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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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Rafael Nadal Looking For More Accuracy After Cruising Past Delbonis

Rafael Nadal has explained where he needs to improve as he continued to impress on his march to the Australian Open third round.

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Rafael Nadal (@AustralianOpen - Twitter)

Rafael Nadal is looking to be more accurate on break points despite cruising past Federico Delbonis 6-3 7-6(4) 6-1 at the Australian Open. 

 

The Spaniard hit 33 winners and broke Delbonis on three occasions as he produced a dominant display to reach the last 32 in Melbourne.

However even though there were many positives for Nadal, the 31 year-old only managed to convert 15% of his break point opportunities which could be concerning heading into the second week.

Speaking after his win today, Nadal told the media that he is constantly looking to be better and will hope to address the issue in the near future, “Well, I think I can do lot of things better,” Nadal claimed.

“I can do things better because of myself. I need to play better. Especially I need to convert the breakpoints. I was not able to check the statistics, but when you are not able to convert no one breakpoint after I don’t know how many chance, of course you are in trouble.

“I have been practicing a little bit better everyday. Of course, on the match situation, is a little bit different. I am confident that I going to play better because every day in the third set I have been able to show a good level of tennis. I need to do it before the next time.”

Obviously there is a cause for concern that Nadal will need a better break point conversion rate in time for the later rounds but it shows how great a champion Nadal is when he sees areas like this for a need to improve.

The 2009 champion will look to improve his return in time for his next match on Saturday when he plays 27th seed and Compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta.

It is a match, Nadal will look to make a statement in ahead of the second week as he looks to make a third final in four years.

Should the Spaniard reach the second week, he could face Nick Kyrgios at the start of the week and the Australian once again showed his public disdain for Nadal by mocking his serve in his four set win over Gilles Simon.

https://twitter.com/doublefault28/status/1220272894183444480

When asked about it in his press conference, the 19-time grand slam champion saw the funny side, “I really don’t care. I am here to play tennis. Honestly, I don’t care at all. If was funny, good. That’s it.”

Should Nadal and Kyrgios face each other it will be the first time since the Spaniard won a high-quality affair at Wimbledon last year in four sets.

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Alexander Zverev Continues Melbourne March After Ousting Gerasimov

Alexander Zverev marched into the last 32 of the Australian Open with a straight sets win over Egor Gerasimov.

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Alexander Zverev (@AustralianOpen - Twitter)

Alexander Zverev defeated Egor Gerasimov 7-6(5) 6-4 7-5 to continue his march at the Australian Open. 

 

The German is surprisingly yet to drop a set after two rounds at this year’s Australian Open as he secured victory over Egor Gerasimov.

It was a solid start to the match from Zverev as he served well and looked to finish the points off at the net in a confident opening set.

However on return the same mistakes reoccurred with a lack of aggression especially becoming apparent as he failed to convert any of the six break points created in the opening few return games.

As for Gerasimov, he recovered in the latter stages of the set to produce more efficient service games as he looked to dominate on first serve.

But a lack of threatening returns meant that no break point opportunities were created for the Belarusian as a tiebreak was needed to separate the two players.

The 7th seed won five of the first six points and the last two points of the tiebreak to edge into a set lead after 51 minutes.

It was more of the same in the second set for Zverev who couldn’t be aggressive enough when it really mattered as he wasted two more break point opportunities.

There was sign of increased confidence for the German as he used a lot of variety in his shots to keep Gerasimov constantly thinking.

In the end Zverev’s pressure paid off as on the tenth break point of the match, he converted and roared to his camp as he sealed the second set.

Despite his good serving, the world number 98 found it difficult to break the rhythm and flow of Zverev during the match as some unforced errors cost him the break in the fourth game.

Some old habits still remain the same for Zverev though as a sloppy service game while serving for the match gave Gerasimov some hope.

But the result was academic at this point and a third break of serve secured another straight sets win as well as a place in the last 32.

Another great match from the German, who has so far avoided dramatic grand slam matches and conserved energy as he looks to make a statement for later on in the tournament.

Next for Zverev will be either Nikoloz Basilashvili or Fernando Verdasco on Saturday, who will provide more firepower for the German to try and contend with.

 

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Australian Open Day 4 Preview: Five Must-See Matches

Yesterday’s heat will be replaced by much cooler conditions, but the wind will continue to make its presence known around the grounds.

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A day before seeded players start to run into each other in the singles draws, many top seeds will be considerable favourites on Thursday. Rafael Nadal, Simona Halep, Karolina Pliskova, Daniil Medvedev, and Dominic Thiem should all advance without significant trouble. So let’s take a look at the seeded player who will face some dangerous floaters on Day 4.

