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Wed 14 Jan 2009 09:56 AM

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Gulf tennis events set to hurt Aussie circuit

Promoters think top pros may skip local lead-in events to Australian Open.

The expanding tennis interests of the oil-rich Arab states may force a restructuring of the Australian summer circuit, according to reports.

Experienced tournament promoter Colin Stubs believes the introduction of a rich exhibition in Abu Dhabi the week before a season-opening ATP tournament in Qatar, could entice the world's top-ranked men to ignore the local lead-in events to the Australian Open.

Leading stars Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Andy Roddick played in the Abu Dhabi Exhibition and Qatar Open this month en route to compete in the year's opening grand slam tournament in Melbourne.

Stubs, who is the tournament director of this week's Kooyong Classic in Melbourne, said Australian lead-up tournaments to the Open may be under threat.

"The jury is out as to whether they will ultimately do so. It might just be a honeymoon period," Stubs told The Australian newspaper.

"We don't know, but at the moment, on the face of it, it looks like we do have an issue to address there.

"It is not only this tournament. Brisbane is in the same boat, as is Sydney and Auckland (in New Zealand)."

Stubs's warning follows increasing interest across Asia in hosting a grand slam event.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said recently that the Australian Open would not be lost to Asia.

But the tennis series in Abu Dhabi and Doha have already had an impact on the quality of local fields leading into this year's Open.

"I think the dynamics of the early part of the year have changed a little bit," Stubs said.

"It looks to me as though there is a fair bit of money changing hands in Abu Dhabi and as a result of that, you've got to play Doha.

"Now I suppose they (players) have to reassess what they want to do in this particular week. That is one of the issues."

Stubs said he plans to consult the eight men, headed by Federer, playing this week's Kooyong Classic for their views but believes a collective plan is need to find a solution.

"I'll do it singularly, but it really should be a collective discussion between the four events, and the Hopman Cup (mixed teams event in Perth), that are affected," Stubs said.

"We have to come up with some sort of strategy."

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