Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Tennis: Having to serve in a 'bar' irks Russian seed

Svetlana Kuznetsova in action against Mona Barthel during day one of the ASB Tennis Classic. Photo / Dean Purcell.
Svetlana Kuznetsova in action against Mona Barthel during day one of the ASB Tennis Classic. Photo / Dean Purcell.

One of the top seeds at the ASB Classic has likened the on court experience to playing "in a bar", due to a new entertainment facility set up behind the centre court and the noisy court side dining.

Fourth seed and former Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova was left frustrated after her first round win over Mona Barthel yesterday, claiming it was difficult to concentrate during her match.

The world No25 was also distracted by the waiters attending to the court side corporate boxes, claiming they were moving between the first and second serves.

"With the music behind [the court] it was like a bar," said Kuznetsova. " It's not good for players and there is no way to play with it."

In a new innovation this year, organisers have erected a temporary bar and entertainment facility behind the Robinson stand (In the previous years it was located out near the practice courts, a few minutes walk from centre court).

There's a big screen to watch the action, a couple of bars and a DJ. But the music - and the ill timed waiters - irked Kuznetsova.

"I talked to the umpire during the match and I think they turned it off," said Kuznetsova."

The world No25 also spoke with tournament director Karl Budge about the court side food service after the match.

"Waiters were moving between first and second serves all the time," said the Russian. "I [asked] if the waiters don't move between the serves."

Budge confirmed that music is played between matches and during the warm-up, but turned right down during matches.

Fan zone during day one of the ASB Tennis Classic. Photo / Dean Purcell
Fan zone during day one of the ASB Tennis Classic. Photo / Dean Purcell

"There was some noise during her warm up but the moment the umpire calls time we dial the music back down and go into the match," said Budge. "That's part of us building an atmosphere but the moment the match [starts] we focus on the tennis."

Aside from her audio issues, Kuznetsova was satisfied to progress to the second round, after going winless in each of her last two visits here.

Doubles took centre stage for the rest of the afternoon, with scratch combination Ivanovic and Kirsten Flipkens surprising the top seeds - Czech duo Lucie Hradecka and Andrea Hlavackova - 4-6 6-4 10-3 in an entertaining match.

And in contrast to Kuznetsova, Ivanovic enjoyed being back on court in Auckland.

"Everyone seemed to be having a good time," said Ivanovic. "I had a few people messaging me from [Serbia]...they were watching and said `Oh we are so jealous they are all having champagne and food in the box'. I said `don't tell me, I'm on court'."

In the next match Marina Erakovic and Spanish partner Silvia Soler-Espinosa beat Sacha Jones and Rosie Cheng 6-2 7-6 (1). Erakovic hadn't played with Soler-Espinosa for almost a decade but the professional duo were more polished during the big points and completely overwhelmed the local combination during the tiebreak.

Erakovic also reported no issues with her knee, a vital boost ahead of her singles match with Yulia Putintseva today.

"I was happy with my movement, everything was fine," said Erakovic.

Erakovic lost in straight sets to world No77 Putintseva at Wimbledon last year, but hopes for a different outcome today.

"She moves really well and gets a lot of balls back," said Erakovic. "I will try and dominate on my forehand, dictate the points and be patient - there is no need to rush."

The other first round winners on Monday were Japan's Nao Hibino, Germany's Carina Witthoeft, Lativan Julia Ostapenko, Alexandra Dulgheru and Sloane Stephens. The Latvian teenager was particularly impressive, justifying her wild card with a convincing 6-1 7-5 win over veteran Swede Johanna Larsson.

- NZ Herald

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