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.




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India’s Sumit Nagal Receives Sponsorship Boost After Revelling Financial Struggles



Image via https://twitter.com/nagalsumit/

A leading food and drink company has pledged to support India’s highest-ranked men’s player who was unable to train at his usual facility in Germany earlier this year due to a lack of money. 


Earlier this week world No.159 Sumit Nagal made a public plea for financial support to help him continue his career as a tennis player. In recent years he has been based at the Nansel Tennis Academy in Germany but was unable to train there during the first three months of the 2023 season due to a lack of funds. During this period he relied on his friends, including former player Somdev Devvarman, to help maintain his fitness. 

“If I look at my bank balance, I have what I had at the beginning of the year. It is 900 euros. I did get a bit of help. Mr Prashant Sutar is helping me with MAHA Tennis Foundation and I also get monthly (salary) from IOCL but I don’t have any big sponsor,” Nagal told the Press Trust of India.
“I am investing whatever I am making. The yearly cost where I travel with one coach is costing me around Rs 8 million to Rs 10 million (90,000-113,000 euros) and that is just with one travelling coach (no physio). Whatever I have made I have already invested,” he added.

Nagal, who is 26 years old, has reached the semi-finals of better at five tournaments on the lower-level Challenger Tour so far this season. His only Grand Slam result was at the US Open where he lost in the first round of qualifying to Taro Daniel. It was at the US Open where he took a set off Roger Federer before losing in 2019. 

Despite being the only player from his country to be ranked in the top 400, Nagal is currently not part of the Target Olympics Podium Scheme. An initiative set up by the Indian government to provide support to their top athletes.

After learning about Nagal’s ongoing struggles on the Tour, a leading company has decided to support the tennis player by signing a three-year deal with him. Gatorade specializes in sports drinks and is manufactured by PepsiCo. Under the deal, Nagal will receive support with his recovery and nutrition from experts at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI).  

“I am deeply moved and grateful to join hands with Gatorade. This association comes to me at a pivotal time, and I am thankful my hard work and passion is getting recognized and appreciated. With Gatorade by my side, I am sure I will reach new heights and give it my all both on and off the court,” the Indo-Asian News Service quoted Nagal as saying on Thursday. 

Speaking about the new partnership, Ankit Agarwal from PepsiCo India has hailed the collaboration. Agarwal is the company’s Associate Director of Energy & Hydration. 

“Sumit is a role model for the new-gen athletes of India with his career being a true example of hard work and sweat that makes talent shine,” he said.
“As a brand that is dedicated to supporting athletes in removing barriers to sporting success, we are delighted to welcome Sumit to the Gatorade squad.”

Nagal has been ranked as high as No.122 in the world. So far in his career, he has won four Challenger titles with two of those occurring this year in Italy and Finland. 

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(VIDEO): Malaga Line-Up Set As Davis Cup Most Unpredictable Tournament In History

UbiTennis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta explains why any of the eight teams in Malaga could win November’s Davis Cup Finals




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The Davis Cup quarter-final line-up is set after an incredible Group Stage over Bologna, Split, Manchester and Valencia.


Now eight teams remain including Novak Djokovic’s Serbia, Great Britain and Australia.

However surprise teams such as the Netherlands, Finland and the Czech Republic will also appear in the quarter-finals.

Ten-time champions Great Britain will face Serbia with the winners taking on the winner of the quarter-final between Italy and the Netherlands.

In the other half of the draw Canada will be heavy favourites against Finland while the Czech Republic face Australia.

The final eight tournament will take place in Malaga and will take place between the 21st and the 26th of November.

However this year’s Davis Cup could be the most unpredictable version in the tournament’s history with there being no Spain or USA.

It really could be anyone’ tournament with Tennis’ most prestigious team competition up for grabs in November.

In this video UbiTennis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta explains why this year’s Davis Cup finals could be the most unpredictable edition of all-time and why any of the teams could win the title.

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Simona Halep Claims Doing Ban Is ‘Based On Scenarios’ Without Proof




Former world No.1 Simona Halep has questioned the fairness of her anti-doping hearing after being suspended from the sport for four years. 


The two-time Grand Slam champion is suspended from tour events until 2026 after an independent tribunal concluded that the Romanian broke rules set out in Tennis’ anti-doping program. In a 126-page report by the International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA), investigators accepted that the collagen supplement taken by Halep – called Keto MCT – was contaminated with Roxadustat “on the balance of probability.” However, they stated that there must have been another source of Roxadustat based on the level detected in her sample taken during the 2022 US Open. 

Furthermore, three experts in the area said they have ‘a high degree of confidence‘ that there was not an ‘innocent explanation’ for the abnormalities detected in Halep’s Athlete’s Biological Passport (ABP). They reported that ‘likely doping’ occurred based on an analysis of 51 valid samples of Halep’s blood and rejected her explanation for the irregularity. The tennis star cited blood loss during surgery and spells when she was inactive as her defence. 

Despite the comprehensive ruling, Halep has insisted that she is innocent and never intentionally took any banned substances. During an interview with Front Office Sports on Monday, the 31-year-old claimed that the ITIA’s four-year ban handed to her was based on ‘scenarios’ instead of any proof. 

“I was confident after the hearing because there were so many things that made no sense and that are not fair,” she said.
“When I received the decision, I was in complete shock. I could not believe that they suspended me for four years when we found the contamination and my blood was totally normal. They didn’t find anything bad in my blood. It’s crazy that they made this decision with everything [her legal team presented]. They judged me on scenarios. There is no proof. It’s just insane.”

The ITIA originally requested a six-year ban for Halep due to what they described as ‘repetitive and sophisticated’ doping practices. She is accused of using blood doping to improve her performance during Wimbledon and the US Open last year. However, the report found it was not ‘completely satisfied’ that Halep has been doping since March 2022 despite there being ‘strong grounds for suspicion.’

As for the substance Roxadustat, Halep says she would have never deliberately taken the drug as it would ‘work against her.’ She says that the drug would have worsened a thyroid issue which she has been dealing with for several years. Front Office Sports referred to a European Medicines Agency study which finds a possible link between the drug and decreased thyroid function. 

“There was no point for me to take this,” Halep said. “It’d work against me. It wouldn’t help me.”

The study couldn’t establish how common this side effect is due to the amount of data available at the time. 

In the wake of Halep’s ban, some have publicly expressed their views on the matter. One of the most notable to do so was Serena Williams who wrote on social media ‘8 is a better number” in a jibe at her former opponent. The reference was to the 2019 Wimbledon final when seven-time champion Williams lost in straight sets to Halep. 

“I think everyone has the right to judge me because the tribunal decided that I have the fault here,” Halep commented. “Someone told me today that those players who are hating on me because I beat them.”

Halep is set to appeal against her ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). 

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