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

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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.

 

 

 

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Emma Raducanu Draws Inspiration From Andy Murray Ahead Of 2023

Emma Raducanu spoke about Andy Murray’s influence on her career.

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(@HeartThamesNews - Twitter)

Emma Raducanu has spoke about Andy Murray’s influence on her career and is optimistic about turning her form in 2023.

 

The former US Open hasn’t had too bad of an off-season after receiving her MBE for her services to sport.

Raducanu made history in 2021 as she won the US Open as a qualifier at 18 years of age.

However the Brit has yet to back that up with Raducanu changing coach on a number of occasions as she looks for some stability in 2023.

Speaking in a recent interview with Grazia Raducanu said that she believes that momentum can change quickly in tennis and that confidence is the key to success, “[In tennis] it could look like it’s all going down, down, down and just not getting any better,” Raducanu was quoted by tennishead as saying.

“Just one match can have a big influence on your confidence and once you have confidence and the momentum comes, you feel like you can’t lose. It’s a very individual sport – people are friendly but it’s difficult to be really close with those you’re competing with.”

One player that can relate to what Raducanu is saying is Andy Murray with confidence being a key theme of the highs and lows of Murray’s career.

Raducanu said that she talks to Murray regularly about the highs and lows of tennis, “Andy Murray is so good to talk to because he’s been through pretty much what I’ve been going through,” Raducanu said.

“I have always looked up to him and watched him winning his first Wimbledon and the Olympics.”

Raducanu will hope that she can use Murray’s words as inspiration for next season as she currently sits at 75 in the world.

The Brit will start her season in 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand on the 2nd of January.

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Fernando Verdasco Given Two Month Doping Ban

Fernando Verdasco has been banned from tennis until the 8th of January.

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Fernando Verdasco (@UniversTennis - Twitter)

Fernando Verdasco will miss the first week of the 2023 season after being provisionally suspended for two months after testing positive for the drug methylphenidate.

 

The former world number seven tested positive for the drug at the Challenger event in Rio De Janeiro and has accepted a voluntary ban until the 8th of January.

As well as testing positive for the drug methylphenidate, Verdasco had also forgot to renew his Therapeutic Use Exemption despite the Spaniard admitting that he was diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

In a statement published today the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA), explained why his ban has been shortened from two years to two months, “The ITIA accepts that the player did not intend to cheat, that his violation was inadvertent and unintentional, and that he bears no significant fault or negligence for it,” they said in a statement on his website.

“In the specific circumstances of this case, based on the player’s degree of fault the Tennis Anti-Doping Programme allows for the applicable period of ineligibility to be reduced from two years to two months.”

The 39 year-old will as a result miss the first week of the new season with the Spaniard being currently ranked at world number 125.

In 2022, Verdasco’s best results on the ATP tour were quarter-final performances in Buenos Aires and Estoril while he also won a challenger title in Monterrey in March.

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Canada Thumps Australia To Win Historic Davis Cup Title 

The dream of the North American team has finally become a reality.

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MALAGA, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 27: Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals 2022 at Palacio de Deportes Jose Maria Martin Carpena on November 27, 2022 in Malaga, Spain. (Photo by Silvestre Szpylma / Quality Sport Images / Kosmos Tennis)

109 years after making their Davis Cup debut, Canada has finally claimed the trophy after producing two clinical wins over Australia in the final on Sunday. 

 

The duo of Denis Shapovalov and Felix-Auger Aliassime both shined in their matches to give the North American nation an unassible 2-0 lead in the three-match tie. It is the first time Canada has won the title with 2022 being only the second time they have reached the final. Three years ago they missed out on the title to Spain. 

“The emotions are tough to describe,” said Auger-Aliassime. “All of us here, we’ve dreamt of this. All of these guys grew up together dreaming of this moment, dreaming of winning the Davis Cup. It’s a great moment for me and my country…. I am happy we were able to get our first Davis Cup with this group.”

Shapovalov kicked-off the final with a 90-minute 6-2, 6-4, win over Thanasi Kokkinakis who also lost his semi-final match against Borna Coric. The world No.18 blasted 28 winners past his opponent and broke him four times in the match. Besides handing Canada the crucial lead, it was a much-needed confidence boost for Shapovalov who earlier in the week lost to Lorenzo Sonego and Jan-Lennard Struff. 

“I’m very happy with my performance today,” said Shapovalov. “I had a long one against Sonego yesterday and was struggling with my back a little bit. So huge credit to the medical staff for putting me back in shape. There were a lot of doubts if I’d be ready to play today. It was amazing to play pain-free today.”

Closing in on the title, Felix Auger-Aliassime secured victory for his country with a 6-3, 6-4, triumph over world No.24 Alex de Minaur. Producing a total of six aces and saving all eight break points he faced. 

https://twitter.com/DavisCup/status/1596895388077674497

Canada’s run to their first title occurred with a bit of luck on their side. Originally they were eliminated from the finals after losing to the Netherlands at the start of this year. However, they received a wildcard to play in the group stages following the removal of Russia from the competition. Russia and Belarus are currently suspended from team events due to the war in Ukraine. 

In Group B they scored wins over South Korea and Spain to secure a place in the finale this week. Before dismissing Australia, they beat Italy 2-1 in the semi-finals and Germany 2-1 in the quarter-finals. 

“From juniors it was our dream, growing up watching Vasek (Pospisil), Milos (Raonic), and [Daniel Nestor] taking Canada to new [heights],” Shapovalov said. “We wanted to grow up and help the country win the first title. It’s so surreal right now. After we lost in the final in 2019, we really wanted this bad. It’s such a team effort; everyone was putting in 120 percent every day.”

Canada’s team captain is former player Frank Dancevic who has held the role since 2017. 

 “This is a historic moment,” Dancevic commented on the achievement. “We’ve never won this title in the past. It’s the first time for us. It’s an incredible feeling.”

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