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ATP decides to hold off on all-star event, plans 2011 launch

The ATP World Tour will not stage an all-star festivity next month as it had previously announced, scuttling what would have been the first major public initiative of Executive Chairman Adam Helfant since he started the job 13 months ago.

The ATP now hopes to launch the event in 2011.

The sale of the tournament in Indian Wells, Calif., the BNP Paribas Open, which would have hosted the showcase, made planning the event a challenge. Oracle founder Larry Ellison in December purchased the tournament for more than $100 million.

“It really was the pending sale of the tournament,” said Kate Gordon, an ATP spokeswoman.

A source close to the ATP, however, said there were other factors. One was scheduling for the all-star competition. Because the women’s tournament starts earlier at Indian Wells than the men’s tournament, logistics were an issue. There was even some talk about having the all-star competition moved to London and The O2 dome, the source said.

A format for the all-star event was never finalized, so what the festivity would look like is unclear. Helfant talked about mimicking what’s seen at all-star events for team competitions, but some skeptics say an individual sport like tennis is not conducive to that kind of format.

“I don’t see what an all-star event is; I don’t see where it falls,” said sports event promoter John Korff, a former U.S. Tennis Association board member who also ran a well-regarded women’s tennis exhibition in New Jersey. “I guess I understand what they were trying to do because team sports have an all-star game. But golf doesn’t have an all-star game. Basically, [tennis’] all-star game is the season-ending championship.”

Helfant has been a behind-the-scenes actor since taking his position in January last year. His press conference at the U.S. Open in September, when he unveiled the all-star concept, was his coming-out party with the press.

Gordon said Helfant, a former Nike marketing executive, has spent his first year getting to know the issues in tennis, as well as the players and the tournaments. He also did not have a spokesperson until Gordon signed on last month. Most recently, Gordon was the United Kingdom head of sports and sponsorship for Edelman Public Relations.

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