SAA link with ATP grounded
Cash-strapped Tennis SA (TSA) on Monday received a further blow, with the termination of SA Airways' (SAA) five-year deal as the official ATP airline and title sponsor of the organisation's world rankings.
The deal – which provided South Africa and South African tennis with international exposure in more than 150 countries over the past five years – was worth approximately R320 million.
ATP executive chairman and president Brad Drewett announced that airline Emirates would replace SAA on a new five-year deal to come into effect at the start of 2013.
"The deal between the ATP and SAA was between the two organisations and did not directly involve the South African Tennis Association," TSA spokesman Bruce Davidson said.
"But it kept the focus on South Africa globally on a daily basis and indirectly was greatly beneficial for the country's tennis image.
"It was also SAA's link with the ATP that paved the way for the re-introduction of the South African Open on the world's premier circuit in 2009," he said.
SAA sponsored the event at Montecasino in Johannesburg for three years.
Without a major sponsor to replace SAA, the South African Open's presence on the ATP world tour was aborted in 2012. It would not continue in 2013.
Davidson confirmed the termination of SAA's link with the ATP had also ended the national airline's injection of finance into South African tennis.
Following a major overhaul in SAA's administration, the airline tried to terminate the deal with the ATP before its expiry at the end of 2012, as part of a major campaign to cut spending.
But the ATP turned down the request and held SAA to its commitment, pending the signing of a new airline partner and sponsor. This culminated in the link-up with Emirates and a switch in naming rights of the men's world rankings.