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Halle’s Name Game

Seven days before the tournament that had been known as the Gerry Weber Open began in June of 2019, Noventi became the title sponsor. The agreement was for three years. But, little attention was paid to the fact the event would be the Noventi Open for only one year. The first announcement about the 2020 ATP 500 championships referred to the tournament as the “Grass Court Open Halle.” Here is a story that examines what may be happening at the Wimbledon lead-up that is set to be contested next June.

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In the second to the last week of September, members of the media received an announcement that Karen Khachanov would be one of the stars taking part in the ATP 500 championship, June 13-21, 2020 in Halle, Westfalen, Germany. Normally, calling attention to a tournament participant nine-months ahead of the event is regarded as little more than “doing business…”. It is usually simply a matter of drumming up interest. But, there was much more to the statement and it was easy to find. The press release headline – “Grass Court Open Halle”- all but took Khachanov, the 23-year-old Russian, out of the spotlight.

 

The heading was startling and perplexing. Particularly, after having witnessed what took place on June 8th this past spring. Seven days before the tournament that had been known for over twenty-five years as the Gerry Weber Open kicked off, Dr Sven Jansen, a company Board Member, and Tournament Director, Ralf Weber revealed that Noventi would become the title sponsor of the June 15-23 event. Dr. Jensen admitted that though negotiations had begun late, Noventi realized the setting would be perfect for the dynamic health care organization.  The company believed the tournament would provide the ideal public platform, which could lead to a “forward-looking partnership.” A partnership that was set out to be for three years.

After the conclusion of this year’s championship, many were under the impression that in the immediate future, Halle would be referred to as the Noventi Open. Now, it is clear that this isn’t the case. In order to find out why, I contacted the ATP to determine if the name had been officially changed to “Grass Court Open Halle”. I was told, “Yes, that is the current name of the tournament, which is also displayed on our 2020 calendar…”

Having attended the Gerry Weber Open since its 1993 inception (and my wife, Cheryl Jones, also a Ubitennis contributor, has been on hand for nineteen of the events), I was surprised by the abrupt switch. Looking for more details, I reached out to the tournament for an explanation.

In response, I was told,  “As we already published in our press release on June 8th regarding the title sponsorship for the 27th  tournament edition, Noventi has signed a three-year-contract, but the title sponsorship was only set for one year.”

Since the “one year only” fact had been, for the most part, glossed over, I looked to the Halle tennis community for more insight. The search led to the discovery that even as the tournament was being played in June, local media outlets were using “Grass Court Championships” when referring to the 2020 event. A September story pointed out that the company and the tournament were dealing with issues involving the complexity of the contract (whose contents are not publicly known). In the feature, the question was raised – Would Noventi go on as “a big sponsor at all.”

Looking at the initial press release from last June, Ralf Weber said, “The parties will discuss the details of the cooperation for the years 2020 and 2021 in autumn.” 

A tournament spokesperson admitted, “At the moment, contract negotiations are conducted with various companies.” 

Now, there are several questions. More to the point, to be trite, what does all of this mean?

For twenty-six years, Halle was one of the premier grass court tournaments leading up to Wimbledon. When Gerry Weber, the tournament founder, was at the top of his business game, his women’s fashion company set the standard for apparel. The designs were both appealing and affordable. Profits soared and as they did, Gerry Weber AG expanded, purchasing a variety of other companies. Unfortunately, several of them had sizeable debt. In recent years, rumors concerning growing financial difficulties began to circulate. Bankruptcy was in the offing.  The ominous cloud hanging over the tournament was the result of a combination of things including an economic slump brought about by the reality that the Gerry Weber line had lost touch with present day customers. The conundrum was made even worse by the growing concerns about Weber’s overall health. Simply stated, the ATP 500 was on life-supports and was sorely in need of a monetary transfusion.

Noventi came to the rescue. It stepped in to save the day and the 2019 tournament was an overall success. Now, the question must be asked – Was the involvement a “one and done”? What exactly will be the role of Germany’s largest healthcare provider?

Perhaps the answer lies in a comment made by Ralf Weber, in June, three days before the Noventi arrangement was announced. At the time, he said, “Today, Gerry Weber is just the name of a company to me. We focus on the tournament. I’m looking forward to a new partnership. It doesn’t matter to the fans, if it is Gerry Weber or another name?”

When it came to the September press release, the tournament admitted, “We chose the name ‘Grass Court Open Halle’ for the time of transition to sell tickets and promote our tournament. However, there is no new information, as the duration of the title sponsorship-deal with Noventi was already announced back in June. As soon as there is any news to publish regarding our title sponsorship 2020, everyone will know.”

