Michael Burgess

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

Tennis: Open boss to target Federer

Roger Federer is the No1 target for next year's Heineken Open - and tournament director Karl Budge believes it is possible to land him.

Snaring the Swiss superstar seems an impossible dream and would come with a hefty price tag but Budge is confident he has a good chance.

He had "detailed conversations" with Federer's agent at the US Open in September and will meet him this week at the Australian Open.

"I want Federer in this part of the world and I will do whatever it takes to get him," Budge told the Herald on Sunday. "Previously it has probably not been achievable and doing our negotiations when we have typically done them (at Wimbledon and the US Open) means that you can't monetise it at that time. If I sign him now, I've got 11 months to go away and figure out how to get the money we need to get to make it worthwhile for us."

Budge wouldn't go into details but Federer's presence would likely command an appearance fee in the region of at least $400,000. Budge, who says he has strong relationships with some of Federer's key sponsors (like Rolex and Nike) through his previous roles on the WTA, believes a multi-layered approach could be a winner.

"If it's just me going to (Federer's camp), it's difficult," says Budge. "But if we go to Rolex and Nike and say this is what we can do for you around his visit, that improves our offer.

I won't die wondering trying to get him here."

In 2010 at the Australian Open, this writer asked Federer about his previous visit to New Zealand (in 2000) and whether he would consider returning.

"Yeah, I remember playing (there) once," said Federer. "I think it was also the time when [the] America's Cup was held there. (I) played on the outside court and lost first round to Juan Carlos-Ferrero. Right now, obviously the Middle East swing for me works very nicely. But you never know in the future. I might always switch around my schedule. You never know. I'd like to come back."

This season, Federer chose not to play the cash-rich events in the Middle East. He played a series of exhibitions in South America before Christmas last year but hasn't played since.

"You're seeing a different Roger Federer now," says Budge. "He is definitely playing fewer tournaments because he wants to make it through to Rio (Olympics). Who knows - if we can provide an environment for him that is a little bit more relaxed and a casual way of starting his year, who knows what is possible."

The Heineken Open is the only ATP tournament at which Federer has not won a match and Budge hopes that may also be a (small) factor.

"Roger does like his stats," laughs Budge. "That may not be enough to get him here but he would have to sit back and weigh up a couple of things."

Despite Budge's optimism, the fact remains that Federer tends not to play the week before any grand slam and would have to change a long-standing habit and mode of preparation. If he did choose to play the week before the Australian Open, Kooyong may be more tempting - as at an exhibition, if he feels the slightest twinge of an injury, he can pull out with fewer ramifications than at a tournament.

- Herald on Sunday

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