by Mauro Cappiello (from Halle Westfalen)
Halle is the Gerry Weber Open. Everywhere you can see the logo of the tournament, that turns 20 years old in 2012, and the walk from the quiet and tidy historic centre of the town to the Gerry Weber Stadion, along Alleestraße and Gartenstraße, is filled with indications that seem to celebrate it as the most important touristic attraction. Surely not everybody is a tennis expert here, but everybody knows (or has heard of) the tennis tournament, even the nice taxi driver that takes me to the hotel from Bielefeld, a town 18 kilometers away, and doesn’t speak a word of English.
Many would say there’s not much more to see in Halle Westfalen, but, in my opinion, this is not true. Surely not the best destination if you’re looking for “movida” and intense night life (you would hardly meet twenty other persons in the centre if you take a walk from 7 to 9 pm, just as I did), but there are at least a couple of things that catch the eye of a foreigner.
Halle is definitely a “green” city. Without need to reach the near Teutoburg Forest, you will find plenty of nature-friendly spaces inside the town itself and going slightly outwards. Most of the houses built in the characteristic half-timbered style, that remind of the Medieval history of the town, have a very well kept garden space that shows the love and respect for nature by the inhabitants. More bikes than cars around, and this, for an Italian abroad, is always something amazing to watch, just like the "culture of silence" they have here and, generally, in this area of Europe. If you were to think of a tennis tournament for Halle, it could only be on grass, and the rainy weather, the temperature just over 13-14 Celsius degrees of these days reflect the perfect "scenario" for the typical grasscourt tournament of middle June.
The event has grown in reputation over the years. Few would have said it could compete with the Queen’s Club, the traditional Wimbledon warm-up, after the first edition won in 1993 by Henri Leconte on Andrei Medvedev. But then the tournament organizers were clever enough to build up a special relationship with Roger Federer, who won the tournament five times and reached six finals between 2003 and 2010, contributing in a decisive way to give the event an international consideration, that today goes far beyond its status of “250”.
And, in fact, watching the tremendous structure of the Gerry Weber Stadion, a giant dominating the entire city of Halle, it’s really hard to believe that the tournament it hosts is not that “500” or “1000” that is still missing on the grasscourt schedule.
Believe it or not, this is the closest I could get to the Stadium. A nice man of the security, twice as big as me, stopped me from taking pictures. I tried to convince him, saying I also had a ticket for the Champions Trophy. «Then you can take pictures on Sunday», he replied, with a big smile. I will do, or at least try...
This year, if there are not last minute withdrawals, both Federer and Nadal (who are in the French Open semifinals) will be there, with the chance of seeing them meet in the final, for the first time on grass since the mythological 2008 Wimbledon showdown (and, if that should happen, it would be really hard for the ATP to deny Halle a status upgrade for the future). Rafa, who used to attend London in the previous years, renounced to the Queen’s for the well-known taxation problems affecting (in his opinion) foreigner athletes who play in the UK.
The pre-tournament exhibitions, who brought here past champions like Steffi Graf and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, gave the event another added value. The 2012 cast for the tournament opening event will be outstanding. Martina Navratilova, Michael Stich, Stefan Edberg and Anastasia Myskina (who will play a doubles exhibition match on Sunday in the so called “Champions Trophy”) sum up 70 – se-ven-ty – Grand Slam titles, considering singles, doubles and mixed doubles (Navratilova 58, Edberg 9, Stich 2, Myskina 1). Just unbelievable!
According to the tournament website, Stefan should have come to Halle for the first time in 1996, but he withdrew at the last minute due to injury. That year, his last on the Tour, Edberg played in London at the Queen’s losing the final to Boris Becker. And it’s a pity the organizers didn’t have the idea of arranging one set singles challenges among the protagonists of the doubles exhibition. It would have been nice to attend a re-match of the 1991 Wimbledon semifinal between Edberg and Stich, one of the strangest Grand Slam matches of the 90s, in which Stefan never lost his serve and won six points more than his opponent, yet he lost the match. But that is not to be. Nevertheless, to have the opportunity of watching Stefan play on grass, even if only in doubles, will be quite an experience we’ve been waiting for 20 years!
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- Martina Navratilova/Michael Stich vs Anastasia Myskina/Stefan Edberg
- Halle 2012 - Where my dream came true
- Superstars inaugurated KTK's new grass courts
- Stefan Edberg to return to Grand Cayman
- Myskina replaces Petkovic in Halle Champions Trophy
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- Stefan Edberg at the Wilson Senior Open