Perhaps there was a little bit of unintended foreshadowing in my interview a few months ago with Bob Kramer, tournament director of the Farmers Classic event in Los Angeles, when at the end of our conversation, I threw in the following question for him.
ATN: So if Andy Murray called you up and said he wanted a wildcard into the event, would that be a possibility?
KRAMER: We’d have to think long and hard about that and then say yes (laughs).
Well it looks like that decision became a reality for Kramer who had to deal with the last minute withdrawal of former top seed Novak Djokovic due to personal reasons. In Hollywood, having one big star take the place of another prior to the start of filming is nothing new. With Andy Murray stepping in to replace the charismatic Djokovic, it will definitely add a different flavor for the tourney that’s looking to rebound from the absence of another early commitment, Juan Martin Del Potro. But Murray’s name recognition, along with concerts featuring Keith Urban and Bret Michaels and an exhibition match featuring John McEnroe against Andre Agassi, should actually enhance the star power only appropriate for an event taking place in the world’s entertainment capital.
One of the oldest professional tennis tournaments, the L.A. Tennis Open, now known as the Farmers Classic, has a long history of legendary players winning the event including Rod Laver, Pete Sampras, Stefan Edberg and many more. But perhaps due to the growing popularity and prominence of the dual WTA/ATP event in Indian Wells in early March along with a lack of big names showing up in recent years, especially 2009 when the top seed was Tommy Haas, L.A. has struggled to find its place on the summer hard court season especially considering it takes place in the second largest city in the United States.
But it looks like a concerted effort was made to ramp up the star power on all levels, including the addition of the two concerts mentioned earlier along with the exhibition between Agassi and McEnroe. And while it’s not clear if Djokovic’s 11th hour withdrawal will hurt ticket sales, it will be interesting to see how Murray flying in from Miami to “save the day” so to speak will impact the event. Murray certainly knows something about enduring criticism after his own late withdrawal from Marseilles earlier this year earned him a rough tongue-lashing from that event’s director, so maybe this is Murray’s chance to show that he does indeed care about smaller events.
Aside from Murray, other players to watch for include defending champion Sam Querrey who’s looking to have another successful summer hard court season, Ernests Gulbis, who’s making a return after dealing with a hamstring injury that kept him out of Wimbledon along with Feliciano Lopez, Marcos Baghdatis and Janko Tipaservic. Throw in Americans Mardy Fish, James Blake and Robby Ginepri and you’ve got a decent lineup in the draw sure to please many fans.
In L.A., it’s all about being seen with the right people at the right time. And for an event that can literally see the Hollywood sign from the highest point in the stadium, it’s probably fitting that Murray, who’s earn some good-natured ribbing for his less than convincing rapping on the Bryan Brothers’s song “Autograph”, finally gets a chance to shine under Tinseltown’s bright spotlight.
For more information about the Farmers Classic, click here.