the infield, making the total capacity 3,000, with prices ranging from HK$450 up to HK$2,500.
Organisers dismissed claims that the reason the HKTA had failed to make the Victoria Park court available was because StarGames has not yet settled a "sanction fee" from last year's event with the HKTA.
"We don't owe them [any sanction fee]," said Solomon. "That has nothing to do with us and is something between the ITF and HKTA and I think they worked that all out."
There were no representatives from the HKTA present at the event announcement on Monday night.