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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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Kiki Bertens Believes In Stability And Trust Ahead Of 2020 Season

Kiki Bertens looks for stability in hope of grand slam success in 2020.

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Kiki Bertens (@rogerscup - Twitter)

Kiki Bertens believes stability and trust is the key to success ahead of the 2020 season despite a time of change for the Dutchwoman. 

 

A time of change is approaching for Kiki Bertens as she recently just got married to her physical trainer Remko De Rijke.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5iU5w9hTgf/

It’s not only off the court, change is approaching for the former Wimbledon quarter-finalist as her and coach Raemon Sluiter parted ways during the off-season.

After the split it would have been easy for Bertens to make a radical change to her coaching team but that is not her style as she has promoted Elise Tamaela to a main coaching role.

Even through a time of change, Bertens believes stability is crucial to success, “It takes me a while to be able to trust someone,” she admitted to Dutch website De Telegraaf. 

“And I don’t want to spend that time on something like that. We’re going to continue in the same way for next year. The results were not as expected in the Grand Slams but I had other good weeks. It’s really not that I felt different playing in the Slams than in other weeks in which I could win titles.”

Although the formula to winning a grand slam has yet to be solved, the world number nine has achieved great consistency having won 55 matches in 2019, which also included the biggest title of her career in Madrid.

A new era await for Bertens with her new coach and plenty of praise was given to Elise Tamaela ahead of the new season, “For me the most important thing is that that person knows a lot about tennis. I have to be able to fully trust her,” Bertens said.

“To be able to laugh with that person, eat with her. I prefer to keep the equipment to the minimum possible and be able to feel comfortable in terms of confidence. Sometimes more people in the team only bring more opinions. And that style is not mine.”

This simplistic formula has worked for Bertens in the past and as the 2020 season approaches, she’s not looking to change it.

However will inexperience lead to the same results at grand slams, with the level of the Women’s game rising, Bertens may find that breaking the boundaries of stability is needed.

The former world number four will start her march towards more glory in Brisbane on the 6th of January.

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Caroline Wozniacki Announces Retirement After Australian Open

Caroline Wozniacki has announced that she will retire from tennis after the Australian Open in January.

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Caroline Wozniacki (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Caroline Wozniacki has announced that she will retire from tennis after the Australian Open as a new chapter in her life approaches. 

 

The Dane won 30 WTA singles titles in her career and spent 71 weeks as world number one although a grand slam had haunted her for most of her career.

However that changed in 2018 after an epic win over Simona Halep sealed a dream come true as she won her first grand slam at the Australian Open.

Since winning her maiden slam though, it has been an uphill struggle on the court for Wozniacki as she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

Some days the former world number one and on some days, it is a constant battle for her to even wake up in the morning.

Now with other priorities taking over having been married to former NBA player David Lee since June and already studying Business at Harvard, Wozniacki today took the decision to retire from tennis after the Australian Open.

https://twitter.com/MPTenisPodcast/status/1202972268831367168

In a statement on Instagram, Woznaicki told her followers that she had accomplished everything she wanted to and looks forward to the future, “I’ve accomplished everything I could ever dream of on the court,” she said.

“I’ve always told myself, when the time comes, that there are things away from tennis that I want to do more, then it’s time to be done. In recent months, I’ve realized that there is a lot more in life that I’d like to accomplish off the court.

“Getting married to David was one of those goals and starting a family with him while continuing to travel the world and helping raise awareness about rheumatoid arthritis (project upcoming) are all passions of mine moving forward.

“This has nothing to do with my health and this isn’t a goodbye, I look forward to sharing my exciting journey ahead with all of you!

“Finally, I want to thank with all my heart, the fans, my friends, my sponsors, my team, especially my father as my coach, my husband, and my family for decades of support! Without all of you I could have never have done this!”

Although this retirement may have been coming, not many people would have predicted it would come at the scene of her grand slam breakthrough.

Now in the last stretch of her career, the Dane will want to finish on a high as she looks to celebrate a career that has lasted nearly 15 years.

 

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Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep and Venus Williams are the stand-out names in Adelaide

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Four top 10 players Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova and Kiki Bertens and former Grand Slam champions Venus Williams and Angelique Kerber will grab the headlines at the Adelaide International from 12 to 18 January 2020.

 

A total of seven Grand Slam champions and five former world number one players will take part in the Adelaide WTA tourament.

This year’s Roland Garros champion Ashleigh Barty leads a star-studded line-up, which includes 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, Kiki Bertens and seven other members of the top 20.

The Main Draw also features Sofia Kenin, Alison Riske, Sloane Stephens and Danielle Collins, World Number 30 Quang Wang. World Number 12 and this Rome WTA Premier finalist Johanna Konta will play her first tournament since the US Open following a knee injury.

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams has been announced as the Top 20 wildcard.

“It is always exciting to play at a new tournament in front of new fans. I have had so many memorable times times in Australia over the years and I am looking forward to discovering Adelaide and all it has to offer”, said Venus Williams.

The men’s line-up includes 2019 Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic, Alex De Minaur, Lucas Pouille and Andrey Rublev.

“The full list of players is a real who’s who of tennis, from Australia’s favourite Ashleigh Barty to the iconic Venus Williams, right through to the young talent of Alex De Minaur and the experienced campaigner Novak Djokovic in the men’s field”, said South Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment David Ridgway.

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