Australian Open Day 13: Naomi Osaka Conquerors The Australian Open - UBITENNIS
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Australian Open Day 13: Naomi Osaka Conquerors The Australian Open

Stuart Fraser from The Times chats with Ubitennis about Naomi Osaka’s triumph in Melbourne Park.

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After a second set blip that saw her failed to convert three consecutive match points, Naomi Osaka held her nerve to outlast Petra Kvitova in the final of the Australian Open. In doing so, Osaka is also set to rise to the top of the WTA rankings on Monday. Becoming the first Asian player in history to do so.

 

Journalist Stu Fraser looks back on Osaka’s latest triumph with Ubitennis’ director Ubaldo Scanagatta. The two also look ahead to Sunday’s men’s final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

Grand Slam

Stellar French International Club Cocktail Reception

The first Tuesday of Roland Garros annually features a morning cloud burst which soaks Paris, and in the evening the French International Club’s Cocktail Reception. Ubitennis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta, and Mark Winters and his wife Cheryl Jones, who are Ubitennis contributors, regularly attend the affair. Winters provides his impressions of this year’s May 28 th gathering.

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Photo taken by ubitennis

There is another consistency at Roland Garros, beside Rafael Nadal winning the Coupe des Mousquetaires on the final Sunday. (The Spaniard has now won twelve titles.) The first Tuesday of the tournament usually is replete with rain clouds that never seem to dampen the spirit of those in attendance at the French International Club’s Cocktail Reception. The morning weather on May 28th, sported puffy rain clouds. But this year’s downpour began with a blast of hail that softened to intermittent showers throughout the day.

 

Following the script of recent years, the storm actually abated before the 7:00 pm soirée, which is an annual activity supported by the Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT). Last year there was record setting attendance of near 300. Though an official account was not given for the 2019 gathering, it seemed to be nearly as large.

Thierry Pham is so polished that he would clearly be comfortable hosting the Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars. As President of the French IC and a member of the Executive Council of the International Clubs, he welcomed those in attendance. After his introductory remarks he turned the podium over to Bernard Giudicelli, President of the Fédération Française de Tennis and the Chairman of the French Davis Cup.

Giudicelli pointed out the changes that had been made at Stade Roland Garros, calling attention to the refurbishing of Court Philippe Chatrier and the addition of a new venue,  Court Simonne Mathieu, which is truly an architectural marvel. He added that next year, lights will be added to those two courts, along with Court Suzanne Lenglen, and Court No. 4. But, the pièce de résistance came with his revelation that in 2020, Court Philippe Chatrier would have a retractable roof.

There was an all-star cast on hand. There were so many “Who’s Who” tennis names that it would be impossible to mention everyone. Frew McMillian and his wife, Sally, were part of the mix. So, was Ubaldo Scanagatta, the effervescent Italian who plays an important role in his country’s IC.

Having first met Gail Beneditti, when she was coaching the elite French junior girls, including Amelie Mauresmo, the first question I ask when I see her at the affair is – Are you still undefeated in ITF senior competition? Year after year, her record has been unblemished. But much to my surprise she had finally lost a match. In the middle of May, Heidi Eisterlehner of Germany had downed the former Australian player, who is now a French citizen, in the Women’s 70 final at Cervia, Italy.

Among the Americans, who joined me, to enjoy the festivities were USIC President J. Donald Tansey and his wife, Marie, Jim Lowenstein, Carol McCracken and Mark Lindblom.

The always affable Francoise Dürr (Browning) lived for ten years in Phoenix, Arizona. Over twenty-five years ago, she returned to France and is now residing near Paris. Admitting that it had been a while since she had spoken English, the 1967 Roland Garros singles’ titlist shared wonderful insights regarding today’s “game.” She went on to offer recollections about the slams she had played, along with the special place in her heart that she has for Roland Garros. She extolled the tournament’s panache, along with the wonders of Paris, while chatting with “The Two Marks” (Lindblom and Winters).

