In a move that will presumably shock no one, the ATP has opted not to renew The SA Tennis Open’s contract for 2012. The stands at the evocatively titled Montecasino Outdoor Event Area will remain silent indefinitely, or at least until some other outdoor event requires an area.
The ramifications are neither especially profound nor far-reaching. Naturally those concerned are disappointed, and at least one South African columnist appears to be taking it quite personally: I don’t know what format the award winning Mail & Guardian comes in, but the editorial style is pure tabloid. On the plus side, Kevin Anderson will have the rare distinction of holding his maiden title for ever, although to defend his points next year he’ll have to venture to Europe, where the indoor courts will help, though the top-fifty opponents won’t.
Who knows, it may turn out for the best. South Africa deserves a decent tournament to call its own, but Johannesburg wasn’t it. It could have been scheduled a week earlier, during the Australian Open, and it would hardly have attracted less global interest, nor a weaker field. It seems a long way off, but perhaps losing Johannesburg is the first step in eventually getting the event it deserves. Then again, it’s possible the whole thing has been a decisive response by a governing body bent on ensuring Feliciano Lopez is never top seed anywhere ever again.
The SA Tennis Open will be replaced on the calendar by the Open Sud du France, which has been uprooted from its traditional home in October. Fans yearning for the latter event will have to hold out for a few more months. Any fears that the switch might deprive the world of a truly ridiculous trophy are quickly allayed by a glance at those awarded at Montpellier. If the winner’s and finalist’s platters were somehow fused, they would surely prove useful in tracking down the Ark of the Covenant. Or the Lost City of Gold. Or perhaps even another fabled Outdoor Event Area.