According to the ATP,  “There is no such rule/limit when a change [to a tournament title] can take place”. Keeping that in mind, with the focus on ticket sales and promotion, will the  “Grass Court Open Halle” have the same appeal as the Gerry Weber Open or the Noventi Open?

Or will the tournament have yet another title before the first ball is hit on June 15, 2020?

Stay tuned… It will be interesting to see how the Halle’s Name Game works out.

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Wimbledon Announces Cancellation As Coronavirus Continues To Affect Tennis Calendar

For the first time since World War Two, Wimbledon has been cancelled.

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Wimbledon has announced it has cancelled this year’s tournament due to health fears over the coronavirus. 

 

This is the first time since world war two that the famous grass-court tournament at SW19 has been cancelled as the coronavirus continues to impact the tennis calendar.

In a statement, Wimbledon confirmed that the next edition of the tournament will occur in 2021, “It is with great regret that the Main Board of the All England Club (AELTC) and the Committee of Management of The Championships have today decided that The Championships 2020 will be cancelled due to public health concerns linked to the coronavirus epidemic,” they said on their website.

“The 134th Championships will instead be staged from 28 June to 11 July 2021. Uppermost in our mind has been the health and safety of all of those who come together to make Wimbledon happen – the public in the UK and visitors from around the world, our players, guests, members, staff, volunteers, partners, contractors, and local residents – as well as our broader responsibility to society’s efforts to tackle this global challenge to our way of life.

“Members of the public who paid for tickets in the Wimbledon Public Ballot for this year’s Championships will have their tickets refunded and will be offered the chance to purchase tickets for the same day and court for The Championships 2021. We will be communicating directly with all ticket-holders.”

Speaking on the decision, All-England Club chairman Ian Hewitt admitted that health and public safety was more important than tennis right now, “This is a decision that we have not taken lightly, and we have done so with the highest regard for public health and the wellbeing of all those who come together to make Wimbledon happen.”

“It has weighed heavily on our minds that the staging of The Championships has only been interrupted previously by World Wars but, following thorough and extensive consideration of all scenarios, we believe that it is a measure of this global crisis that it is ultimately the right decision to cancel this year’s Championships, and instead concentrate on how we can use the breadth of Wimbledon’s resources to help those in our local communities and beyond.”

As a result of today’s announcement, all grass-court tournaments in England and abroad have been cancelled as there will be no tennis until the 13th of July at the earliest.

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Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova splits with coach Sam Sumyk after seven months

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Sam Sumyk will no longer coach Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova. The Russian player got off to a good start to her 2020 season under the guidance of the French coach reached the quarter finals before losing to eventual finalist Garbine Muguruza at the Australian Open but she has split from the French coach after seven months. Sumyk has confirmed the news to the French tennis website We love tennis. Earlier this yera Pavlyuchenkova won 19 of her 27 matches and reached the final in Moscow in the seven months under the guidance of Sumyk.

 

Pavlyuchenkova won two Junior Grand Slam titles and became the Junior world number 1 at the age of 14 in 2006. She reached her career-high of world number 13 in July 2011. The Russian player has won 12 singles titles and 5 doubles titles. She also reached six quarter finals at Grand Slam level at the 2011 French Open, at the 2011 US Open, at Wimbledon 2016 and at the Australian Open in 2017, 2019 and 2020.

Sumik had previously coached two-time Australian champion Victoria Azarenka, former Wimbledon and Roland Garros champion Garbine Muguruza, former world number 2 Vera Zvonareva and 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard.

Under the guidane of Sumik Azarenka won her first Grand Slam title in 2012. The Belarusian player defended her title in Melbourne and climbed to the world number on eone year later.

The 53-year-old coach helped Muguruza clinch her maiden Grand Slam title at 2016 Roland Garros and Wimbledon in 2017.

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Jannik Sinner sets Pizza Challenge to raise funds against Covid-19

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Last year’s Next Gen Finals champion Jannik Sinner set Pizza Challenge to raise funds against Covid-19.

 

The Italian player announced the news that he will donate 10 Euros alongside Starwing Sports for every photo of a pizza that resembles himself or any past or present Italian figure to raise funds for medical supplies in Italy during the coronavirus pandemic. The goal is to help fight the spread of the virus.

Sinner is currently training in Monte-Carlo during the break due to the coronavirus pandemic. Last February Sinner reached his first ATP 500 quarter final in Rotterdam after scoring the biggest win of his career against world number 10 David Goffin. He earned his first Grand Slam main draw win of career against Max Purcell at the Australian Open.

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