When the international stars of the ATP circuit hit town earlier this month, they enjoyed Perth’s usual sun-kissed hospitality with a tour of Rottnest Island and tucked into some fresh crayfish.
But when it came time to knuckle down and prepare for the main event, they were left short-changed, unable to train on the ageing courts on offer at the city’s main training facilities — the State Tennis Centre.
The ABC understands world number one Rafael Nadal and other players did not train there because it was unsuitable as preparation to play at Perth Arena, where the ATP Cup is being staged.
The state facility next to Perth Stadium is sinking and in desperate need of redevelopment, but the State Government, Tennis West and Tennis Australia (TA) continue to dither on what to do with it, while other Australian cities invest in their tennis facilities.
And while Perth Arena is itself an outstanding venue — some at TA would say the best court in the country — as the look of the Australian summer of tennis changes, so too has WA’s requirements for its tennis facilities.
Since the ATP Cup replaced the Hopman Cup, and with the potential for a proposed WTA Cup to be held in Perth in the near future, there needs to be more courts in Western Australia that are up to an international standard.
Transforming the tennis schedule
TA is playing a long game here as it restructures how the schedule looks before the Australian Open begins in Melbourne.
The total attendance for the group stage of the inaugural ATP Cup in Perth was 54,508. That is significantly short of what the Hopman Cup has attracted in the previous years.
But the ATP Cup has been introduced this year with the biggest prize money and rankings points on offer outside of a grand slam tournament and an equivalent WTA Cup for female players will likely follow it up.
Ultimately it would mean more high-level games than what was previously on offer.
“It’s transformational in that we introduced the ATP Cup, which we can see the success of already, but the women’s version is still in the planning stages,” TA chief executive Craig Tiley said.
“The players and all of our stakeholders have known that it’s a transitional year.
“I spoke to the (WTA) chief executive Steve Simon and we’re meeting in a couple of weeks … at the right time we’ll announce what we’ve got planned for the women.
“I’m excited for them because they’re keen … they’ve seen what’s happened on the men’s side, but it was not possible to do them at the same time because the planning for both was different.”
Cloud over women’s final for Perth
Perth wants to host the final of a proposed WTA event, but there is only one international-standard hard court in the state — the temporary one placed inside the arena each year.
The commitment has been made to the ATP Cup and fitting additional matches into an already tight schedule will be problematic.
It has already happened this year in other states, with the start of the women’s Brisbane International pushed to the outside courts of the Queensland Tennis Centre because of the ATP Cup.
It comes after the French Federation Cup team could not train in the lead up to last year’s final because it was raining and, while the arena was being put into tennis mode, there was no indoor court in Perth.
The other ATP Cup venues in Ken Rosewall Arena at Olympic Park in Sydney and the Queensland Tennis Centre, which includes the Pat Rafter Arena, have either been redeveloped or are planning additional show courts to cater for both the ATP and WTA Cups.
Memorial Drive in Adelaide is also planning more improvements as South Australia demands a piece of the pre-Australian Open tennis schedule and enhances the Riverbank precinct around Adelaide Oval.
Currently, Western Australia is getting left behind and its juniors are suffering because of a lack of facilities.
Burswood precinct could be so much more
The land the WA Tennis Centre sits on remains a key location on the Burswood peninsula in Perth.
Apart from the almost two-year-old Perth Stadium, it is one of the only things that attracts people to the area outside event days at the stadium.
What was planned as an “activated precinct” sits desolate on most days, surrounded by sand and temporary fencing.
A new elite tennis facility at Burswood has been part of the master plan for the area but remains a long way off.
A venue with a show court that could host international tennis competitions such as the proposed WTA Cup would add vibrancy to an area that desperately needs more of it and already has state-of-the-art transport infrastructure in place.
It would also serve junior and community tennis and give Perth the ability to attract national junior and senior tournaments.
While many are not happy about the loss of the Hopman Cup, the team tournaments are the future and preparations for them must be made — or Perth risks losing tennis altogether.