Dudi Sela looks set to have an ATP tournament on home soil to look forward to, with Ramat Hasharon expected to replace St. Petersburg as the host of a 250 series event in September..
(photo credit: OFRA FRIEDMAN, ITA)
For the first time in 18 years, Israel is set to host an ATP Tour event this coming September.
While no official announcement has been made, Israel Tennis Association chairman Asi Tuchmayer confirmed on Wednesday that the Ramat Hasharon Tennis Center will hold a 250 series tournament between September 15 and 21, which was originally scheduled to take place in St. Petersburg.
“I have dreamed of bringing an ATP Tour event back to Israel ever since I was named as chairman and I’m happy that I have managed to do so,” he told website Sport5. “I hope that the world’s top tennis players will come to play in Israel, but regardless, Israeli tennis fans are in for a great experience.”
Ramat Hasharon hosted an ATP Tour event between 1987 and 1996, but Israel has not had a top-tier tournament since.
Israeli-Georgian billionaire, Mikhael Mirilashvili, who is based in Israel and Russia, provided much of the funding for the event in St. Petersburg in recent years and is believed to be behind the decision to relocate the tournament due to the political situation in Ukraine and the disappointing income generated in Russia in past years.
Former world No. 1 and current Russian Tennis Federation vice-president Yevgeny Kafelnikov first broke the news on Wednesday when he wrote on Twitter: “Unfortunately, today the ATP will announce that the St. Petersburg Open is to disappear from the calendar, and the tournament will move to Tel Aviv! A shame.”
Mirilashvili is believed to have met with ATP officials in Monte Carlo in recent days, where an ATP Masters event is currently taking place, in order to finalize the move.
The ITA was hoping to announce the news on Wednesday, but the official confirmation is now only set to arrive in the coming days.
The indoor hard-court tournament in St.
Petersburg has been an ATP event since 1995 with winners including Britain’s Andy Murray, Kafelnikov and Marat Safin.