 

Belinda Bencic (6) vs. Jelena Ostapenko
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Ostapenko claimed their only previous meeting in 2018 at Indian Wells. However, both players are in very different players two years on. After years of battling injuries, Bencic finally returned to the top 10 last season. Her 2019 was highlighted by 50 match wins, two titles, and her first Major semifinal at the US Open. By contrast, the 2017 French Open champion had a losing record last year. Ostapenko has been racking up the unforced errors and double faults on tour. Bencic is by far the steadier player, with much more variety in her game. And considering the Australian Open has been the worst Major for Jelena in her career, I like Bencic to advance to the third round.

Nick Kyrgios (23) vs. Gilles Simon
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There’s been speculation that Kyrgios will be motivated to play well this fortnight by the wildfire situation in his home country. Nick seemed to be taking matters very seriously on Tuesday, in a straight set first round win. Though as we’ve seen for years now, his effort level can vary greatly from match to match. His 35-year-old opponent is a former top 10 player now ranked outside the top 50, and was 0-4 in the second round of Slams last year. But Simon’s lack of pace can drive players crazy, as we saw here in Melbourne a few years ago when he drew 100 unforced errors out of Novak Djokovic. The first and only previous encounter between these players was six months ago in Washington, which Kyrgios took in straight sets on his way to that title. An inspired and focused Kyrgios should have no problem taking care of the tricky Frenchman again today.

Elina Svitolina (5) vs. Lauren Davis
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The diminutive Davis took part in an epic affair here two years ago, when she went down in defeat to Simona Halep 15-13 in the third. The 26-year-old American struggled to recover from that match until mid-last year, when she gained some traction on the ITF circuit and went on to defeat the defending champion, Angelique Kerber, at Wimbledon. So the flat-hitting Davis is fully capable of taking it to less powerful players like Svitolina. And the fifth seed comes into this event a bit undercooked, with her only lead-up match being a 6-1, 6-1 loss at the hands of another American, Danielle Collins. But Svitiolina is 4-0 lifetime against Davis, losing only one of nine sets played. I don’t see a strong reason why the result would be different today.

Taylor Fritz (29) vs. Kevin Anderson
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The biggest question here will be what does Anderson have left after his first round, a match that went to a fifth-set tiebreak and wasn’t decided until after 1:00am local time Wednesday morning. And that was only Kevin’s fourth match since Wimbledon, as he missed nearly six months of action due to a knee injury. Meanwhile the 22-year-old American is coming off the best season of his career, winning his first ATP title in Eastbourne and reaching two other finals later in the summer. Fritz would normally be outmatched by Anderson, as there’s not much he does better than the South African. But against a depleted Anderson who lacks match play, Fritz should be favored to prevail in their first career meeting.

Danielle Collins (26) vs. Yulia Putintseva
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Well this is guaranteed to be a feisty contest, with two of the WTA’s most boisterous players. But it is not guaranteed to be a long affair. They’ve played twice in the past year, with neither match lasting an hour. Last summer on the grass of Eastbourne, Collins retired down 5-0 in the first set. And just two weeks ago in Brisbane, Collins prevailed 6-1, 6-0 in 58 minutes. The American already has six match wins to start the year, with victories over top names like Svitolina, Bencic, and Kenin. Putintseva came through qualifying in both Brisbane and Adelaide earlier this month, so she’s also playing with some confidence. Collins is defending semifinal points from a year ago, and seemed to be feeling the pressure in her opening round match, which she escaped 6-4 in the third. I expect her to relax a bit more following that scare, and we’ve seen how dangerous she can be when she’s on. Danielle will be capable of dictating play in this one, and should be the victor.

Other notable matches on Day 4:
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  • 19-time Major champion Rafael Nadal (1) vs. Federico Delbonis, a 29-year-old from Argentina who has never won more than three games in a set in three previous matches against Nadal.
  • Three-time Major champion Stan Wawrinka (15) vs. Andreas Seppi, who upset Roger Federer in Melbourne five years ago.
  • Karolina Pliskova (2), who has reached the second week at all of the last seven hard court Slams, vs. Laura Siegemund, who is 1-0 against Pliskova. That match occurred three years ago on clay in Siegemund’s home country of Germany.
  • The always-entertaining Gael Monfils (10) vs. the nearly-seven-foot-tall Ivo Karlovic, who will turn 41-years-old next month, and on Tuesday became the oldest man in the Open Era to win a match at this event.
  • Dominic Thiem (5), who lost in the second round here a year ago, vs. Australian Alex Bolt (WC), who reached the third round here last year.

