Tennis News Wire -
The future of the mixed team competition, the Hopman Cup, appears to be in firm hands with the announcement by the ITF that it has signed an agreement with Tennis Australia under which Tennis Australia will be contracted to provide services to the event for the 2013 and 2014 events which includes a Tournament Director, player procurement and an operations manager
Under the agreement, Hopman Cup will be returned to the Australian Open Series ahead of the 2013 event, which will be the first time it has held that distinction since 2007.
However, Daily Tennis has learned of an impending dispute between the ITF and the WTA over whether the WTA will continue to fine players for partaking in the Hopman Cup, which is an exhibition.
An ITF spokesperson claimed that there is now an agreement in place where the WTA will no longer fine players, but a WTA spokesperson says its rules still apply to Hopman Cup, whereby any player who participates in a non-tour exhibition the same week as Premier Mandatory tournament like Brisbane will be fined.
January 2012 was the first time that the WTA decided not to grant its players an exemption to play in Hopman Cup as Brisbane - which is owned by Tennis Australia - had agreed to upgrade to Premier status and would not have done so unless it knew it could attract top players without having to compete in exhibitions with no recourse.
In January, the Hopman Cup and the ITF agreed to pay WTA player fines somewhere in the range of $400,000 for its participants in the 2012 tournament The fines are tiered based on ranking. The tournament is believed to have paid $100,000 a piece for then No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki and No. 2 Petra Kvitova, $75,000 for then No. 5 Li Na, and various fines for Marion Bartoli, Bethanie Mattek-Sands, Anabel Medina and Tsvetana Pironkova. Apparently the Hopman Cup was also healthy enough this year to put up what is believed to be at least $1 million in appearance fees and guarantees.
Last week, the ITF decided to let longtime tournament director Paul McNamee go and not award the contract to the West Australian government, instead choosing Tennis Australia, which has been lauded for building a comprehensive summer series of events.
Now Tennis Australia, which owns Brisbane, can decide which players it wants at its two events. In a sense, it will be competing with itself,, but at least it can measure the costs and decide what is the most productive way to build its player fields.
McNamee, who lost two challenges for the Tennis Australia's presidential role from 2009 to 2010, was not pleased with the decision to let him go and cited potential conflicts
"We all know Tennis Australia has wide tentacles and I think the disappointing thing is their antagonistic behavior towards the event since 2007," McNamee told the Sunday Times. "It was a unilateral decision by Tennis Australia to kick the Hopman Cup out of the Australian Open Series, yet today, we're seeing Tennis Australia is very happy to reinstate that. On the one hand, I think that pattern of behavior is on record, and then secondly is the conflict of interest that an owner of an event in the same week seeking the same star players has."
Tennis Australia president Steve Healy disagreed.
"I don't accept what others have said about the conflict of interest," he said. "The fact that we run Brisbane at the same time - there are plenty of players to go around - I just don't see any reason why we can't maintain or even improve the quality of the field."
The Homan Cup will move to Perth Arena next year, which will allow it to increase attendance by 4000 people per session. In order to fill those seats though, the event will have to attract big names, so its conceivable that Tennis Australia will try and bring in some more big names from the ATP Tour, as the ATP does not fine players for playing exhibitions during its 250-level tournament weeks.