What makes the Bad Homburg women’s tournament special?
DGermany has become a thriving tennis landscape in recent years. In addition to the well-established tournament in Halle in East Westphalia, a grass competition was launched at three other locations: in Stuttgart, where the men play as in Halle, and one after the other in Berlin and Bad Homburg.
The women’s tournament starting this weekend in the Taunus city is not one of the biggest on the WTA tour, but it does offer something unique: free access to the tennis courts in the Kurpark with the opportunity to follow the games on the so-called match courts 1 and 2 up close and free of charge .
It usually works like this at professional tournaments: You buy a ticket for the center court or for the facility and thus the right to see the respective games there. In Bad Homburg, the 3500 seats on the main square are largely sold out, tickets are only available for Monday and Tuesday.
From this Saturday onwards, however, spectators can watch the qualifying matches first on the two outdoor courts, followed by the training of the stars and matches at the highest level throughout the week. “The tournament is a flagship project on our doorstep,” says Michael Otto, Vice President and Head of the Sports Department at the Hessian Tennis Association (HTV).
Why does the Rhine-Main area need such a professional tournament?
Tennis in Germany, which has been said to be almost dead over and over again in the past twenty years, is coming to life again. Especially during the pandemic, the German Tennis Association was one of the few associations to gain more members than it lost, and in the first half of 2022 growth (five percent) was greater than it had been since 1991. In the Rhine-Main area, too, “the response was enormous,” reports HTV Vice President Otto.
However, the region not only teems with active people, but also with sports fans who would like to see top-class tennis up close. For years they were offered a lot: from the Fed Cup in Steffi Graf’s time in the Frankfurt tennis stadium, which has since been demolished, to the ATP World Championship in the Festhalle with Boris Becker as the birthday boy and winner, to occasional Fed Cup games at TC Palmengarten and Davis Cup Encounters in the ball sports hall in the past ten years. After that, not much came at the highest level.
The Bad Homburg tournament now fills this gap regularly and with class. It is prominently staffed with Grand Slam tournament winners, Olympic champions and former world number ones and, thanks to the cooperation with Wimbledon, it is a tingling prologue for the most famous tennis tournament in the world. “It can encourage Hessian talent to want to play in a tournament like this,” says Otto. The Kurpark is experiencing the second edition of the event, which could not take place at all in 2020 due to the corona pandemic and could only take place in a smaller form in 2021.
Why do the players like to come to the Kurpark?
There are two answers to this question, a short one and a long one. The short: The event in the Kurpark is small and fine. The longer answer: The players feel so comfortable because the tournament is well organized and the way down Kisseleffstrasse between the hotel and the tennis facility is easy to walk and relaxing. The vehicles that the organizers have to make available to the players are mostly left unused.
Laura Siegemund found the atmosphere around the tournament last year “family and nice”. Her colleague Andrea Petkovic, who as a native of Darmstadt has a home game, discovered “love for detail”. Olympic champion Belinda Bencic, who is now taking part for the first time, followed the call of her colleagues. “I heard from other players that the tournament is super nice,” said the Swiss. Angelique Kerber, Germany’s best player and Bad Homburg tournament ambassador in personal union, was approached by other professionals on the women’s tour about the grass event and did some advertising herself. “We got good feedback last year, word gets around,” says the thirty-four-year-old.
“Everyone is looking for the best preparation for Wimbledon, and Bad Homburg is definitely that. We’re a small, beautiful boutique tournament.” The turf alone is as firm and fine as on London’s Church Road: ryegrass, or “lolium perenne” in Latin, and cut eight millimeters short. Last year, the professionals were amazed at the good condition of the subsoil, and this year the green makes a juicy impression.
Who will win the tournament – and who at Wimbledon?
Angelique Kerber, the first winner of the tournament last year and then advanced to the Wimbledon semifinals, would like to repeat the success. But the competition that has registered for Bad Homburg is strong. Romanian Simona Halep showed with her Wimbledon victory in 2019 that she knows how to play on grass.
American Sloane Stephens (2017) and Canadian Bianca Andreescu (2019) both won the US Open and can play with a bang. A surprise is also possible, like last year when Czech double Olympic champion Katerina Siniakova reached the final.
Easier to answer is who doesn’t win in Bad Homburg and doesn’t have a chance in Wimbledon either. On the one hand, there is the Belarusian Viktoria Asarenka, who fought a three-hour match with the Frenchwoman Alizé Cornet in the Kurpark in 2021, but this time she will not be playing the grass season.
On the other hand, there is her compatriot Aryna Sabalenka, who should have led the field as the top seed but withdrew on Thursday. The world No.