While waiting to enter restaurant “Le Roland-Garros”, where the cocktail reception was held, I met Etienne Lecoeur of the French IC. We talked a little bit about our backgrounds. Then he mentioned his current focus – Cambodia. It seems as if Lecouer, the founder and CEO of DoubleSlash, a company that among other things provides assistance to needy communities around the world, has borrowed a page from Jean Borotra, who began the French IC in 1929. Borotra was known for his spirit, as well as his concern about the game and those who played it.

Lecoeur is attempting to bring tennis to the disadvantaged in Cambodia. His project is far reaching and insightful. Any USIC members interested in learning more about his plans should contact him at etienne@doubleslash.com

During his speech, Giudicelli noted, “The Fédération Française de Tennis has invested in the future. We have faced some difficulties, but there is a lot of support and passion in the organization (FFT).”

He concluded saying that he hoped everyone enjoyed Roland Garros this year and that they should plan on returning next year to see the new and improved Stade Roland Garros.

As everyone present agreed, 2020 will be memorable for the tournament as well as the French IC.

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ATP

Noventi Becomes Title Sponsor Of Gerry Weber Open

A lead-in for Wimbledon, for twenty-six years, the Gerry Weber Open offered
participants and fans grass court tennis at its finest. The tournament will survive
after a few hiccups had nearly squelched it, thanks to the intervention of Noventi.
Read what Mark Winters and Cheryl Jones have to say about the fabled event now
to be known as the Noventi Open.

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Mark Winters and Cheryl Jones

It seems like just yesterday, but in truth it was long ago…

 

On June 8th, I learned that Noventi had become the title sponsor of the Gerry
Weber Open. The announcement left me with the feeling that a dear friend had
passed. My relationship with the ATP Men’s 500 event, played in Halle, Germany,
as well as that of my wife, Cheryl Jones, who is also a tennis journalist, has always
been, well, to say it simply, matchless. Year after year, (save just a few when the
New York Times sent journalists), we have been the only American writers to
cover the championships.

Tennis history buffs known that the first Gerry Weber Open was played in 1993.
But few aficionados are aware that there are actually three towns called Halle, in
Germany. The tennis Halle, Westfalen to be specific, is a small speck on the map,
in the middle of a rolling countryside that is like an Impressionist’s painting of
agricultural fields and seemingly, yet to be explored forests.

The nearest city of name is Bielefeld. It sets its self apart because though it is
quaint, like Halle, it is bigger. Bigger buildings, more shops and a much bigger
population of over 333,000 compared to a hair more than 20,000 in Halle.

At the 1992 ATP World Championships, I learned that the following year Gerhard
(Gerry) Weber planned to stage a grass court tournament – in Germany, the week
after Roland Garros. To borrow a British colloquialism – I was “gobmacked.”

Why would anyone have the audacity to go up against “an institution” as Queen’s
seemed to be, which was the only “Lead Up” to Wimbledon at the time?

Weber, a trend setting clothing manufacturer for whom the tournament is named,
and his partner, Udo Hardieck took a big chance. Many in the tennis community
believed it was a risk that was similar to panning for gold and finding only gravel.
But, as it turned out, true gold was discovered.

After the inaugural year, in which rain plagued play, the Gerry Weber Stadion, (the
center court), made a startling change. A retractable roof that could be closed in a scant 90 seconds was added. In 1994, the tournament became the first tennis event
not forced to contend with those spring rains that makes the theme of tennis played
in Europe a reprise of “Raindrops keep falling on my head…”

Grass court maintenance requires genius. Annually, Phil Thorn lives up to the
sobriquet. Having learned the “ins and outs” of growing those lawns from his
father, Jim, who was responsible for the grass at Wimbledon for ages. The younger
Thorn has proudly maintained the family tradition. He has developed a superior
grass seed mix that withstands the rigors of closed roof play. He also developed a
palate system on which the grass is grown that is much more than an advanced
scientific marvel and it is remarkable.

