ASB Classic tournament director unsure if Serena Williams will return to Auckland

ASB Classic tournament director Karl Budge is unsure if Serena Williams will return to Auckland and has gone into damage control following her shock second round exit yesterday.

Williams yesterday blamed the "abhorrent" conditions in Auckland for her 6-4 6-7 (5) 6-4 defeat to unheralded American Madison Brengle going as far as saying it's least favourite conditions she ever played in.

Tickets are already sold out for the rest of the tournament but Budge said the weather issues over the last few days and the early departure of both Serena and Venus Williams could affect interest for next year's tournament.

"It does do a fair bit of damage but probably more for next year," Budge told Radio Sport's D'Arcy Waldegrave in terms of player interest for the 2018 event.

"It's around how that message is delivered in the dressing room and we don't want to get a reputation as a windy tournament.

We've certainly been hammered by the wind and rain over these last few days and also from a fan perspective as well. There have been fans who've been disappointed by rained out matches the last couple of days and then really long matches yesterday. So it's a tough one for all parties involved."

Budge said it was out of his control what happens on the court but said many players had come up to him in the last few days to comment that this is their favourite tournament of the year.

"It is what it is. You put all the finishing touches on the tournaments as you possibly can but there's two things you can't control and that's player performance and weather and unfortunately those have hurt us a little bit in the opening days."

Based on her post-match comments it seems Auckland might not be on Serena's wishlist for the 2018 season.

"At least I can get out of these conditions so I can get somewhere better, and warmer weather too," she said in a brief post-match press conference.

Listen: ASB Classic tournament directer Karl Budge talks to D'Arcy Waldegrave

"I would say it's my least favourite conditions I've ever played in. Again my opponent played in the exact same conditions - she was able to adjust better than me. She obviously did a much better job than I did. I really abhorred these conditions."

"I can take solace in the fact that the conditions won't be like this in Melbourne [for the Australian Open]. This is almost not a great opportunity to assess your game to be honest."

Budge said he hadn't had a chance to talk to Serena following her defeat but will catch up with her team at the Australian Open this month to discuss a possible return to Auckland.

"I'll sit down and have that conversation in Melbourne. We'll go away and chat to her team. At this stage we've got to focus on who's going to win this tournament and make sure the men arrive fit and healthy for next week as well."

Serena Williams post loss press conference

Radio Sport tennis commentator Matt Brown predicts we won't see Serena back.

"I struggle to think she'll come back in the future. That might just be it - a one-off appearance in Auckland for Serena Williams." he said of the Game, Set, Match NZME podcast.

It was announced on Tuesday that plans are being made to build a roof for the ASB Tennis Centre with $10.5 million of the required $18.5m in place with work starting after the 2018 tournament. Budge said however a roof would not have made a difference yesterday in terms of the wind.

"The wind would have still come through the stadium design. Unless you went to a completely closed off venue which then changes the entire dynamics of the event. We'd then become an indoor tournament as opposed to an outdoor tournament. A roof would have helped us the first couple of days but it wouldn't have helped us yesterday."

"While I personally like a little bit of wind because I think it's a great leveler and adds to the event, when you've got pretty strong gusts like we had yesterday it's certainly very tough for the players. In saying that, it was the same conditions for everyone."

Budge seemed more confident in Venus Williams returning to Auckland after the former champion pulled out of the draw yesterday with a wrist injury.

"The relationship with Venus is outstanding. She called me to the dressing room yesterday and gave me a heads up before going through all the formal stuff she needs to do. She was very apologetic. She's all class Venus. While we're very disappointed she's had to withdrawal with injury, I think if there's anyone that probably has a little bit of leeway it's probably Venus Williams."

- NZ Herald

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