The biggest sports tournament in Moscow has made its way to the Olympiisky Stadium, bringing a who's who of the tennis world, a variety of sponsors and a lot of money. And although a couple of big U.S. names have pulled out of the action, Kremlin Cup organizers said they still expect an action-packed tournament.
U.S. Open and Wimbledon champ Venus Williams and No. 3-ranked Lindsay Davenport said they would not be competing because of the terrorists attacks in America on Sept. 11. "We definitely cannot substitute for Williams and Davenport ... but we respect their concerns about traveling," said Alexei Selivanenko, director of the WTA or women's side of the tournament.
On the men's ATP side, Russia's Yevgeny Kafelnikov is expected to defend his 2000 championship, battling fellow Russian Marat Safin for the hearts of the hometown fans.
The Kremlin Cup, founded in 1990 by Swiss businessman Sasson Kakshouri, will this year award more than $2.1 million in prize money. Players will compete indoors on a Taraflex surface from Sept. 29 to Oct. 7.
Regular tickets cost between 10 and 1,200 rubles. VIP and premium tickets for the qualifying draw of the first two days will be between 50 rubles and $10. For later sessoins, VIP tickets will go for between 3,000 rubles and $900.
The Kremlin Cup is one of the few international tournaments to hold men's and women's events simultaneously.
The women's event appears to be the stronger of the two. World No. 1 Martina Hingis of Switzerland is expected to return to defend her title from last year. She will be challenged by No. 5 Kim Clijsters of Belgium and France's Amelie Mauresmo (6) and Nathalie Tauziat (10).
Organizers also promise that Russia's Anna Kournikova, one of the world's top drawing cards, will compete. She has missed much of the season due to injuries but was expected to return to action this week.
Two other emerging Russian women stars, Yelena Dementieva and Yelena Likhovtseva, are seeded and scheduled to play. Russian women on the qualifying list are Lina Krasnoroutskaya, Nadia Petrova, Tatiana Panova and Yelena Bovina they will battle in the qualifying round for a spot in the regular tournament.
Kafelnikov, a four-time Kremlin Cup winner, hopes to bounce back from some recent losses, most notably to Lleyton Hewitt at the U.S. Open and to Marat Safin at the all-Russian ATP final in Uzbekistan. Safin, after a recent U.S. Open loss to Pete Sampras, is also scheduled to play.
Officials said that Wimbledon champ Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia is likely to compete in the qualifying rounds and bid for a chance to join the seeded players in the main portions of the tournament.
In addition to Safin and Kafelnikov, several Russian men are on the alternate list hoping to qualify: Mikhail Youzhny, Andrei Stoliarov, Nikolay Davydenko, Dmitry Tursunov, Sergei Krotiouk and German Berkovich.
(Further information is available on the tournament's Website: www.kremlincup.ru.)