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Halle Tournament Director, Ralf Weber Looks Back & Ahead

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Roger Federer is often the biggest draw in Halle (Zimbio.com)

By Mark Winters

Tournament Director, Ralf Weber, at the end of every Gerry Weber Open, takes a breath and immediately begins planning to make the next tournament, the best of the ATP Tour’s 500 events. This was Halle’s twenty-fifth year, and Weber explained how important it was to make the Jubilee Celebration not only memorable, but truly special.

We decided to hold a Champions Trophy special event,” Weber said of the Saturday and Sunday activity that took place before the start of the tournament. “Michael Stich, Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Henri Leconte were some of the champions who were invited. German women, such as world No. 1, Angelique Kerber, Andrea Petkovic and up and coming talent, Luisa Meyer auf der Heide were integrated into the program. The spectator numbers, which were 31,400 enthusiastic fans, speak for themselves.

It was a great concept that completely worked out. Also, the ‘Weather God’ played along. It was a great, relaxed atmosphere on the whole site. The weekend was a total success in regard to tennis and socially as well.

Weber continued, “A small ceremony was held on Saturday, and I thought it was really great that ATP Chairman, Chris Kermode was a special guest and presented the tournament with the Heritage Award for its twenty-five years. Philip Brook, Chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, joined us and spoke about the special relationship between Wimbledon and Halle for the past twenty-five years.

As is the case annually, Halle attendance was up. “We expected approximately 115, 000 spectators.” Weber said. “We will set a new attendance record. We have never sold so many tickets, which is due to the attractive entertainment program that meets with the tastes of the spectators.

On a personal note, Weber pointed out, “Monday was very emotional when we said farewell to Tommy Haas. He was presented with the first Gerry Weber Open Award of Excellence, which Tommy more than deserved. He is the record attendee having competed at the tournament fifteen times. He did exceptional things for the tournament and won it twice. We wish him and his family a lot of luck, and all the best in his new function as a colleague (as Tournament Director of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California).”

Weber was delighted that eight German players were in the main draw, and that the ATP entry cutoff was the highest it ever had been, No.60. “The tournament has evolved internationally,” he said. “The draw has never been as good, with four of the top ten players participating. Of the top German pros, Alexander Zverev has really made a tremendous step. I am very happy he is here for the third time. He and his family feel good here. German tennis is very lucky to have another top ten player who has charisma, and has great potential to become a world star.

Roger Federer is the face of the Gerry Weber Open, but it is essential for the tournament to look toward the future, and Zverev is, indeed, tomorrow. Asked about solidifying his relationship with the event, Weber offered, “We have started discussions. His manager was here and I think we will finalize the matter during the next weeks. He not only feels good here, but most important, the tournament suits his calendar perfectly. He is only twenty-years-old so we will see if it will be a lifetime contract or an agreement over several years, which would make sense. If he keeps developing, it would be great if “Sascha” (Alexander) became the face of the Gerry Weber Open, putting his mark on the tournament.

With twenty-five years of success in the record book, Weber looked ahead saying, “The thing that distinguishes us is staying innovative; thinking about what and where we can improve; what we can make perfect. We have already decided that the Champions Trophy was a success and would like to carry on the program next year. Maybe we will we try a mixed doubles and a men’s doubles, and maybe combine it with a Pro-Am so that tennis fans can have the joy to be on court with former players.

He concluded, “We are in a very comfortable situation. We have the contract with Roger (Federer) and one with (Kei) Nishikori, who is important to us internationally, especially in Asia. We hope to announce agreements with other top players very soon, and we have already started ticket sales for 2018. Next year, there will be another leap as the prize money is getting close to two million Euros because we have an agreement to increase it eight percent every year.

 

 

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Novak Djokovic Withdraws From Masters 1000 Event In Madrid

Novak Djokovic will miss the Masters 1000 event in Madrid and will look to build up his Roland Garros preparations in Rome.

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Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from the Masters 1000 event in Madrid as he aims for quality over quantity in his bid for Roland Garros glory.

The world number one has had a rough start to the season by his standards as he is yet to win a title this season after a semi-final defeat to Jannik Sinner at the Australian Open.

Djokovic was hoping a change of surface would bring a change of fortunes but the Serb was defeated in three sets in the semi-finals of Monte-Carlo.

Now it seems that result has made Djokovic rethink his schedule as the current Roland Garros champion has withdrawn from Madrid.

No official reason has been given although the news seems to be not that surprising given Djokovic’s history in the Spanish capital.

The Serb hasn’t played since 2022, where he was beaten by Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals, and has now won the title there for five years.

It looks like Djokovic will be putting his faith into more favourable conditions in Rome, which is the most similar to Roland Garros in terms of conditions.

Djokovic is a six-time champion in the Italian capital and will aim for a seventh title when he plays there on the 8th of May.

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Thanasi Kokkinakis Questions ‘Insane’ Drug Testing

Thanasi Kokkinakis has been tested three times within the last six days.

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Thanasi Kokkinakis has questioned persistent drug testing after he revealed he was tested three times in six days.

The Australian is in good form at the moment having won the Sarasota Challenger in Florida.

Kokkinakis claimed glory with a three set win over Zizou Bergs in the final as he continues to climb the rankings.

However that glory has been overshadowed by the fact that Kokkinakis has revealed he was drug tested three times within a six day period.

The world number 94 described it as ‘insane’ and it comes after Alexandre Muller complained of persistent drug testing after his recent defeats.

Doping has been a huge topic of conversations with Simona Halep losing two years of her career after testing positive after the US Open before the Court Of Arbitration For Sport shortened her case.

Kokkinakis will be hoping that this is the last time he has to deal with persistent drug testing as he continues his clay court season.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas Saves Two Match Points To Extend Winning Streak In Barcelona

Stefanos Tsitsipas survived a scare to reach the Barcelona semi-finals.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas saved two match points to defeat Facundo Diaz Acosta 4-6 6-3 7-6(8) in Barcelona.

The former finalist saved two match points against the inspired Argentinian as Tsitsipas reached the semi-finals.

It means Tsitsipas is 9-0 in the clay court season and has the chance to set up a potential rematch with Casper Ruud in the final.

The duo met in last week’s Monte-Carlo final where Tsitsipas claimed his third title in Monaco.

Speaking after the match Tsitsipas admitted it was difficult to sustain his level, “I was coming close [to losing] at certain moments in the match. It seemed like a mountain,” Tsitsipas stated to the ATP website.

“I reminded myself that I have a headband that I wear here that has a mountain and that I need to climb it, so it kept me going. It was difficult. It was extremely difficult to sustain the same level throughout the entire match and I think he played incredible.

“I think he left everything out there. He is a good clay-court player. He has a title on the ATP Tour for a reason and today it was a level he was able to bring out on the court that made it quite obvious.

“I got a little bit tense on my serve, I won’t lie. I think I started decelerating a lot, but once I got a hold of that I was conscious of that, it went back to where it belonged and helped me a lot in the tie-breaker because if I didn’t figure it out, I don’t know. It was very mental in general. I really had to go to uncomfortable places mentally and go over the limit at some point.”

Tsitsipas is currently seven in the world in the live rankings as the Greek is looking to claim his first title in Barcelona.

Next up for the Greek will be either Dusan Lajovic or Arthur Fils while Tomas Martin Etcheverry takes on Casper Ruud in the other semi-final.

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