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Tennis pumps up for crowds

Times Staff Writer

Tennis in Southern California is preparing for the payoff of Sunday’s history-making match between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

That domino effect didn’t come soon enough to help Raquel Giscafre and fellow promoter Jane Stratton, who for the first time in 25 years will not be holding their women’s tournament in La Costa, having sold it to the WTA.

But the epic battle in the Wimbledon men’s final, as well as the ratings in the women’s final between sisters Venus and Serena Williams, provided the promoters who had to give up their tournament a paradoxical silver lining amid the disappointment.

“We could watch Wimbledon without the nervousness of thinking, ‘We’re next. The people and players are coming soon,’ ” said Giscafre.

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That still is the case for Southern California tournament organizers, inspired by Nadal’s victory over Federer, which averaged a 4.6 rating and a 12 share according to overnight ratings. That was up 44% from last year’s Nadal-Federer final and the highest for Wimbledon final since Pete Sampras defeated Patrick Rafter in 2000.

The match should drive ticket sales for all upcoming tournaments, Giscafre and organizers of two other local tournaments said.

And that’s even if Nadal and Federer aren’t in them. The Countrywide Classic, scheduled for Aug. 4 to 10, won’t feature either player but tournament director Bob Kramer said that isn’t likely to stop larger crowds from showing up.

“With the strong response to the women’s final and the Federer-Nadal match, what a great display of tennis,” Kramer said. “Honestly, the Federer-Nadal match is going to be talked about for a long time, and it’s the kind of thing that is going to cause all boats to rise.”

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Michael Roth, vice president of communications for AEG, said the ripple effects of the match should help bring people to the Home Depot Center in Carson for the East West Bank Classic, a women’s tournament owned by AEG, from July 21 to 27.

“The men’s final helps our women’s tournament because a match like that makes tennis even more top-of-mind in this market and gets many more people watching and talking about tennis than there would usually be,” Roth said. “People who wouldn’t normally watch tennis were watching Sunday’s match.”

Federer and Nadal have come to Southern California to play at Indian Wells in spring, but neither has played in the Countrywide Classic.

“I think that they are so focused on winning these majors that they are very careful about how they schedule themselves around the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open,” Kramer said.

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The Williams sisters, who are Compton natives, are both scheduled to play in the East West Bank Classic.

At Wimbledon, Venus’ first victory over Serena in a Grand Slam event since 2001 generated a 3.4/10 overnight rating, up 21% from last year and scoring the highest rating for a women’s final since 2005, when Venus defeated Lindsay Davenport.

There’s always the possibility that one or both of the sisters, who are also scheduled to play in the Olympics, could pull out of the tournament. But Roth said there’s incentive to play.

“We know that this is a very important tournament personally to the Williams sisters and because of the schedule this summer, very important preparation for both the Olympics and the U.S. Open,” Roth said. “We have less concern over players pulling out than in previous years.”

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chris.hine@latimes.com


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