T.O. tourney beats odds

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

Grant Connell was beaming like a proud poppa.

His baby -- the 2006 Rogers Cup -- was a major success, drawing 155,290 fans through the gates and netting, in his estimation, about $1 million more in revenues than Tennis Canada officials originally had projected.

It was topped off yesterday by the victory of the world's No. 1-ranked player, Roger Federer, the perfect ending for a week of exhilarating tennis under sunny skies.

So much for the love-in, however.

Now the attention turns to the storm clouds hovering over the Rogers Cup women's event, which suffered a devastating blow with the withdrawal of five huge names in the past six days.

When action opens up in Montreal today, fan favourites Maria Sharapova, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Venus Williams, Amelie Mauresmo and Mary Pierce will be absent after informing officials of their decisions not to attend.

While the men's tournament at the Rexall Centre also absorbed its share of notable dropouts including Americans Andy Roddick and Andre Agassi, it still was buoyed by the presence of Federer, the sport's dominant player, and second-ranked Rafael Nadal, the apple of many a female eye.

"Obviously it's unfortunate for the fans in Montreal and for the people who put so much effort into it," Connell, the first-year tournament director of the men's event, said yesterday.

"But you have to understand, (the women's tour is) in a state of transition. They have a new CEO, Larry Scott, and a new president, Stacey Allaster. They are working around the clock to fix the situation."

The two events will be juxtaposed next year, with the women playing in Toronto and the men competing in Montreal.

"If anything I'm actually optimistic about the next go-around here in that (the problems) are going to be remedied because there are so many conversations and discussions going on right now about fixing it," Connell said.

"When the men's tour formed in 1990 we had some issues with growing pains as well. We were getting some more of the dropouts (while) the women's tour, as we all know, became extremely popular.

"It grew really fast and, as a result, it is kind of creaking a little bit now."

Much to the chagrin of Montreal tennis fans.


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