To fill the Gerry Weber Stadion surface, four hundred palates are used. When dry,
they weigh around 800 kilos (1764 pounds). Damp, they are almost an American
ton – 2000 pounds.

Over the years, a “Who’s Who” collection of name players have populate the
tournament. But, simply put – Roger Federer is the Gerry Weber Open story. He is
a nine-time champion and has a life-time contract with the event. For the
tournament, that guarantees his annual appearance, and it has been money well
spent.

Unfortunately, Gerry Weber AG has not done well during the past decade. When
the owner was at the top of his game, his company’s fashion designs were eye-
catching and appealing to those looking for affordable couture. Cash filled the
coffers and Gerry Weber AG bought a collections of companies that had sizeable
debt. In recent years, rumors of shaky finances began to be heard, and at the same
time, Weber’s health took a turn. All of these circumstances combined to stagger
an established institution and led to its final financial collapse.

The tremors shook the Halle community to its core. The Gerry Weber Open was
long known as “The People’s Tournament”. It was a real family affair and locals
sacrificed vacation time to volunteer for the event. It was part of their souls and
their care provided an unrivaled “feel” for what took place for twenty-six years.
Cheryl and I have experienced the growth that took place from the beginning and
we have rich recollections, enough to make a very readable book, actually.

We are hopeful that the Halle event will flourish and will add a significant new
chapter, (an amendment, actually), to the passing of the Gerry Weber Open mantle
to an equally motivated Noventi.

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Halle Tournament Director Pays Tribute To ‘Irreplaceable’ Roger Federer

Ralf Weber explains how he plans to maintain the tournament’s high attendance after the former world No.1 retires.

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Roger Federer’s presence at next week’s Noventi Open in Halle is one tournament organisers are both celebrating and relishing.

 

The 20-time grand slam champion is set to play in the tournament for the 17th time in his career. Federer, who has won the title a record nine times, last missed the tournament back in 2011 due to a groin injury. In 2010 he signed a contract to play in Halle each year for the rest of his career. Two years after signing the contract, he had a street named in his honour in the region.

There is no doubt the Swiss Maestro is a star attraction for the tournament, which is run by director Ralf Weber. Although at the age of 37, Weber knows that Federer’s presence will only continue for a few years at best.

“There will be no successor who can replace him one on one,” he told newspaper Westfalen Blatt.
“You do not have to fool yourself. What Roger Federer has done and still achieves is above all else.
“Everyone will have a hard time saying ‘I’m stepping into those footsteps now’.

Preparing for life without the world No.3, Weber is hoping to prevent any potential decline in interest with the help of the rising stars of the game and local talent. Germany currently has four players ranked in the top 100 on the ATP Tour, however, Alexander Zverev in the only one under the age of 25. Florian Mayer was the last home player to win the title back in 2016.

“So, looking at the whole tournament, we have to make sure that we – as this year – have a great mix of world stars, German pros and players of the so-called Next Generation, the stars of tomorrow.” Weber explained.
“Our viewers want to see attractive tennis. We want to offer that to them.”

So far in his career, Federer has achieved an overall win-loss record of 63-7 at the event. Reaching the semi-final stage 14 consecutive times. He has never lost before the quarter-final in Halle since his debut back in 2000.

“It seems almost natural to us that a world star like Roger Federer plays here in Halle every year,” Weber reflected.
“But many 500 tournaments will never get the chance that they will ever be seen there at all.
“That we can present Roger Federer in Halle is something very special.”

Last year 115,000 people visited the tournament in what was an attendance record for Halle. This year’s edition has a total financial commitment of 2.1 million euros. Besides Federer, Dominic Thiem, Zverev and Kei Nishikori are all set to take part.

The Noventi Open will get underway on Monday.

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