Prize money from Madras event to go to relief effort

Updated: December 31, 2004, 3:00 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW DELHI -- The men's tennis tour and some of the sport's biggest names will join organizers of a Madras tournament next week in assisting victims of the tsunami that devastated India's south coast.

The ATP, the governing body of men's tennis, will donate the $25,000 sanctioning fee for the Chennai Open to UNICEF emergency efforts in the state of Tamil Nadu, of which Chennai is the capital.

Roger Federer, Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt, the three top-ranked players, will auction autographed rackets, with the money also going to UNICEF relief.

"We have all witnessed unimaginable scenes from South Asia the last few days," said Swedish star Jonas Bjorkman, who will play in Madras. "The horrific tragedy that has followed the earthquake at sea last Sunday is impossible to fully comprehend or put into words. But it is possible to act."

The Chennai Open, South Asia's lone ATP Tour event, begins Monday and runs through Jan. 9. The decision to proceed came after all the players confirmed they would compete and several said they wanted to donate prize money, tournament promoter Ravi Krishnan of International Management Group said Friday.

"We were naturally worried about the tournament's fate, but it's going to be played as originally scheduled," Krishnan told The Associated Press.

Madras has hosted the tournament the past seven years. The event will help launch the new season, with other tournaments in Adelaide, Australia, and Doha, Qatar.

"We have a deep connection with Asia," ATP chief executive Mark Miles said. "We hope that our activities and support via UNICEF relief efforts provide some help during this trying time."

The disaster so far has claimed 7,736 lives in India. A large number of the deaths occurred in the Tamil Nadu state.

"Madras has been a very good host, and we all now want to contribute to its effort to rehabilitate the disaster victims," Krishnan said.

In addition to Bjorkman, the 32-player field also features Carlos Moya of Spain, Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand and Rainer Schuettler of Germany.

"The first few weeks are critical, particularly for children," UNICEF executive director Carol Bellamy said. "So we are pleased that our developing relationship with ATP has provided some immediate benefit to a grieving nation."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press