Tournament Founder Gerhard (Gerry) Weber Saluted By DTB - UBITENNIS
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Tournament Founder Gerhard (Gerry) Weber Saluted By DTB

Gerhard (Gerry) Weber was honoured in Halle this week.

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Gerhard Weber was Honoured this week in Halle.

By Mark Winters

For twenty-five years during the Gerry Weber Open, Thursday evening was traditionally reserved for a Media Party. Frank Hofen, the widely appreciated and truly loved Media Director, radiated joy because he so enjoyed doing his job. Annually he (with the tournament’s blessing) saluted a group of journalists and photographers at these gatherings. (Cheryl Jones and I were the International Journalists recognized in 2012).

Hofen, who spent twenty-five years in his position retired following the 2017 tournament, and Sascha Detlefsen, his long-time assistant, has now assumed Media Director responsibilities. Ever-friendly and gregarious, he decided, along with Gerry Weber Open tournament officials, to stage a Media Brunch, on June 19th, at the Gerry Weber Open Sportpark Hotel instead of holding a dinner. It was also decided to salute an individual in the tennis community, at large, who had truly made a difference rather than focus on media members.

In Halle Westfalen, the tournament’s home, there is no one who has done as much for tennis and the local economy than Gerhard (Gerry) Weber. A monumentally successful women’s clothing manufacturer, he founded Hatex KG, (which became Gerry Weber in 1989 and is now Gerry Weber International) with close friend and business partner, Udo Hardieck, in 1973.

Twenty-years of success in the business world led Weber, who is an avid recreational tennis player, (a crafty left-hander to be precise) to make a decision. In 1992, he, along with his son, Ralf, organized a $25,000 ATP Challenger event on the terre battue courts at TC Blau-Weiss, (basically, their club then as it is now, and Ralf is a member of an outstanding Bundesliga Men’s 50 team). Gerry Weber had made his mark in the women’s fashion industry. He accomplished that by creating five “ladies fashion” lines offering affordable prices for everyone. Because of his business savvy, coupled with the success enjoyed by the initial tournament, he fully believed that team Weber was ready to host an ATP event.

The organization that in effect, rules men’s tennis agreed and said the week after Roland Garros was open. The only problem was the time frame that in those days, was merely a week before Wimbledon. Staging a tournament on the surface, when the terre battue season was for all intents and purposes, completed, made no sense at all.

So, the Webers decided to initiate the first grass court tennis tournament in northern Germany – and he has admitted, “people thought we were crazy”. The Gerry Weber Open, (Halle as most tennis aficionados call the championship), began in 1993. Given the spring weather Europe that meant rain, and plenty of it. Gerry Weber got wet the first year, but being a man of action, he came up with a solution – Put a closeable roof over center court.

The project was completed in time for the 1994 tournament, which delighted the 12,300 spectators who can be seated in Gerry Weber Stadion. They remained dry whenever the skies opened up. Since then the Gerry Weber Open, and its multipurpose center court, have become storied.

According to Pliny the Elder, “Home is where the heart is” and that is certainly the case with Gerry Weber, and Ralf too. Halle is their base, and this is clearly seen in the way the local populations supports the championship. In fact, Halle is “the peoples’ tournament.” It is because the Webers do their utmost to encourage local endeavors, whether they are individual or group efforts.

Today, the Deutscher Tennis Bund (DTB) recognized all that Gerry Weber has done for the game and the Halle community. Ulrich Klaus, DTB President, honored the 77-year-old. Klaus noted how pleased he was to give the award to such a special individual who had done so much for tennis fans, but also for youngsters as well as adult and seniors who play the game. (It is further significant because the DTB has only presented the accolade on one other occasion.)

When Weber had an opportunity to speak, his enthusiasm was evident. His recollections were revealing and humorous. He mentioned a call he had received from an individual who lived near the Gerry Weber Open facility who was unhappy with someone singing very loudly. He told the caller to open all the windows in the house because it would be an opportunity to listen to Pavarotti sing, and it would be absolutely free.

He touched on how proud he was that the tournament has progressed so far since its beginning. He pointed out that the Gerry Weber Open has gotten better and better each year, and now it enjoys international respect.

And, all these years later, the same can be said of Gerry Weber.

 

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World No.32 Davidovich Fokina Replaces Long-Time Coach With Verdasco

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Fernando Verdasco was spotted earlier this week briefly watching Ons Jabeur play at the French Open but his focus this year is on another player.

The former top 10 player has landed a new coaching job after being hired by compatriot Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Somebody who he once played a Tour-level doubles match alongside back in 2020. Fokina has opted to stop working with Jorge Aguirre, who has been his mentor since he was a child.

The change comes after what has been a mixed start to the season for Fokina who has only managed to win back-to-back matches in two out of 11 tournaments played before the start of Roland Garros. His sole win over a top 20 player occurred at the start of 2024 when he beat Hubert Hurkacz at the United Cup.  

“I will be very brief. I have left it with Jorge (Aguirre) and I start with Verdasco, with whom I have had a good relationship for years. He has not officially retired, but I knew that he was training other players and it was time,” Fokina told reporters after beating Valentin Vacherot in the first round of the French Open.
“It was time to close a stage and start a new one. With his experience, Verdasco can help me a lot to face the games, to assume that pressure and tension of the competition.”

