Hamburg Masters remains upbeat in fight with ATP

Hamburg - German tennis supremo Georg von Waldenfels hopes that the scenery around at the Rothenbaum tennis centre won't be as tranquil in mid-May 2009 as it was on Friday.

The only sounds came from playing children in a school yard opposite the stadium of the Hamburg Masters Series - which is fighting the ruling men's tennis body ATP in a Delaware Court in an effort to preserve the tournament as an elite event in May.

"The fight David vs. Goliath continues," von Waldenfels told a news conference at the DTB headquarters which are located in the Rothenbaum stadium.

Whether the tranquility of this posh Hamburg residential area will remain undisturbed all year in the future depends on the US judges who according to von Waldenfels will announce their verdict in early August.

But the German officials hope that the neighbourhood will see a bustling major sports event for a week in the future as well, and that the May 11-18 edition this year won't mark the end of an era.

"I expect justice from the United States of America," said von Waldenfels.

The ATP has scrapped Hamburg from the May slot and stripped the more than 100-year-old event of its elite Masters Series status in another round of calendar restructuring starting 2009. The players are due to play at a joint men's and women's clay court event in Madrid from next May onwards.

But the DTB would have none of this, taking the ATP to court over the issue last year, based on what it says are valid contracts which run beyond 2009.

"We have no other way to bring reason to the ATP," said von Waldenfels. "It is important for us to send a signal that we want this Masters Series in May.

"We are not after the money, that is secondary," he said, dismissing alleged claims that Hamburg was only interested in a big compensation fee. "The prime reason is the Masters Series status in May."

Von Waldenfels insisted that a move of the event to a second round of European clay court events in July, and with a lower status in the ATP circuit, was not acceptable because it would mean "the end of the tournament's tradition."

July may offer better weather than May, where players in the past had to deal with temperatures as cold as on this overcast Friday. Some like Andre Agassi managed to stay away from the event as often as possible.

But Hamburg has a more favourable standing now and players like the world's leading duo of Roger Federer (a four-time winner in Hamburg) and Rafael Nadal have endorsed the tournament in public.

Tournament director Carl-Uwe Steeb said that all top stars will be in Hamburg again this year - barring late withdrawals - which promises an exciting tournament with big crowds.

Steeb said the ATP was positively surprised about the attendance in the 12,000-seat centre court and the whole facility, and von Waldenfels added that big crowds could also work in the DTB's favour.

"We hope that the fans send a signal with their presence. They can underline the importance of the tournament in Hamburg," he said. (dpa)