The Brisbane International’s inaugural finals matches will be played in front of stands packed to the Rafters in January.
The centre court at the new $82 million Queensland Tennis Centre has been named after local hero and two-time US Open champion Pat Rafter.
The 2002 Australian of the Year was taken aback by today’s announcement the 5,500-seat stadium would be known as Rafter Arena.
“It’s a huge honour,” Rafter said. “You never expect one of those things to happen.
“In Melbourne Park, we have the Rod Laver Arena and now to have an arena named after myself is huge.
“We’ve got a fantastic field coming here.”
Novak Djokovic, Marcos Baghdatis, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Ana Ivanovic are already confirmed for the Brisbane International – the city’s first major tennis tournament since 1994.
As well as holding the opening WTA and ATP event of 2009 from January 4-11, the Tennyson tennis precinct contains 23 courts, including four clay, two natural grass and 17 hardcourts.
Rafter was duly impressed by the centre and endorsed the modest size of the “beautiful arena” which he said allowed fans to get up close and personal with the top seeds.
“You’re going to be here and see the likes of Djokovic and Tsonga and those guys right up close and almost touch them,” he said.
“It’s a great idea and a great set up.”
The Queensland Government and Tennis Queensland declared the arena and centre would be ready on time and on budget for the maiden tournament.
Sports Minister Judy Spence hoped the venue would see a Davis Cup tie scheduled in Brisbane for the first time since Australia played Brazil in the 2000 semifinals on a makeshift grass court at ANZ Stadium.
Brisbane International Tournament Director Steve Ayles believed Rafter Arena was well set to host a Cup tie in the near future.
“This is a quality venue, unlike any other venue in Australia with all the surfaces,” Ayles said.
“I think it would be fantastic for Queensland after eight years to have the Davis Cup here again.
“I think there is a very strong chance.”
The Brisbane International, which precedes the Medibank International Sydney, will be televised by the Seven Network.