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Nadal to play in 'Peg?

MTS Centre could host Davis Cup tie

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One of the best tennis players in history could be wearing his country's colours at the MTS Centre in a few months if the stars align for Bruce Waschuk.

 

The president of Tennis Manitoba is putting a full-court press on Tennis Canada to host its Davis Cup tie against Spain next February in Winnipeg.

"We've been slowly doing international tennis in Winnipeg for the last three years," Waschuk said, referring to a trio of International Tennis Federation junior tournaments and a "futures" event last month at Sargent Park Tennis Club. "This is the next logical step."

Winnipeg is most definitely on the short list of potential hosts, according to Tennis Canada president and CEO, Michael Downey.

"We're looking at half-dozen cities. We're going through the criteria we need. We want to win the tie. Where do our players want to play? There's no doubt Winnipeg's cold weather in February would be an advantage against our guests from Spain," he said.

Canada has qualified in the Davis Cup's top 16 countries for the second year in a row. The reward is playing the top-ranked Spaniards.

Spain's undisputed leader is Rafael Nadal, currently the No. 4 player in the world and holder of 11 Grand Slam titles, including seven at the French Open. He has been out for several months with a leg injury but it's hoped he'll be back shortly.

Even though Winnipeg has no history hosting tennis events of this magnitude, the city's over-the-top support of the Jets last season will definitely help the pitch, Downey said.

"We want to know we're going to a marketplace that has great tennis fans and a great sporting history. The fact Winnipeg came back to the NHL last year and did so well is important. Winnipeg was the place to be last year. Even though we're a different sport, it says something about the fans," he said.

True North Sports & Entertainment is looking to put as many non-hockey events in the MTS Centre as possible, provided they're appropriate for the market. Regardless of what happens with the NHL lockout, the building is open for the necessary dates, Feb. 1-3, and for the week beforehand (when players from both countries would need to practice.)

There have been very few professional tennis events in Winnipeg over the years.

In 1987, Boris Becker took on Kevin Curren in an exhibition match (with an undercard featuring Vitas Gerulaitis and Canada's top-ranked player at the time, Andrew Sznajder) and ten years ago, Monica Seles played Anna Kournikova.

Both exhibitions were held at the Winnipeg Arena.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 26, 2012 C6

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