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No Tennis Pon De Rock this year


JUSTIN MARVILLE

No Tennis Pon De Rock this year

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LOCAL TENNIS’ PREMIER EVENT has been put on hold.
But not pon de rocks.
The world’s best players won’t be coming to Barbados this month after all as the highly-touted Tennis Pon de Rock festival is in the transformation process from exhibition series to competitive challenge event.
Barbados Invitational Tennis Exhibition director Kodi Lewis revealed the festival was being delayed until next year while the organizers continued to finalize plans for the makeover.
“We’re restructuring with hopes of entering into a big partnership with ESPN so the event will be growing and we decided to relaunch the whole festival in January,” he explained in a telephone interview with NATIONSPORT.
“We’re still working on our initial plans because we’re going over everything from the format, the time of the year we want to host it, sponsorship details and the works, but we haven’t had anything formalized as yet.
“But the biggest change we’re looking to make is changing the event to make it a competitive one instead of an exhibition so we can attract the best players,” Lewis added.
He had hinted at such a change in format last year, reasoning that he and his fellow directors would seriously have to consider hosting an event that awarded prize money if they hoped to continue to attract the world’s top players.
This was after ESPN analyst Robbie Earle expressed a similar sentiment following the conclusion of last year’s highly-successful edition, while saying the festival had the potential to draw names like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
But under the exhibition format a year ago, Tennis Pon de Rock was still able to feature former world No.1 Venus Williams, eventual Australian Open champ and current women’s No.1 Victoria Azarenka and then top 20 men’s players Gael Monfils and John Isner.
Fifteen-time Grand Slam champ Serena Williams and former No.1 Caroline Wozniacki appeared in 2009.
Lewis still has his eyes on tennis’ elite.
“We’ve always been committed to bringing the very best and now we’re even more committed so changes must be made,” he said.
“In the past, due to  the time restraints of the players, we’ve always started a little behind the ball, but now we don’t want to rush anything so we will skip a year to ensure this event is a yearly one.”
It’s not the first time the festival is being postponed as the 2010 edition that was supposed to feature 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro had to be abandoned following the withdrawal of Monfis, who was injured.

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