By Jonathan Porter
For the rather small sum of just $10 visitors to the South Australia World Tennis Challenge were able to see retired greats such as Mats Wilander, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Goran Ivanisevic as well as some of the best up-and-coming talent around.
For tennis fans, the Challenge being held at Adelaide’s Memorial Drive from January 12 to 14 2016 was a rare opportunity to get closer than usual with their heroes, and for a just little bit extra, even have lunch with them.
The program for the event not only included greats from yesteryear but retired Australian and former Grand Slam finalist Mark Philippoussis, 1997 French Open Champ Iva Majoli as well as 2013 Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli and Spaniard Fernando Verdasco.
In addition, world No 9 Marin Cilic agreed to play at the event after his shoulder injury saw him withdraw from the entire Australian Open season last year.
Visiting Adelaide for the first time was Sanchez-Vicario, who was renowned for her all-court game and determination through the early 90’s, and won 14 Grand Slam titles along the way.
Add to that, local young gun Thanasi Kokkinakis, who will include Adelaide as part of his 2016 Australian Open preparation.
As far as rubbing shoulder goes, before the game each day there was an ‘autograph island’ where two players per night were stationed signing autographs before the matches start.
Organisers say the atmosphere at Memorial Drive is festive with food and drink and fun activities.
“As this is an exhibition event as opposed to an ATP ranking event, which is of course more serious we can have a bit of fun on court,” a spokeswoman for the Challenge said.
“Having said that – the current players are using the event as their lead in to the Australian Open so it’s all very serious for them – not so much the legends.”
Another great opportunity for people to get close to the greats and up and comers is the Wednesday January 13 luncheon event, which all players attend.
Sold out in 2015 and held in the iconic William Magarey Room at Adelaide Oval, the $150-a-ticket lunch provided fans with an opportunity to circulate with all of the World Tennis Challenge players.
You heard candid interviews and incredible tennis stories from the biggest names in the game, past and present.
Tickets included a sumptuous two-course lunch and premium beverages.
With nine of the world’s top current and past players – eight of them formerly ranked in the top ten, six of them Grand Slam champions sharing a total of 26 Grand Slam titles between them and a combined 233 ATP/WTA titles held, the World Tennis Challenge is an event like no other tennis event in Australia.