Connell promises big names to T.O.

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:29 AM ET

With the wilting women of tennis off to Montreal this year, Grant Connell is not afraid to make promises about men's star power in Toronto next month.

The first-year tournament director of the Rogers Cup -- Aug. 5-13 at the Rexall Centre at York University -- didn't hesitate when asked if he will promote the fact Wimbledon champion Roger Federer and runner-up Rafael Nadal are scheduled to compete in the tournament.

"Absolutely," Connell said at a news conference yesterday.

Tennis Canada was criticized last year for promoting appearances by such stars as Venus Williams, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova in Toronto, only to see those three and other big names drop out because of supposed injuries.

But the men's ATP tour has a much better record of delivering its stars to tier I events, like the Rogers Cup. The Canadian men's tournament in Montreal last year had nine of the top 10 players and the year before in Toronto each of the top 10 players showed up. The top 50 ATP players automatically are entered in this year's event.

Connell was asked yesterday if he felt the injuries at the women's event last year were legitimate.

"No comment," Connell, a one-time top-ranked ATP doubles player, said with a smile. "I wasn't there."

Connell attended Wimbledon earlier last week and got a sense history won't repeat itself.

"When I was walking the grounds and bumping into these people at Wimbledon, I wasn't asking the question, 'are you coming?'" Connell said. "I said, 'when are you coming? They said, 'I need a couple rooms, I need this, I need that.' On the men's tour, it's just not an issue."

Connell said the tournament will honour Andre Agassi, who will retire later this year, with a ceremony on the first day of the main draw Aug. 10. Agassi is scheduled to play here.

Tennis Canada also announced the players who will compete in a celebrity tournament Aug. 13. Nik Antropov of the Maple Leafs, Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators and CFL commissioner Tom Wright top the marquee.


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