Which Halle? Getting to the Terra Wortmann Open

By Vanessa Taylor

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There are four places called Halle in Germany.

So it’s not surprising that international tennis fans and media, and sometimes even players, can become confused when making travel arrangements to the Terra Wortmann Open.

From the tournament’s inception in 1993 as the Gerry Weber Open; its incarnation as the Noventi Open for the events of 2019 and 2021; and its transition in 2022 to the Terra Wortmann Open, the town of Halle (Westfalen) (postcode 33790) has always been its home.

Most commonly, Halle (Westfalen) is confused with Halle (Saale), aka “Big Halle”, a city of over 242,000 with a range of postcodes (06108–06132). With the river Saale running alongside it, the city is best known for music – its annual festival of Handel’s music and its Beatles Museum.

In 2021, American player Marcos Giron was a finalist at the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart. During his train trip from Stuttgart, Giron rang tennis officials to request transportation from Halle station. Instead, he was told “Wrong Halle, that’s 500 kilometres away!” He was forced to get off the train, “get a railcard and get to Halle (Westfalen) asap”.

Marcos Giron made it to the correct Halle in 2021 and got through to the quarter-finals. Photo: Mathias Schulz

A year later, a tennis commentator for beIN Sports TV remarked that “it’s great for a city of only 200,000 people to have an ATP 500”. He was, of course, incorrectly referring to Halle (Salle) whilst also revealing that he was calling the matches remotely and had obviously never been to Halle (Westfalen).

The reality is better. It’s great for Halle (Westfalen) with a population of only 22,000 to have an ATP 500 event.

And it’s important to acknowledge the initiative of local business men Gerry Weber and his son Ralf to start an ATP 250 grass tournament in a small town in Germany. And to lure Roger Federer as its “permanent” marquee player. And for the tournament to be promoted to an ATP 500.

Several hotels in Halle (Saale) have reported that every year they have guests arrive thinking that the city hosts the Terra Wortmann Open. Some of these guests assume that Halle (Westfalen) must be a suburb in the west of Halle (Salle).

Once tennis travellers know which Halle hosts the tennis, many choose to stay in the nearby city of Bielefeld, which has several hotels in the vicinity of its main railway station (Hauptbahnhof).

It’s easy to travel to Bielefeld as many long distance trains from around Germany carry passengers to the station.

To get to the Terra Wortmann Open, there’s a direct train to OWL Arena – where the tournament is held – which leaves Bielefeld main station regularly in the direction of Osnabrück. The little RB 75 trains (which look more like trams) are fondly called the “Haller Willem” by locals, in honour of a cheery coachman who transported people and goods between Halle and Bielefeld in the late 1800s.

In previous years, the trains left hourly, but this year it’s best to check the Deutsche Bahn app daily. Due to construction work, some trains will be replaced with direct buses during the daytime.

All the announcements at Bielefeld station are in German (of course) so if it’s not a language you understand, keep checking the electronic sign with the train information, as sometimes the departure platform suddenly changes.

The station for the Terra Wortmann Open is called Halle (Westf) OWL-Arena, and is the eighth stop in the 29 minute journey. After a 10 minute stroll, passengers arrive at the gates of the venue.

Some tennis fans mistakenly get off at the station before, which is Halle (Westf). But if that happens, it’s possible to walk for 30 minutes to OWL Arena.

Halle (Westf) OWL-Arena train station. Photo: Vanessa Taylor

It must be said that it’s always advisable to allow extra time to get to the tournament. After Halle (Westf) station there is only a single track to Halle (Westf) OWL-Arena. This means that the train may need to wait a while at Halle Westfalen station for a train coming the other way to pass.

Occasionally too, at the end of the tennis day, the train from Osnabrück returning to Bielefeld will be delayed. Shortly after leaving Osnabrück, the RB 75 is back on the single track until Halle (Westf) station.

If there is a wait for the train at Halle (Westf) OWL-Arena station, there are always lots of tennis fans sharing the small platform, happy to have a chat about the day’s matches. Recent improvements to the station include the additions of a digital sign and a loud speaker for announcements to update those waiting about any delays. The syncopated clanging of the bells that once heralded an approaching train is no longer heard, due to a modern but less musical replacement.

And, aside from Halle (Saale); the other two Halles to avoid if you’re looking for the Terra Wortmann Open?

Halle with the postcode of 37620 lies in Lower Saxony, in the district of Holzminden. This farming village has a population of just over 1,500.

Also in Lower Saxony, but in the district of Grafschaft Bentheim, is the village of Halle (postcode 49843). Bordering the Netherlands, with a population last recorded in 2022 as 676, it is the smallest Halle in Germany.

Title photo OWL Arena in Halle (Westfalen) by Hans Blossey

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