SPECIAL REPORT: Halle’s Silver Anniversary - UBITENNIS
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SPECIAL REPORT: Halle’s Silver Anniversary




On a day marked by exuberant sunshine and a matching temperature, Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany and Joao Sousa of Portugal kicked off the Silver Anniversary of the Gerry Weber Open in Halle, Germany. Playing on the, as of yet, unmarred grass of the Stadion Court, with the roof open showcasing cloudless skies, Kohlschreiber won the first six points of the match, but lost the first set, 6-3. Playing like the tournament champion that he was in 2011, he regained control and claimed the next two sets, 6-4, 6-4.


The number twenty-five is significant in a variety of disciplines. As an example, in science, it is the percentage of DNA overlap of a half-sibling and an array of family members, including a grandparent, grandchild, uncle, aunt and so on. The Book of Revelation notes that “the throne was surrounded by twenty-four other thrones.” In the Quran, twenty-five prophets are mentioned. It is the minimum age for election to the US House of Representatives. Pachisi (Hindi for twenty-five) is an India board game, and Twenty-Five is an Irish card game. There are twenty-five players on the roster of a Major League Baseball team, and though a Nippon Professional Baseball team has twenty-eight players, only twenty-five are eligible to participate in each game. Finally, it is not known if the number was lucky for Timothy Leary, but the Father of Psychedelic Drug popularity, was a leading advocate for the use of LSD, which is a portion of the name of the LSD-25 molecule.

To use a colloquialism from Leary’s time, members of the tennis community may have thought that Gerhard (Gerry) Weber, along with his son, Ralf, were “tripping…” when they launched the Gerry Weber Open, in 1993, the week following Roland Garros. (Udo Hardieck, a long-time Gerry Weber associate co-founded the tournament, but since its inception, he has chosen to stay out of the spotlight.)

Staging a Wimbledon warm-up grass court tournament in a small German town called Halle, (and there are two other cities in Germany with the same name) primarily known for its agricultural production, was risky. In the beginning, it appeared to be even more perilous because the ATP calendar dates were the same as the venerated Queen’s Club Championships, which began in 1884 in London. As things have turned out, the bold move by the Webers has proven to be very wise.

Along with my wife, Cheryl Jones, I have regularly been the only tennis journalist from the United States to attend the event over the past twenty-five years. As a result, I have a scrapbook full of Gerry Weber Open memories. One of the most indelible is the weather that washes Europe each June. At this time of year, rain becomes part of every tournament scheduling equation. In 1993, when the inaugural Gerry Weber Open was held, the weather conditions were typical. It was wet…and as those who follow the game realize, there are only some many “It rained again…” stories that can be written.

Being inventive and insightful has made Gerry Weber a clothing manufacturing legend, and very comfortable financially. Using his drive and creativity, along with Ralf’s industriousness, the 1994 tournament was a landmark occasion. A roof that could be closed in 88 seconds had been installed, making the Stadion the first in tennis with a cover. It goes without saying that rain, which continues to plague other venues, is not an issue in Halle.

Adding a closeable roof was a savvy move, but the Webers were even more shrewd when they signed Roger Federer to a lifetime contract. It has been a long-term investment that has been bountiful for all the parties involved. The Swiss icon is the tournament record holder, having won eight singles titles. Adding luster to the count, he was the Halle champion four years in a row (2003-06), and a few weeks later, the Wimbledon winner in each of those years.

Federer has appeared in ten Halle singles finals, which is more than any other player. He is also the only competitor to win both the singles and doubles, which he did with countryman, Yves Allegro in 2005. Not only is Federer a one-of-kind player, he is an extraordinary individual. In 2012, a Halle street was named in his honor. But, more importantly, he is fully aware of the responsibilities that come with the privilege of being Roger Federer.

An example of his understanding the role occurred in 2014. After he and his good friend from Basel, Marco Chiudinelli, received a walk over in their doubles match from Martin Emmrich of Germany and Andreas Seppi of Italy (who became ill), Federer was Federer. Realizing that it was “Ladies Day”, an event the tournament holds annually, and that many attendees were anxious to see him play, he suggested to the Webers that he and Chiudinelli hold an open practice session. It was hardly a surprise that each and every one of the 4,500 seats on Court I were filled for the entertaining exhibition that took place.

When it began, the Gerry Weber Open was an ATP World Series event. In 1998, it became an ATP International Series championship. Eleven years later it moved to the ATP World Tour 250 series level. In 2015, its status changed to an ATP World Tour 500 series tournament. At the same time, its ATP calendar dates changed to the second week following Roland Garros.

Stating the obvious, grass court tennis can only be as good as the grass it’s played on. Thanks to the talents of Phil Thorn, who is Halle’s “Keeper of the Grass”, the four tournament courts are among the best in tennis. (Thorn’s father, Jim Thorn performed his own brand of magic as the Head Groundskeeper at Wimbledon for decades.) Thorn is like a master chef. He has grass recipes that must pass playability tests annually. He is always looking for the perfect combination to guarantee that the outside courts, as well as the Gerry Weber Stadion Court itself, provide a consistent bounce when the first ball is hit to the final shot at the end of the tournament. Last year, after using various combinations of grass previously, he utilized pure rye grass and was pleased with the result.

