KUALA LUMPUR: Sponsors have been shying away from the Malaysian Open ATP 250 tennis championships and this have left tournament director Nick Freyer with a heavy heart before the start of the tournament on Sept 24 until Oct 2.
The third edition of the tournament which will be held at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil, is still without a title sponsor.
The last two editions of the tournament saw Proton as the title sponsor with a huge backing from the Tourism Ministry.
The Ministry remains as the sponsors of the event this year with Mandarin Oriental hotel, Wilson, CNN and Astro, to name a few.
“I just don’t know why we couldn’t attract more sponsor,” said Freyer. “It’s a fantastic world-class tournament that could easily be the best in the South East Asia.”
“I just hope that sponsors can open up their eyes and support us. It is emotionally tough for us this year knowing that we don’t have a title sponsor.”
Given the fact that tournament of such stature is still without a title sponsor, it casts a huge cloud over the government’s effort to push sports industry which is worth RM30.2 bil - about 5% of the total domestic product (GDP) to the forefront.
The tournament will be televised worldwide from the quarter-finals stage onwards and have CNN and Astro as their media partners.
Meanwhile, Freyer said although the USD 947,750 tournament is still without a title sponsor, they are not cutting corners to run the show.
Quality, said Freyer, remains the epitome of the organisation of the event.
“We have secured a current Grand Slam-winning pair (Jurgen Melzer-Philipp Petzschner) who won the US Open recently and that alone should add prestige to the tournament.
“We also boast six of the top 20 players in the ATP rankings with most of them are returning players.
“In terms of the quality of players that are coming here, it is a diverse pool with fresh faces on board to add to the excitement,” he said.
While acknowledging that the tournament faces a stiff challenge to match the PTT Thailand Open, which runs concurrently with the Malaysian Open, Freyer said they are fast catching up with the Thai organisers.
“They have been running the show for nine years now while we are just into our third year.
“But from the responses we’re getting from the players, we are matching the level of the organisation,” he said.
The Bangkok tournament boasts three top 10 players - Andy Murray (world No. 4), Robin Soderling (No. 6) and Gael Monfils (No. 8) - while the Malaysian Open have only Tomas Berdych (No. 9) in the top 10.
Among other players who will be making their appearance at Putra Stadium are Nicolas Almagro (No. 12), Janko Tipsarevic (No. 17) and defending champion Mikhail Youzhny (No. 32).
Tickets are on sale for as low as RM10 with an Ipad 2 to be given out every day for lucky fans in the catch-the-ball promotion.
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