An interesting item came across in my daily Bob Larson's Business News, having to do with the event that nobody really seems to care about, know about, or follow. I mean, of course, the Arag World Team Cup that is in progress this week at the Rochusclub in Dusseldorf. This event has been played continuously since 1978; this is the 32nd year that the event has been played at the Rochusclub. Yet the tournament gets so little credit or coverage that if asked the typical tennis fan to tell you what the Rochusclub is, and where it is, they'd probably say it's a club owned by Oliver and Christophe Rochus, in their home town of Namur, Belgium.
We know that Dusseldorf (that's in Germany) and WTC's problem - make that "problems" - are. It takes place the week before the start of the French Open, a week during which few of the top contenders at Roland Garros want to play anything more demanding than video games. It's also an international, nation-based team event, the ATP's own shadow Davis Cup. Also, you could be forgiven for thinking there's a television blackout in effect for WTC - at least it seems that way if you live in the U.S.
But you know what? This event has not only been a success, it's become an annual rite of spring in Dusseldorf, and I can think of, oh, 50 tournaments, including a few Masters Series events, that would kill to get the kind of support and respect the World Team Cup gets in the region where it is played (about 75,000 warm bodies find their way to the Rochusclub annually).
Just read this excerpt from Larson:
How proud is Dusseldorf of staging the Arag World Team Cup? Very, to the extent that even the street outside the Rochusclub has been painted in celebration.
Workers spent five hours, finally ending at midnight on the night before the event began, painting stencils on the highway to depict the tournament logo and the name of the champion team for every one of the previous 31 years of the tournament.
Such are the crowds that the tournament attracts, the road outside the club is closed off to all but access traffic and local residents, with most spectators walking up the road past the painted logos to the club entrance.
That makes Dusseldorf sound more like Wimbledon than Sopot, and once again the event is happily underway, oblivious to it's lack of international street cred in tennis. You may not get to watch the Roger Federers and Rafael Nadals of this world in WTC, but on a typical day (like this one), you'd be able to see Gilles Simon, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Sam Querrey, Juan Martin del Potro (fresh off his upset of Andy Murray), Janko Tipsarevic, Simon Bolelli, Robby Ginepri and a host of others. Here's their website if you want to check it out.
If you click on the "tournament" tab you'll learn that, among other things, the event is actually televised in over 200 countries (are there really that many?), it has an attractive round-robin format, the event stands as the annual sports highlight of the "social scene" in Dusseldorf and, in an item I love, the tournament: "Is unique and fascinating."
This event certainly deserves some props; it's one of the select few sub-Grand Slam events that people support regardless of who is - or isn't - in the draw. And for a tennis promoter, it doesn't get any better than that.
Okay, you know what to do. . .
PS - Getty seems impossibly slow today. . . Image to follow.