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
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.
Roger Federer On Davis Cup And Olympic Plans For 2020
The 38-year-old has provided some insight about his schedule for next year.
World No.3 Roger Federer has played down the chances of him playing in next year’s Davis Cup finals despite having representatives from Kosmos contact his team.
Federer is the only member of the Big Three to not be playing in this year’s team tournament, which has undergone a controversial revamp. For the first time in its 119-year history, the finals will take place over one week and feature 18 teams playing in a neutral location. The ties will feature two singles matches and one doubles in what will be a similar format to that of the football World Cup.
Efforts have been made to try and persuade the Swiss Maestro to play in the event. Gerard Pique, who is the founder of Kosmos, recently told Eurosport that attracting Federer to the event is one of his top priorities. Kosmos is the key financial backer of the Davis Cup revamp.
“Our main objective now is to see if he can play in 2020 if Switzerland qualify and he can join us and play Davis Cup.” Pique told Boris Becker on Eurosport.
“This would be great news, but right now as you can understand we are really focused on this event for this year because it will be the first time and want everything to be perfect.”
However, trying to get the Swiss player on board isn’t as easy as that. The 38-year-old once said the new structure has been made for ‘the future generation of players’ and not him. He has also warned against the Barcelona F.C player turning the event into the ‘Pique Cup.’ A term that bemused the Spaniard.
“It’s normal that he (Pique) has to say that. Regarding wildcards you can always talk like that. It is also normal for him to be questioned over and over again and to talk to my management from time to time.” Federer told the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger.
“But I do not necessarily plan on doing that, I do not necessarily have to play the Davis Cup. There are also no talks in progress, although in between it has been generally discussed.”
Since 1999, Federer has represented Switzerland in 27 Davis Cup ties. Although his last appearance was back in 2015. Along with Stan Wawrinka he helped guide his country to their first and only title in the tournament in 2014.
ATP Cup and Olympic duty
The new ITF-backed Davis Cup is facing rivalry from the ATP, who has brought back their team tournament for the first time since 2012. The ATP Cup is set to launch in January and will take place across three cities in Australia. The event has a prize money pool of $15 million and up to 750 ranking points up for grabs.
“I just hope that the Davis Cup Finals and then the ATP Cup will go well. Then you sit together and see how it goes on. Whether there should be these two cups forever, or whether there could be changes that would do the tennis good.” Said Federer.
“34 of the top 35 have confirmed for the ATP Cup, it also takes place on a good date. The Davis Cup should not be happy.” He added.
It also remains to be seen if Federer will play in the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games. Under current rules a player is required to play a certain number of Davis Cup ties within an Olympic cycle, which he hasn’t. However, he can potentially enter via appeal or a wild card. Something he will likely get.
“I planned 2020 season till Wimbledon so far, I already brought The Olympics up in the Team, they said, it‘s your decision, it‘s your career, I also talked with Mirka about it, I have a feeling that I will make a decision very soon.“
Federer, who is a four-time Olympian, hasn’t played an event in Japan since winning the 2006 Tokyo Open. Although he could be persuaded to return to the country in the near future by his sponsor Uniqlo. A Japanese clothing manufacturer that signed a 10-year deal with Federer worth millions.
Federer at the Olympic Games
-Sydney 2000 – fourth place in the singles
-Athens 2004 – reach round two in both singles and doubles
-Beijing 2008 – win Olympic gold in the doubles with Stan Wawrinka. Lost in the quarter-finals of the singles tournament.
-London 2012 – clinches a silver medal in the singles.
-Rio 2016 – did not play
In the immediate future, Federer’s focus is on the Laver Cup, which he co-founded. The third edition of the event will take place this weekend in Geneva, Switzerland.
Mikhail Kukushkin beat Italian Next Gen star Jannick Sinner in St. Petersburg
Mikhail Kukushkin beat 18-year-old Italian Next Gen rising star Jannick Sinner 6-3 7-6 (7-4) after 1 hour and 40 minutes. Kukushkin fended off nine of the eleven break points he faced.
