DOHA // Larry Scott, chief executive of the Women's Tennis Association, promised yesterday that Abu Dhabi would shortly be the host city for a top quality women's tournament to supplement a new men's exhibition showpiece which is to be staged over the New Year. Scott, who is in neighbouring Qatar for his association's end-of-season Sony Ericsson Championships, will be monitoring closely the facilities and organisational qualities in the UAE capital when six of the world's top men arrive to do pre-season battle in early January. Details of that men's event are to be announced today. Arrangements to have the leading ladies of the world following suit are well advanced and Scott revealed that the issue is at the top of his agenda and is guaranteed to come to fruition in the next couple of years.
"I am committed to finding a way for us to have a high class tournament in Abu Dhabi," said Scott. "And I am sure it will take place in the near future. It might happen as early as 2010 but if not I would be very surprised if we did not have some kind of plan in place for 2011." Scott has been involved in what he called "an ongoing dialogue" with the hierarchy of Abu Dhabi Sports Council and he reflected: "We know Abu Dhabi has a long-term vision to host a top women's professional tennis tournament. It is a question of finding the right opportunity to fit in with our planning."
"We share that desire. I am very keen to see us be in Abu Dhabi when there is a right fit and a right opportunity at the right level on our calendar of events. This issue is very much on our radar screen as a priority and long term I don't see any stumbling blocks. "In some respects it is like threading a needle because there are limited opportunities for us to hold events in the Middle East because of the way our tour is structured and the climate in the Gulf Region."
Scott pointed out that he and his colleagues are looking at either January when players are on the way to the Australian Open, or February when they are coming back, or at the end of the year for a major event like the current showpiece which concludes in Doha this evening. "The fact that we have come to Qatar for the most important tournament on our schedule outside the grand slams indicates how comfortable we are in this area," added Scott.
" I think everyone would see how women's tennis is growing here in the Middle East. It is only natural that with all the development in Abu Dhabi and the vision for the future of Abu Dhabi that tennis has an important role there and from our point of view women's tennis has an important role. "We at the WTA have been informed about the men's exhibition there at the start of the new season. We are all hoping that generates a lot of interest and we will be keeping a close eye on that."
Mohammed Al Mahmood, general secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council made a declaration to The National six months ago that a top women's tennis tournament was being bid for and said at the time: "It will happen." The question now is "when?". In February of this year there were back-to-back WTA events in Doha and Dubai. The Doha tournament has now been removed from the calendar because that city is the new host of the Tour Championships each November.
So there is a gap there (the two scheduled WTA events next year are in the United States and Colombia). A January date would involve competing with the existing Australian warm-up events in Brisbane and Auckland, making that option less likely. The end of the year option could come to fruition in 2012 when the Tour will need to find a replacement for Doha at the end of that city's three-year agreement to stage the Sony Ericsson Championships.