Tennis: Crowds light but okay

By Michael Brown

There were empty seats at the final. Photo / Thinkstock
There were empty seats at the final. Photo / Thinkstock

Tournament director Karl Budge is confident the 'sold out' sign will need to be dusted off next week for the Heineken Open but it wasn't in danger of being used this week for the ASB Classic.

Small crowds marked the opening on Monday and, while they grew through the week, the sight of empty seats at yesterday's final was unexpected, especially with world No4 Agnieszka Radwanska lining up against former champion and world No23 Yanina Wickmayer.

The timing of the tournament doesn't help. It is at the mercy of the tennis calendar and this year opened on New Year's Eve, which rarely does well. Some sponsors struggled to fill their allocations and some corporate boxes remained unsold.

The Heineken Open traditionally does better and ticket sales are strong for next week's men's competition headed by three-time winner and world No5 David Ferrer. But pre-sales had also been the best ever leading into the ASB Classic, with six players inside the world's top 30.

Last year's top seed was Sabine Lisicki, who was world No15 at the time, though former world No1 Venus Williams was due to play but withdrew through injury.

"The general view is we were down in the early couple of days but it's picked up and been really strong for the last few," said Budge, also tournament director for the ASB Classic. "We normally would sell out for a final but I'm pretty happy. For this time of year, it's been really good.

"It's up to those who open their wallets to decide. For me, it was a really quality field and we had pretty good weather."

A fan complained to the Herald on Sunday about the empty seats for the quarter-final and semifinal after being told by Ticketek in November tickets for unobstructed views were sold out.

Budge said this sounded "fairly strange". "It sounds like a one-off to me. We monitor tickets daily and never had any issues."

- APNZ

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