Australian hard-court tournaments set to merge in '09

SYDNEY, Australia -- Two of Australia's oldest tournaments will merge into one in 2009 as part of a proposal to streamline the lead-up schedule to the Australian Open.

The Australian men's and women's hard-court championships, which have been held respectively at Adelaide and the Gold Coast, will be combined in one event at Brisbane.

The tournament will be held at a state-of-the-art tennis center yet to be constructed and played on the same Rebound Ace surface used for the Australian Open.

"The worldwide trend in tennis is moving towards more and more combined tournaments where the public get to see the top men and women playing in the one venue," Tennis Australia chief executive Steve Wood said in a statement.

Wood said the new tournament still had to be approved by the ATP and WTA but plans were to hold it in early January, two weeks before the Australian Open, sandwiched between the Hopman Cup and the Sydney and Hobart Internationals.

Tennis Australia officials said the men's hardcourt championships would remain at Adelaide and the Gold Coast for the next two seasons but the Canberra Classic had already been dropped from next year's schedule.