Order of play (time in GMT)

Rod Laver Arena

From 00:00am
G. Muguruza v A. Tomljanovic
L. Siegemund v K. Pliskova (2)

Not before 3:00am
E. Gerasimov v A. Zverev (7)

Not before 8:00am
H. Dart v S. Halep (4)
R. Nadal (1) v F. Delbonis


Margaret Court Arena

From 00:00am
B. Bencic (6) v J. Ostapenko
D. Medvedev (4) v P. Martinez
P. Hon v A. Kerber (17)

Not before 8:00am
A. Seppi v S. Wawrinka (15)
E. Svitolina (5) v L. Davis


Melbourne Arena

From 00:00am
D. Vekic (19) v A. Cornet
J. Moore/A. Sharma v A. Barty/J. Goerges
A. Bolt v D. Thiem (5)

Not before 7:45am
N. Kyrgios (23) v G. Simon


1573 Arena

From 00:00am
C. Bellis v K. Muchova (20)
G. Monfils (10) v I. Karlovic

Not before 3:30am
T. Fritz (29) v K. Anderson
D. Jakupovic/R. Olaru v T. Babos (2)/K. Mladenovic (2)


Court 3

From 00:00am
Z. Diyas v A. Blinkova

Not before 3:00am
L. Hewitt/J. Thompson v J. Nam/M. Song
J. Munar v A. Popyrin

Not before 7:00am
M. Ymer v K. Khachanov (16)


Court 5

From 00:00am
S. Arends/R. Berankis v J. Melzer (12)/E. Roger-Vasselin (12)
M. Demoliner/M. Middelkoop v T. Sandgren/J. Withrow
J. Duckworth/M. Polmans v A. Harris/C. O’Connell
Y. Lee/F. Wu v S. Kenin (16)/B. Mattek-Sands (16)


Court 7

From 00:00am
M. Pavic (10)/B. Soares (10) v L. Bambridge/B. McLachlan
S. Sorribes Tormo v A. Kontaveit (28)
E. Perez (12)/S. Stosur (12) v L. Arruabarrena/O. Jabeur
P. Gojowczyk v P. Carreno Busta (27)


Court 8

From 00:00am
S. Johnson/S. Querrey v C. Hsieh/Y. Lu
A. Rodionova v K. Bertens (9)
D. Goffin (11) v P. Herbert
G. Garcia Perez/S. Sorribes Tormo v M. Adamczak/K. Srebotnik


Court 10

From 00:00am
G. Minnen/A. Van Uytvanck v S. Aoyama (10)/E. Shibahara (10)
Y. Duan (9)/S. Zheng (9) v H. Carter/L. Stefani
N. Cacic/D. Lajovic v M. Gonzalez (15)/F. Martin (15)
S. Hsieh (1)/B. Strycova (1) v M. Bouzkova/T. Zidansek


Court 11

From 00:00am
R. Ram (11)/J. Salisbury (11) v M. Fucsovics/C. Norrie
V. Kudermetova (13)/A. Riske (13) v S. Peng/S. Zhang
K. Muchova/J. Teichmann v C. Gauff/C. McNally
C. Bellis/M. Vondrousova v E. Mertens (3)/A. Sabalenka (3)


Court 12

From 00:00am
J. Chardy/R. Lindstedt v P. Cuevas/G. Pella
A. Pavlyuchenkova (30) v T. Townsend
G. Duran/D. Schwartzman v L. Kubot (2)/M. Melo (2)
K. Flipkens/T. Townsend v T. Maria/A. Sevastova
D. Jurak/N. Stojanovic v K. Bondarenko/A. Krunic


Court 13

From 00:00am
X. Han/L. Zhu v N. Kichenok/S. Mirza
N. Basilashvili (26) v F. Verdasco
S. Kwon/J. Millman v S. Gonzalez/K. Skupski
A. Blinkova/Y. Wang v A. Kontaveit/M. Minella


Court 14

From 00:00am
E. Alexandrova/I. Bara v K. Christian/A. Guarachi
I. Swiatek v C. Suárez Navarro
H. Hurkacz/V. Pospisil v J. Murray (14)/N. Skupski (14)
B. Krejcikova (4)/K. Siniakova (4) v A. Friedsam/L. Siegemund


Court 15

From 00:00am
G. Barrere/A. Mannarino v U. Humbert/F. Tiafoe
N. Hibino/M. Ninomiya v L. Hradecka (11)/A. Klepac (11)
A. Cornet/F. Ferro v Z. Diyas/E. Rybakina
D. Collins (26) v Y. Putintseva


Court 19

From 00:00am
A. Bedene v E. Gulbis
Y. Sugita v A. Rublev (17)
S. Kuznetsova v C. Giorgi/K. Peschke (8)
D. Schuurs (8) v F. Stollar/D. Yastremska


Court 22

From 00:00am
D. Krawczyk/J. Pegula v I. Begu/K. Pliskova
E. Mertens (16) v H. Watson
M. Sakkari/A. Tomljanovic v G. Dabrowski (6)/J. Ostapenko (6)
J. Isner (19) v A. Tabilo

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