In 2000, the CEO of Lateral Events was at a small restaurant in Paddington in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, with a couple of old friends from the ATP. Eventually, the conversation turned to the ATP’s plans to take its season-ending tournament at which the top eight ranked players in the world vie for the World No. 1 ranking, ‘on the road’, after 10 years of being staged in Germany. Baggs was immediately interested.
In 2000, the jewel in the ATP’s crown would be rotated to different leading cities around the world, with potential host cities undergoing a bidding process similar to the Olympics Games.
Putting together any great event requires a dedicated team effort. The original vision may belong to one person, but the implementation occurs through the efforts of hundreds of people.
After leaving the dinner at the Paddington restaurant that night Baggs pondered the idea of bidding for and staging the Tennis Masters Cup (now called the ATP World Finals) in Sydney, using the facilities that had been built at Sydney Olympic Park and leveraging the legacy of the Olympics.
The first thing he did was to involve long-time friend Malcolm Clyde, a financier and an expert in leisure projects to help put together the bid’s commercial and financial details.
Discussions were held with John Rose, the Manager for Strategic Events at the NSW Government’s Tourism NSW (now called Destinations NSW), who took the idea to his Chairman Sam Fiszman. Fiszman had also recently been appointed as Chairman of the NSW Government’s Major Events Board, specifically set up by NSW Premier Bob Carr to identify and bid for major international events.
Discussions were held with the ATP, ITF and Grand Slams, the co-owners of the Tennis Masters Cup, as well as Tennis Australia, Tennis NSW and Frank Sartor, the Lord Mayor of Sydney. The 16,000 seat SuperDome (now called the Allphones Arena) was identified as the perfect venue for an event as prestigious as the season ending tournament, which is traditionally held indoors. Tennis officials visited Sydney to review the city and its facilities.
In June 2000 Baggs, Rose and Clyde travelled to Wimbledon to present their formal bid. Competition was stiff. Many major cities had expressed interest in hosting the Tennis Masters Cup. Gradually the cities were whittled down to two bidders.
On the eve of the Sydney Olympics, which coincided with the final weekend of the US Open at Flushing Meadows in New York, the decision was made. Baggs was having trouble sleeping at home in Sydney. In the early hours he received a phone call from Brad Drewett of the ATP. “Simon, you’ll be happy I woke you” said Drewett. “The winner is Sydney!”
Later that afternoon, Pat Rafter and Premier Bob Carr made the announcement to a packed press conference.
A special-purpose company, Sydney Tennis Pty Ltd was set up to manage the event and an Executive Committee was established with representation from the ATP, ITF, Lateral Events, Harlestone, the NSW Government, Tennis NSW and special adviser Colin Stubbs.
At the 2001 Tennis Masters Cup Lleyton Hewitt claimed the World No. 1 crown at the tournament before the largest audience for tennis in Sydney’s history.
All from a dinner in Paddington.
Extracted from an article by Craig Gabriel