“Vor Wimbledon kommt der Weissenhof”
Before Wimbledon comes the Weissenhof
(aka Weissenhof Tennis Club)
This slogan can be found on billboards in Stuttgart this week while travelling the routes of local public transport…along with City Light Posters that put Matteo Berrettini in the centre position, alongside Andy Murray and Nick Kyrgios.
Berrettini’s clothing line is BOSS X MATTEO BERRETTINI, so you could almost call it fate that he is in this year’s BOSS Open final playing none other than two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray.
But wait – what happened to the Mercedes Cup? The long-standing traditional tennis event in Stuttgart-Killesberg, staged since 1979 in the prestigious TC Weissenhof Tennis Club, is gone – in warp speed. Anything that might have reminded tennis fans of that event has been erased.
It was only recently that Mercedes announced they would no longer be the title sponsor, and only a mere fortnight ago, Edwin Weindörfer, CEO of the organizing company e|motion Group, announced that BOSS would step in. Good news? Yes, because when visiting the tournament site you see that BOSS knows how to do its marketing. All advertising spaces are in a stylish black and white colour scheme, there are life-size 3D logo letters everywhere, a hot air balloon in the sky, players on well-positioned posters.
The venue itself is very nicely situated in Stuttgart-Killesberg, a somewhat posh part of Germany’s home of car manufacturing.
So – all is well? Yes and no. Yes, because there IS a tournament, which is good. A title sponsor has been found which is not only from the area, but internationally recognized. BOSS has chosen to return to sport sponsorship for the next four years of the event. And, no, because professional tennis has become a business where it gets increasingly harder to survive. This is affecting tournament organizers as well as players.
The BOSS Open is an ATP 250 event with some big names on the 2022 entry list. Spectator numbers in these post-Covid times were satisfactory. During the week, attendance was around 30,000, which was OK with Weindörfer, given the bad weather on Tuesday and Wednesday, though he admitted that in a good year the event welcomed 50,000.
The TV coverage has been less than usual. Servus TV, a rather small private TV company financed by Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz, is broadcasting the event via live stream. The time when EVERYTHING regarding tennis was televised live in Germany by the two big public TV companies, ARD and ZDF, is long gone. So, what does this mean for tennis the sport; tennis the business; and tennis the fans, who undoubtedly love their sport and enjoy matches like this year’s Stuttgart final Murray v Berrettini enormously? It’s hard to predict.
Maybe it is time for the sport to re-organize and re-centre the tour? Weindörfer told the media this week that the ATP is already developing plans to do so. It is thought that there will be more combined ATP/WTA 1000 events that will last for two weeks, forcing the calendar to re-shuffle. That might mean an upgrade for the BOSS Open into an ATP 500 Event. Who knows? Right now, anything seems to be possible.
Let’s hope that the people carrying this responsibility focus on what is and remains really important: the sport, the players and the fans!
Matteo Berrettini brought to the final a handy record on grass. In 2019, he won his first grass court title in his debut at the Stuttgart event and backed it up by winning the 2021 Cinch Championships at Queen’s Club in London.
He followed his Queen’s victory with making the Wimbledon final, serving 16 aces but losing to Novak Djokovic in four tight sets.
As 2nd seed for this year’s tournament, Berrettini received a bye in the first round. To make the final, he beat qualifier Radu Albot, who put up a fight to lose in three sets, and 6th seed Lorenzo Sonego, who also took it to three.
Surprise semi-finalist Oscar Otte had slipped past 4th seed Denis Shapovalov in a couple of tiebreak sets, and benefited from the withdrawal of Benjamin Bonzi prior to their quarter final. Otte’s match against Berrettini also came down to two tiebreak sets but he could not create another upset. Berrettini won 7-6(7) 7-6(5).
Otte was no doubt consoled a little by jumping ten places in the rankings to become 51 in the world and at the same time rising to become German number 2.
In Berrettini’s first final since surgery on his racquet hand in March, his opponent would be Andy Murray. The Scot’s entry into the tournament provided another drawcard for fans, as he makes his way back to top form after numerous injuries.
In Madrid, having beaten Dominic Thiem and Denis Shapovalov, he was forced to give Novak Djokovic a walkover in the third round when stricken by a stomach illness. He returned to the tour in a challenger tournament, the Surbiton Trophy.
Murray made the Stuttgart final by a beating qualifier Chris O’Connell, 7th seed Alexander Bublik, top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and Nick Kygrios, all in straight sets.
Unfortunately for Murray, his toughest opponent was Berrettini. The Italian’s forehand and serve were brutal and he attacked Murray’s second serve to take the first set.
At 4-4 in the second set, Murray saved three break points and then broke to love to take it.
From the start of the third set, it was obvious something had changed for Murray as he dropped the first game with a series of unforced errors. He called for the trainer. After the medical time out, he slowed his serve, before again calling for the trainer mid-game as he tried to get to 3-4.
He returned to the match and continued pushing himself. The last game of the match had four deuces with two Ads each way. The final Ad and match point went to Berrettini. So, in the end, Berrettini broke twice in the set and won the match 6-4 5-7 6-3.
Afterwards, Murray said, “I’m looking forward to what the future has to hold and feeling a lot better about my game. Hopefully, my body can hold up a little while longer, so I can keep playing matches like this.” He later revealed that he’d suffered an abdominal strain early in the third set.
The champion Berrettini noticed the effects of his first tournament back on the tour. “My body is hurting a little bit,” he said. “It had been three months without matches and today was almost three hours, so I am feeling it.”
Berrettini has an incentive for a quick recovery. Now, three of his six titles are on grass, and he will be looking forward to the lawn of Queen’s Club.