Sinner, who turned 18 last month and received a wild-card to take part at the next November’s ATP Next Gen Finals in Milan, did not convert three break points in the first game, but Kukushkin saved them to hold his first game.
Kukushkin, who won his only title in St.Petersburg in 2010, was the first to break serve in the fourth game to open up a 4-1 lead. Sinner earned three break points but Kukushkin fended them off. Sinner saved a break point in the eighth game but Kukushkin served out the opening set on his first set point.
Kukushkin went up a break in the third game of the second set to take a 2-1 lead, Sinner converted his second break-back point to draw level to 2-2. Kukushkin got a break lead for the second time but Sinner rallied from the break down for the second time to draw level to 4-4. Sinner earned set point at 5-4 to force a decider, but Kukushkin saved it to draw level to 5-5. Kukushkin got a mini-break in the tie-break to win the tie-break 7-4.
Adrian Mannarino, who won his first ATP Tour title in s’Hertogenbosch, beat Stefano Travaglia 7-5 6-2 after 1 hour and 19 minutes. Travaglia held his first two service games at love and broke serve to open up a 4-1 lead. Mannarino converted his first break-back point for 3-4. Both players held their serve to draw level to 5-5. Travaglia saved a break point, but he made two double faults to drop his serve in the 11th game for 5-6. Mannarino served out the first set on his first point.
Travaglia saved a break point at the start of the second set, but Mannarino converted his second chance.
Travaglia earned two break-back points in the second game but did Mannarino saved them to open up a 2-0 lead. Mannarino went up a 3-0 lead. The Frenchman saved a break point in the sixth game to race out to a 5-1 lead and sealed the win on his first match point.
‘Looks Like He Should Be Suspended’ – Pat Rafter Questions ATP’s Management Of Nick Kyrgios
The former world No.1 is the latest person to speak out about the controversial player.
Two-time US Open champion Pat Rafter has cast shade on the governing body of men’s tennis over their management of Nick Kyrgios’ behaviour on the tour.
The Australian world No.27 had been facing a potential suspension by the ATP over a series of controversies. However, he has received no ban as of yet. During the Cincinnati Masters he was fined $113,000 for eight violations committed during his match against Russia’s Karen Khachanov. Ranging from unsportsmanlike conduct to walking off the court without permission.
A couple weeks later during the US Open Kyrgios accused the ATP of being ‘corrupt’ before clarifying his statement 24 hours later. Arguing that there are double standards in the game when it comes to some players.
Now the subject of an investigation, 46-year-old Rafter has questioned why Kyrgios has not been suspended from the tour yet.
“I don’t understand why it hasn’t happened,” Rafter said during the launch of the ATP Cup.
“There is obviously something else going on behind the scenes. I don’t know.
“On paper it looks like he should be suspended, to me.”
On the other hand, some would argue that banning the 24-year-old would be counterproductive. Despite his antics, Kyrgios has managed to become a household name in the sport. He also has the talent to challenge the best players in the world. In the past, he has defeated Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Although Rafter believes there is a fine line.
“That’s the other thing. He draws a crowd,” Rafter said.
“But at what stage do you say the crowd is more important? Or are you trying to uphold a certain standard or protocol for players to adhere to.”
Previously tennis legend Rod Laver was reportedly another person to speak in favour of handing Kyrgios another suspension. His first took place at the end of 2016. During an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald, Laver was quoted as saying ‘whatever they have done hasn’t worked so far, so maybe a suspension is the only answer.’
Whilst it looked as if the tennis legend backed punishing Kyrgios, he has since taken a different tone. In a recent interview with a Swiss newspaper, Laver said he was misquoted when talking about Kyrgios.
“I did not say that, I was misquoted by the Sydney Morning Herald.” He told Aargauer Zeitung.
“This was then misunderstood by others and went around without anyone talking to me to verify that statement. It’s true what I said to FOX Sports: I said Nick should not be banned.”
Kyrgios will return to action on Friday where he is taking part in the Laver Cup.
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