In addition to the courts, Thorn has additional responsibilities. He and his crew of roughly ten individuals before the tournament begins, (that number swells to forty-five during the competition), maintain the elegant dark green and purple color combinations on the grounds of the facility. Wimbledon’s “look” has a long-standing reputation, but Halle, in its own way, matches it.

Looking back on literally hundreds of past matches, some are unforgettable. Two magical shot-makers and delightful personalities competed in the first Halle final. In that match, Henri Leconte of France routed Andrei Medvedev of Ukraine, 6-2, 6-3. In 1996, Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia was a finalist in a surprising loss to Nicklas Kulti of Sweden, who edged him for the title, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4. Kafelnikov became the Gerry Weber Open winner in 1997 and again in ’98. He added a third title in 2002.

Ivo Karlovic of Croatia broke a longstanding ATP record while competing against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic in 2015. It was almost incidental that he won the match 7-5, 6-7, 6-3 because he dispatched forty-five aces in the quarterfinal encounter.

Halle always features the best players in the men’s game. During the tournament, they stay at the Gerry Weber Sportspark Hotel, which is like a five-star resort featuring amenities that are not found at other ATP events. Competitors can literally step out of bed, throw some clothing on and enjoy gourmet meals in the hotel’s dining areas, a floor or two away. Even more important, they do not have to spend time in an automobile weaving through traffic to get to the facility. All the players need to do is take a short walk to the practice (some of which are covered) or match courts. While it is often difficult to reach an agreement on many things in tennis, tournament participants feel that the setting is one-of-a-kind.

After a day’s play is complete, attention turns to the “Tennistainment” programs that are featured on a huge stage in the plaza a short distance behind the Stadion Court. The concept is Ralf Weber’s and the entertainment caters to the music and cabaret tastes of the young, old and those in between.

The local community has played a significant role in making the Gerry Weber Open a special tennis experience. Almost everyone from Halle, and the surrounding area do everything they possibly can to support the event each year. Some even take time away from their regular jobs and use portions of their annual vacations to help out. That is why it is categorically a “People’s Tournament.”

Gerry and Ralf Weber, who is the Tournament Director, set out to create a tennis tournament that would be unrivaled. They have succeeded, beyond all expectations. This year’s June 19-June 25 event, with the following seeds: Roger Federer; Dominic Thiem of Austria; Kei Nishikori of Japan; Alexander Zverev of Germany; Gael Monfils of France; Lucas Pouille of France; Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain and Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain, will present an unforgettable Silver Anniversary celebration.





REPORT: Madrid Open To Be Axed Amid COVID-19 Concerns In Latest Setback For Tennis

Hopes of Spain holding their top tennis event in 2020 are over.




The world of tennis is set to suffer another severe blow with multiple media sources confirming that organisers of Spain’s most prestigious tennis tournament will officially cancel their event on Tuesday. 


The Mutua Madrid Open will be removed from the 2020 calendar following a meeting involving tournament owner Iron Tiriac. Recently doubts have been cast on the event after local health officials called for it to be suspended due to a spike in COVID-19 cases. Although the final decision was up to Tiriac and his team. It had been due to take place between September 12 to 20, following the conclusion of the US Open. 

“We have to be realistic now, we have to accept that health is always the priority. We must not endanger anyone, neither the fans, nor the players, nor the staff, all those who come to Madrid in September,” tournament director Feliciano Lopez told L’Equipe over the weekend. 

Spain has seen their rate of COVID-19 cases rapidly rise since the country ended its lockdown. According to El Pais, the number of cases recorded within 24 hours is eight times the amount compared to 40 days ago. Rising from 334 (June 20) to 2,789 (between July 29 and 30). On Friday July 31st there were 3092 new cases in the country in what is a post-lockdown record.

Held at the Caja Magica, the Madrid Open is a key event for both men and women. It is currently classed as a Masters 1000 for the men and as a Premier Mandatory for the women. Last year each of the singles champions took home €1,202,520 in prize money. It was originally set to be played in May but was postponed due to the pandemic.

The demise of Madrid this year is another setback for what is becoming a rapidly thinning 2020 tennis calendar. Within the past two weeks China has confirmed that they will not be hosting any tournaments this year, Japan’s scrapped it’s premier women’s event and the Italian Open has been advised to not allow any fans to their event this year. 

As a result of the latest development, only two WTA clay-court events will take place after the US Open leading up to Roland Garros. They are both set to get underway on September 21st in Rome and Strasbourg. As for the men, Rome will be their only point of call. 

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Fate Of Madrid Open To Be Decided This Week

Spain’s most prestigious tennis tournament looks to be in serious danger of getting the axe following recent developments.




