open revved up

Meshack Motloung

Meshack Motloung

Car manufacturer Mercedes- Benz has announced a R1,5 million sponsorship of the SAA Tennis Open in East London.

The event, that went to sleep for more than 10 years, was revived last year when it was played in Durban.

The sponsorship is for one season with the option to renew for the next two years, provided East London remains the host city.

The tournament will be played at the newly renovated Selborne Park Tennis Stadium in East London, starting from February 11-17.

It will be the first time that the city hosts an international tennis tournament.

The spokesman for the sponsors Gradhna Padayachee, said as a long-term resident of the city, the company wanted to promote sports tourism and to encourage the community to take part in the sport.

"We would like to create awareness and invest in the region," she said.

East London is fast becoming an economic hub with great investment potential. Mercedes- Benz has been operating in the region for 60 years,

Les Holbrook from the Border-Kei Chamber of Business, estimates that the tournament will generate R5million in revenue for the region.

SAA chief executive Khaya Ngqula said it was an honour to have Mercedes-Benz as part of the SAA team during the Open.

"We greatly admire them for the value they have added to the lives of residents in the area over the last few decades and for the positive contribution they have made to South Africa's economy," Ngqula said.

"The involvement of Mercedes-Benz in the SAA Tennis Open will further boost SAA's efforts to elevate the game of tennis in South Africa and add to the excitement of the tournament."

The Eastern Cape government and Buffalo City Municipality are also among the sponsors.

The South African Club Championships as well as an international wheelchair tennis tournament will be running alongside the Open.

These will be played on the outside courts at the same time as South Africa's premier tennis event.

Last year's SAA Open singles title was won by Mathieu Montcourt of France, who beat local boy Rik de Voest in the final.