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Thailand or Malaysian Open Tennis 2009

For the last couple of years tennis fans in South East Asia were pretty much restricted to the Thailand Open held in Bangkok. In 2005, Vietnam did try to follow suit by hosting the Vietnam tennis Open, but that didn't really pick up as they failed to really attract big name tennis players to their event. The Thailand Open had been the only premier tennis event in South East Asia that has hosted the likes of current number one Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and most recently Rafael Nadal as well as other big name tennis players. No other South East Asian country had come close to hosting a world class ATP event in such a scale and managing to attract such big name players but this year, the outlook seems very much different as Malaysia is set to stage its first inaugural Malaysian Open held in Kuala Lumpur.

When it was announced in June 2009 that Malaysia was hosting its first ATP World Tour 250 event I wasn't really surprised. I believe tennis fans all around South East Asia wanted to see more tennis and big tennis names showcase their talents in this part of the region. Malaysia had been also slowly but surely gaining experience by having an ATP Challenger Event in 2007 in addition to bringing some exhibition tennis matches which I documented in my article on the "Clash of Times" match between Pete Sampras and Roger Federer and the "Clash of Titans" match between Rafael Nadal and Richard Gasquet.

Showdown of Champions tennis event 2008 might have set the stage of bigger things to come...

In 2008 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was again the venue for another exhibition match dubbed the "Show Down of Champions" between Roger Federer, James Blake and former tennis legends John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. I soon realized that this was a prelude of more to come. My guess was that the organizers in Malaysia wanted to the test the market in addition to gain the invaluable experience of organizing world class tennis events and getting all the logistics, planning and getting the right training for the event staff and volunteers which culminated to the 2009 Malaysian Open ATP World Tour event. Learning the ropes to organizing a world class tennis tournament doesn't happen overnight. It requires lots of preparation and planing unlike in the case of the one off exhibition match held in Singapore between Maria Sharapova and Anna Chakvetadze which in my opinion was very poorly organized. I felt that Malaysia did the right thing by having these exhibition matches to gain all the necessary experience to stage a world class ATP tennis event and to attract bigger name players.

All their efforts seems to be working as they have managed to get new and former players to have graced the Thailand Open in the previous years and looks to have upstaged even its more illustrious counter part the Thailand Open which until today have only 3 confirm names such as Rafael Nadal, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Marat Safin whom signed up prior the announcement of the Malaysian Open.

The Malaysian Open 2009 ATP event in KL has attracted many of the worlds top tennis players.

So far the Malaysian Open has managed to attract the likes of:

Berdych, Tomas (CZE) - Previously played at the Thailand Open
Davydenko, Nikolay (RUS)
Ferrer, David (ESP)
Gonzalez, Fernando (CHI)
Hewitt, Lleyton (AUS) - Previously played at the Thailand Open
Monfils, Gael (FRA) - Previously played at the Thailand Open
Nishikori, Kei (JPN)
Soderling, Robin (SWE) - Previously played at the Thailand Open
Verdasco, Fernando (ESP) - Previously played at the Thailand Open

The Thailand Open 2009 seems to be losing out, as up till today only 3 top level players have been confirmed.

Mind you these players are no push overs and are considered big name players. The first thought was why so many established players keen on showing up at this inaugural Malaysian Open tennis event in Kuala Lumper, Malaysia? Well the answer is fairly straight forward and simple. If you want big names to show up what's in it for them? A check on the ATP website shows the Thailand Open ($ 608,500) is paying a considerably lesser payout in terms of prize money amount compared to the Malaysian Open ($ 850,000) it is no wonder that most of the big name tennis players are flocking to the Malaysian Open!

The Malaysian Open has attracted much interest in the social media front from both Facebook and Twitter.

In terms of online marketing, I believe the Malaysian Open marketing and PR team made a very smart move. They employed social media techniques. Remember President's Barrack Obama's social media campaign during his elections which many believed was a decisive factor in winning him the US Presidency? Being a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Consultant by profession and having worked in the online industry for over a decade, I immediately realized that the Malaysian Open had addressed one of the biggest issues by engaging people and driving traffic to their website. They have been creating a social buzz and network about the upcoming Malaysian Open tennis event by having both a presence on Facebook - Malaysian Open and Twitter - Malaysian Open. There is also a blog page which is still currently under construction. The Thailand Open is unfortunately not capitalizing on any of the social media fronts. They only have a Thailand Open Events page on Facebook.

The Malaysian Open engages in social media with Twitter and Facebook

My question now is what will be Thailand Open's response to the Malaysian Open challenge? Engaging the social media aspect is a relatively easy thing to do if you have a good online marketing team to promote it. Aside from the social media aspect, how is the Thailand Open going to attract bigger names to Bangkok? The most logical answer to that would be to increase the prize money next year. In terms of competition the Malaysian Open will be a very serious threat for the Thailand Open, both the Thailand and Malaysian Open tennis events will be held on exactly the same day 28 September to 4 October. Both events clash on the same dates so in terms of ticket sales, both tournaments will be competing against each other. For a tennis fan who is based in South East Asia or Asia, I would most definitely want to go to a tennis tournament which offers me the best value for money in terms of ticket pricing and getting to see the top players in action.

Currently the Thailand Open doesn't seem to offer this and one would be more inclined to give it a pass and opt for the Malaysian Open instead. I have been a long supporter of the Thailand Open and I try to go every year (I will be attending this year) but if all the top notch players decide to play in Malaysia instead I don't see the reason in attending Thailand Open tennis events in the future where there will only be 2 to 3 big names playing against a field of relatively unknown players.

Its a pity that both the Thailand Open and Malaysian Open tennis ATP events are also held at the exact same dates. If the organizers had staggered them a week or a couple of weeks apart, there will be surely more fans like myself wanting to attend both tournaments. I am sure that there are reasons why the ATP holds both these events tournament on the same dates and have dedicated certain days that can accommodate the ATP schedule thus these dates might be already fixed and cannot be easily changed to hold these two events at two different times.

In conclusion, I hope that the Thailand Open management will work on increasing its prize money and to try to win back both the players and fans alike and engage more on the social media front to develop and increase its potential fan base that they are currently losing out to the Malaysian Open.

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