July 12, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Estoril’s brilliant pitch for No. 1

As world No. 1 Andy Murray was in the throes of a tough three-setter with Albert Ramos-Viñolas of Spain in Monte Carlo Thursday afternoon, the Millennium Estoril Open posted this piece of brilliance online.

It was prescient. Murray ended up losing his third-round match in three sets. He will have just two matches on the red clay before his next scheduled tournament in Madrid the week of May 8.

As well, Murray had quarter-final points to defend in Monte Carlo. He also has finalist points in Madrid and championship points in Rome to defend during the French Open tune-up season. The Brit is miles ahead of No. 2 Novak Djokovic. But as Djokovic well knows, even the biggest of leads can evaporate in a hurry.

It’s a near-impossible task for 250-level ATP events to survive without a dose of star power. But the tournaments face an uphill battle to come up with the appearance money necessary to entice those players to come. The top guys, who so often reach the weekend at the bigger tournaments, don’t need the money. You can’t get a Federer to show up unless you go sweetly into the seven figures. The players also don’t need the extra commitment weeks.

Nicolas Almagro was a worthy Estoril champion in 2016. But you’d have to think the world No. 1 would attract a better crowd.Embed from Getty Images

Istanbul: from Federer to … Tomic

Look at Istanbul, which is played the same week as Estoril. For its inaugural event in 2015 it got Federer. He was full value for the investment: he won the tournament. The following year the No. 1 seed was … Bernard Tomic. Tomic lost his first match to Diego Schwartzman of Argentina.

This year, the top seed there will be Canadian Milos Raonic, who hasn’t played since pulling out of Miami several weeks ago with a hamstring tear. Raonic, despite his impressive credentials, isn’t the type of player to put bums in the seats.

The video is cheeky, has a sense of humour and clearly was well thought-out. It’s a terrific, creative effort by a small tournament forced to think out of the box.

The problem is that the day before, Murray said he was considering an offer from next week’s event in Budapest to play there.

‘I’ve never been to Budapest before. It’s a new tournament and it’s not as strong (as the concurrent event in Barcelona) in terms of the player field, so there is maybe more chance of getting more matches there. It depends how I get on this week and how my elbow feels,” Murray told the media in Monte Carlo.”

Budapest has big money behind it, from Russian oil megazillionaires Gazprom.

Now, the question is: will Estoril be an offer that Murray can’t refuse? Stay tuned.  If it does, Istanbul will be kicking itself for not having come up with it first.

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