There will be a final decision regarding this year’s Madrid’s Open within the next couple of days but hopes of the tournament going ahead are low, according to its tournament director.


Feliciano Lopez has spoken out about the current situation in an interview with the L’Equipe newspaper on Saturday. The mixed tournament has been thrown into doubt after the local council said it would be “inadvisable” for the tournament to be played in September because of the “health risks involved for the public, organization, and players.” Spain is currently experiencing a rise in COVID-19 cases amid concerns of a second wave. On Friday there were 3092 new cases in the country in what is a post-lockdown record.

“We were confident two months ago that the tournament would take place. The situation has worsened in the last two or three weeks in the Madrid region, not just in the city of Madrid, but in the whole region,” Lopez told L’Equipe.
“We have to be realistic now, we have to accept that health is always the priority. We must not endanger anyone, neither the fans, nor the players, nor the staff, all those who come to Madrid in September.”

A decision is set to be made within “two or three days” by tournament owner Ion Tiriac and Super Slam Ltd, the tournament’s licence holder. Tiriac is a Romanian billionaire businessman who is also a former tennis player. He won the 1970 French Open doubles title with compatriot Ilie Nastase.

Weighing up its chances, Lopez admits that he ‘isn’t optimistic’ that the Madrid Open will be able to go ahead. The event is currently classed as a Masters 1000 for the men and as a Premier Mandatory for the women. It was originally set to be played in May but was postponed due to the pandemic.

We are not very optimistic now. We were very positive a few weeks ago. We have a very good protocol, everything is ready, we worked hard to make the event take place, because it is also very important to offer tournaments to the players today.” Said Lopez.
“Last week, we had meetings with the government. Their recommendation is to cancel all events now during the summer. Of course, the decision is ours, it will be Ion’s. We have to work with everyone, the government, the ATP, the WTA and make the best decision for everyone. But we must also listen to the recommendations of the authorities, see how the situation is developing this week.”
He added.

Held on clay at the Caja Magica, the Madrid Open has been a combined event for the men and women since 2009. Last year Novak Djokovic and Kiki Bertens won the singles titles with them each taking home €1,202,520 in prize money.

Besides having the responsibility of the Madrid Open, world No.56 Lopez is continuing his career on the Tour at the age of 38. Questioned about the remaining 2020 season, the Spaniard admits there is a lot of uncertainty for all players. Tournament across Asia have already been cancelled due to the virus and recently the Italian Open was told at present they can’t allow fans to their tournament, which takes place the week after Madrid’s slot.

This season is already completely lost. But what will happen next year, when we still don’t have a vaccine? The situation will be exactly the same as now if we don’t have a vaccine! When is it going to end, I don’t know.” Lopez concluded.

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‘Think Of Others For Once’ – Nick Kyrgios Issues Warning To Rivals As He Withdraws From US Open

The world No.40 has once again took a swipe at Novak Djokovic’s ‘money-grabbing’ Adria Tour.




Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios has said he is pulling out of the US Open in respect of those in his home country as well as America who has lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.


The former top-20 player published a video outlining his reason for withdrawing from the event on the social media accounts of athlete empowerment brand Uninterrupted. During the video he once again made a swipe at Novak Djokovic and others over their ‘selfish’ involvement in the controversy-stricken Adria Tour. Which was criticised for a lack of anti-COVID measures before an outbreak of the virus among players and coaching staff occurred. Djokovic, Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Vikor Troicki all got infected.

“You can’t be dancing on tables, money-grabbing your way around Europe or trying to make a quick buck, hosting an exhibition. That’s just so selfish. Think of the other people for once. That’s what this virus is about,” he said.
“It doesn’t care about your world ranking or how much money you have. Act responsibly.”

Kyrgios has stated that he isn’t critical of the decision made by the United States Tennis Association to hold the event this year. Which will have on offer 90% of the prize money that was available during the 2019 tournament. Under strict measures, the tournament will be held behind closed doors for the first time in history with players kept in what is being described as a ‘protective bubble.’

“I have got no problem with the USTA putting on the US Open and if players want to go, that’s up to them, so long as everyone acts appropriately and acts safely,” he stated.
“No-one wants people to keep their jobs more than me.’
“I am speaking for the guy who works in the restaurants, the cleaners and the locker room attendants. These are the people who need their jobs back the most and fair play to them.”

The announcement comes shortly after women’s world No.1 Ash Barty announced that she wouldn’t be playing due to coronavirus concerns. Another Australian player, Alexi Popryin, have previously said he would not attend the event. Furthermore, Chinese world No.29 Wang Qiang has pulled out due to ‘travel and safety concerns.’

“To those players who have been observing the rules and acting selflessly, I say good luck to you. Play at your own risk, and I have no problem with that,” said Kyrgios.

The withdrawal ends Kyrgios’ streak of seven consecutive main draw appearance at Flushing Meadows. His best rest was reaching the third round on four separate occasions (2014, 2016, 2018 and 2019). Overall he has won eight out of 15 matches played in New York.

This year’s US Open will get underway on August 31st.

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