Watching the Davis Cup action between Hong Kong and Pakistan in Victoria Park last weekend triggered a trip down memory lane - to the glory days of local tennis. Before you go wondering what 'glory days', remember when Hong Kong was a stop on the ATP calendar - and a popular one, too - and also had a superb 'exhibition' tournament? Both events made Hong Kong visible on the international stage. Janet Hardisty, general manager of the Hong Kong Tennis Association, got the synapses working overtime when, during a break for rain, she accompanied me on a nostalgic expedition. But let's put the cart before the horse and go straight to the heart of the issue - Hong Kong desperately needs a facility that can address all the problems facing the game. Victoria Park is like an old lady who has had more facelifts than US television presenter Joan Rivers. Last year, the government refurbished the centre court for the East Asian Games. It gave us a new scoreboard, new changing rooms and player facilities, but failed to address the main problem, which was building a retractable roof. 'During the East Asian Games, we were the only sport which had to stop because of the weather,' Hardisty laments. The problem, apparently, is that the centre court stadium is built on reclaimed land and wouldn't be able to hold the weight of a new roof. It would probably sink. The only way forward would be to demolish the stadium and start again. But that would take time. And time is something Hong Kong doesn't have. Where would Davis Cup ties be played? Where would the annual women's tournament in January be held? So it was decided to give the arena a new scoreboard, renovate a few rooms, slap on some paint, and hey presto. It was okay for the East Asian Games, but if Hong Kong seriously wants to host an Asian Games then Victoria Park, like the old lady, should be put in a home for the aged instead of slapping on more make-up. 'Facility-wise, Hong Kong is behind the rest of Asia. We lag behind Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, South Korea or anywhere in China,' Hardisty says. 'Even a big town in China has got way better facilities than Hong Kong. Guangzhou is building new facilities for the Asian Games. We have Victoria Park.' Hardisty says the HKTA has already made representations to the government for a new tennis facility at the proposed sports hub at the former Kai Tak airport site. But she is worried. 'When they talk about a sports hub, are they looking at a 50,000-seater stadium or a 5,000-seat stadium with turf - both of which would be useless for tennis. What we need is a stadium with seating for about 10,000 people with a retractable roof, plus eight to 12 courts outside, both for practice and to hold matches.' That is the dream and it would give Hong Kong the perfect venue to host an ATP or WTA tournament and put us back on the world map. Before the government clamped down on tobacco advertising, Hong Kong had two great events which every year brought the big names to town - the Salem Open (ATP event) and the Marlboro Championship. The promoter behind the ATP event was unable to find sponsors with pockets as deep as the cigarette companies, took the licence and went across the border, first to Shanghai and now to Beijing. Hong Kong's loss was China's gain. 'It's a shame we don't have any big ATP event today. We need high-profile tournaments like these, for not only does it attract the public, but it also encourages children to play the game,' Hardisty says. Having a good facility is not enough. To buy an ATP licence - if one was available - would set you back up to US$5 million. Only the government can provide both. Shouldn't the Tourism Commission's Mega Events Fund, which began last year with a pot of HK$100 million, be looking at projects like these, instead of relying on 'non-profit making organisations' which don't have the money in the first place? The Hong Kong Sevens is a great advertisement for rugby. Similarly, other sports like tennis need a vehicle to carry their ambitions and be the magnet to inspire our children. As it is, tennis doesn't do too badly. The association has around 2,000 juniors in various squads, including 40 on its national training squad and a further 84 in its Talent group. In schools, there are around 15,000 participants. Last year, there was a 20 per cent increase in entries for junior tournaments. The association also organises seven different leagues, including adult, juniors and veterans with almost 8,000 participants. So in terms of numbers, the sport seems to be healthy. But what it lacks is credibility - the fact that it is not an elite sport. 'We have been out of the Sports Institute for three years, although we have around 20 players, mostly juniors, who are supported under the Individual Athletes Support Scheme. But being an elite sport makes the players feel better,' Hardisty says. The problems facing tennis in its bid to get back elite status has been touched on many times, but the biggest issue is the tough yardstick used to measure success. In an ideal world, tennis would be back in the elite system, Hong Kong would have a super facility with a roof, and would also host an annual ATP or WTA event. Then the rain stopped, and it was back to reality.