from Deutsche Tennis Zeitung
by Tim Wohlbold
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello
Several world number ones, numerous world and European champions and Stefan Edberg, one of the greatest players of all time. The 9th Wilson international Senior Open in Manavgat had lots to offer for players and spectators. DTZ journalist Tim Wohlbold was, like many other Germans, on site for the tournament, but also to get to know the Ali Bey Club.
At the end of March tennis facilities in Germany offer more or less the same scene: club members plucking weeds from the square corners, cutting the grass around the clubhouse or sprinkling sand on the winter emaciated places. In Manavgat, on the Turkish Riviera, instead, you can already find the seventh (!) outdoor tournament of the year. And this tournament is not just any LK event for German package tourists. No, it's the Wilson Senior Open, a first category ITF Seniors Tournament.
The field says it all: countless world and European champions are at the start and here in Manavgat you can also see many of the top players in the world rankings by the respective age category. In addition to the 15000 Euro prize money and world ranking points that can be won in this Grade 1 tournament, the Ali Bey Club facility itself should be a reason why every year hundreds of players come together to Wilson Seniors. "Due to the large crowds in previous years, we preferred to move the tournament from April to March," explains Wolfgang Riedl, owner and manager of the tourism company Patricio Travel and organizer of the event.
World-class in the player field
And as already mentioned: the field is something to be proud of! Heidi Eisterlehner (GER), Peter Pokorny (AUT) or Andrew Rae (AUS) are just three of the big names of the world-class tennis in the Senior category. "This facility here is simply unique," says the Australian Rae. Whether it's the club's own facility with 62 tennis courts or the Ali Bey Club that he felt such he didn't specify. One thing is for sure. If you've never been at the Ali Bey Club at Manavgat, you have never experienced a (senior) tournament of this magnitude. "This is the best. You meet so many people from different countries. And yet, it's kind of like a big family here," says the "Aussie" Rae. The growing enthusiasm of the late winner of the M60 field has been explained by a "delicacy": he was allowed to compete in the Show-doubles against Stefan Edberg (see next page).
Four matches guaranteed
Nine age classes both for the ladies and the men, mixed doubles competitions and a consolation tournament in each category: these are the features of the Wilson Senior Open. "We guarantee every participant a minimum of four matches during the tournament week," explains Wolfgang Riedl. So, guests who suffer a possible first-round defeat are not being lazy for the rest of the week. Thus, in a top international tournament, even the amateur players are pampered all week at Ali Bey Club and can meet the competition and also players of their same level. "We want to offer something to all.
From club to world class players, everyone will feel good with us," Riedl explains the concept behind the tournament weeks by Patricio Travel in Manavgat and elsewhere. What can be found from March in the world's biggest tennis camp includes both leisure and also a top player preparing the season, the end of the season in autumn, or simply training intensively for one or more weeks on the clay courts of the Ali Bey Club. Peter Pfannkoch, Barbara Rittner, Hans-Peter Born or Patrik Kuhnen - the coach of the German Tennis Federation (DTB) - are all enthusiast with the Ali Bey Club. And also the guest star of the week, Stefan Edberg, was visibly impressed by the facility: "In my entire life I have never seen so many tennis courts at once." In recent years Wolfgang Riedl was able to welcome as guests at the Wilson Senior Open high-calibers like Patrik Kuhnen, Andreas Maurer and Michael Stich, but this year with Stefan Edberg maybe he hit his biggest ever coup. A full day spent by the six-time Grand Slam winner in the club as the proverbial "star to touch" (see "My day with Stefan Edberg"). Autographs, an exhibition match, shared pictures with the star, Edberg wasn't bad at all.
Award ceremony on stage
The mood of all of the players in the field was extremely good throughout the week. The tournament winner was even honored on the stage of the Ali Bey Club, where normally show people, singers and dancers entertain the club guests. But under the motto "Honor to whom honor is due", that night the winners were feeling as the stars of the week. Those who did not show up in the winners list didn't have to feel sad. After all, it was a week of tennis at world-class level, while Germany's courts have weeds removed.
"My day" with Stefan Edberg
The journalist of the DTZ - Deutsche Tennis Zeitung - had already interviewed many tennis champions in his career, but how does one when sitting for the first time in front of Stefan Edberg (46), one of the great idols of his youth? "What do you think he is like?," one inevitably wonders ahead.
Whether it was at the great atmosphere at Club Ali Bey, or simply to the casual nature of the Swede, any excitement was unfounded! With an incredible lightness and an undoubted dose of irony the two-time Wimbledon champion answered even questions about the bitterest moment of his career.
"The final in Paris against Chang? I have never played it. Who is Chang"?, Edberg joked when asked about the French Open final lost against Michael Chang in 1989. Edberg said that he is now working in investment banking, living with his family on a private farm in Sweden and has already repetedly refused to be Davis Cup captain for Sweden. Why? "No time," he says with a wink. But, if you listen to him, he repeats the concept that the spotlight is no longer needed for Stefan Edberg to be happy. Somehow, this man is so different from many former tennis stars...
Moreover, not only the DTZ reporter was nervous, even the Swede's partners and opponents showed some kind of tension when the Show doubles was announced. For example, for the Berlin-based Swedish European champion Jorgen Aberg it was one of the highlights of his career to be allowed to play next to the six-time Grand Slam champion. The permeability Edberg sprayed during his appearance both in front of the press and on the court let Aberg's nervousness away a little, he played his best tennis but he could not get to the duo Ingo Herzgerodt/Manfred Huntstorfer. At the end it was a 4-1 for the German-Austrian team on a packed center court, the jewel of the largest tennis camp in the world, with 63 courts.
Previously Edberg had played with the Austrian "Subscription Senior World and European champion" Peter Pokorny (72) against Peter Adrigan (GER/67) and Andrew Rae (60). The "Aussie" In his age group Rae is the clear number one in the world and Pokorny already a multiple world champion in different age groups. Together with Pokorny Edberg won the doubles 4-1. After the match Stefan Edberg was with viewers on the court and answered questions. In the following autograph session there was not only the ordinary autographs, but also individual picture wishes were fulfilled by the Swede. At the end of the tournament week, not only the DTZ journalist flew home and thought: "Now I know why I was Edberg fan before!" Something you can not say today after each celebrity appearance...
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