Verdasco has won seven ATP titles during his career and reached the semi-finals of the 2009 Australian Open. At this year’s Madrid Open, he briefly helped Jabeur whose main coach Issam Jellali was unable to attend the tournament. 

Fokina will next play Casper Ruud in Roland Garros.

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Roland Garros 2024: Casper Ruud Explains Geneva Decision, Martin Etcheverry Talks Roland Garros And Djokovic Influence

Two-time finalist Casper Ruud is into the second round with a straight sets win over Felipe Meligeni Alves.

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Casper Ruud has explained the decision behind playing in Geneva last week after he defeated Felipe Meligeni Alves 6-3 6-4 6-3.

The world number seven is into the second round after a straight sets win over the Brazilian qualifier.

Ruud has reached the final the past two occasions here having lost to Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in those respective finals.

Now the Norwegian is targeting more success in Paris this year and spoke about his opening round performance after the match, “Yeah, I was honestly very happy. I think it was a good start,” Ruud stated in his press conference.

“I think Felipe is a dangerous player, and obviously I didn’t know him so well. So not easy to know what’s going to come out of his racquet. I think he was firing pretty good serves and forehands.

“Overall, I think it was a pretty high-quality match and happy to be through in straight sets. That’s just what I was kind of hoping and looking for. Yeah, I’m very happy to be through.”

Given Ruud’s history at Roland Garros, there would be no reason to suggest that the Norwegian would need to play his way into form.

However that’s exactly what he did in Geneva the week before Roland Garros as he won the title in Switzerland.

After his opening round match Ruud was asked about why he always plays in Geneva instead of practicing on-site in Paris, “No, I decide based on the fact that I enter the tournament, and with the purpose of going. But of course, if you do super well in Madrid and Rome and you play, let’s say, 10 matches or more within those two weeks or the two tournaments, maybe, depending on how your body feels, it’s kind of easier to skip it,” Ruud explained.

“But that wasn’t the case for me in Madrid and Rome. I played only four matches there. I lost early in Rome. If I didn’t play Geneva I would have had 17 or 18 days since I lost in Rome until starting in Roland Garros, which in my eyes, my feeling, is just a bit too much. For some players, they don’t think it’s too much. They don’t have a problem with it.

“But for me I like going into tournament kind of mode and feeling in the zone when you’re playing an official match. That’s why I like playing. It gives me kind of confidence and match feeling going into a Grand Slam, which is the Grand Slam that I personally feel like I have the most chances to do well in.”

Ruud will aim to continue his good run of form when he takes on Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the second round.

Martin Etcheverry Speaks On Roland Garros And Djokovic Influence

Finally Tomas Martin Etcheverry defeated Arthur Cazaux in four sets to seal his place in the second round.

The Argentinian is a big Novak Djokovic fan and after the match spoke about his love for Roland Garros and has tipped Djokovic to win this year’s tournament, “I think it’s my favorite tournament since I was a child, and I always want to play here,” Martin Etcheverry explained.

“This is a moment of the year that I want to be here and try to play my best tennis because I want to get a good result here.

“Yeah, is he my idol, and he is the No. 1 of the world. I don’t know, like six years right now. Yeah, I always try to watch him, trying to improve the game. I always trying to saw him. Yeah, I think he’s going to be No. 1 a lot of time. I don’t know if they have a good year this year, but I think it’s Novak Djokovic. Maybe he can win this tournament.”

Martin Etcheverry will play another Frenchman in the form of Arthur Rinderknech in the second round with Ruud being the potential third round opponent.

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Grand Slam Quarter-Finalist Van De Zandschulp Pondering Retirement After French Open Exit

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image via https://x.com/Boticvdz/

Botic van de Zandschulp has revealed he is losing his passion for tennis and is considering retiring from the sport following his exit from the French Open on Monday.

The 29-year-old was knocked out of the tournament in straight sets by Fabio Fognini, who eased his way to a 6-1, 6-1, 7-5, victory. It is the second Grand Slam in a row where he has fallen at the first hurdle with the 2022 Wimbledon championships being the last major event where he won back-to-back matches.   

“I don’t look forward to competitions at all anymore,” Zandschulp told Dutch media.
“I have been asking myself more and more lately whether I want to continue.
“You have to do work that you enjoy. Everyone has a bad day every now and then. But if there are too many, then you have to ask yourself whether you want to continue.” 

Zandschulp has been the top-ranked player in his country with his most notable achievement being a run to the quarter-finals of the 2021 US Open. The former world No.22 is a two-time runner-up at the Munich Open but is yet to win an ATP Tour title. He has registered a total of six wins over top 10 players, including Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev. 

However, recent difficulties on the Tour have left the Dutchman questioning if he wants to continue playing.  

“I like the training. Those are great days. But when I get up in the morning, I no longer look forward to the matches at all.” He commented.

Zandschulp’s remarks could be a reaction to his frustrating loss to Fognini. However, he confirmed that he has been considering retiring for a long time. 

“It was the worst match I have played in my life,” he said. 
“Of course, it is now fresh after the match. That plays a role in my mind, but the thoughts of quitting have been there for a long time. It is not an easy life as a tennis player. You really live your life, play thirty weeks a year and travel from pillar to post.
“If you don’t play, someone else will pass you by (in the rankings). That’s why I now play extra tournaments instead of charging myself at home.”

Zandschulp is currently ranked 102nd in the world and is scheduled to play in the French Open doubles event on Tuesday.

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