On a blisteringly hot day – the temperature was 89°F – Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, the No. 5 seed, toasted No. 1 seed Daniil Medvedev, 6-1, 6-4 in the Terra Wortmann Open Singles final.
The ATP 500 event is played at the OWL Arena in Halle Westfalen, Germany. The tournament was founded in 1993 by Gerhard (Gerry) Weber, a local clothing manufacturer and entrepreneur, and named the Gerry Weber Open. When the event hit a cashflow speed bump, Noventi became the title sponsor in 2019 and remained involved until 2021. That gave Terra Wortmann the opportunity to step in this year as title sponsor, on a two-year deal.
Hurkacz ended defending champion Ugo Humbert’s hopes of a repeat victory, 7-6, 6-3, in their second round clash. Humbert had startled tennis pundits last year by winning the Singles title as a little known 22-year-old.
In his semifinal, Hurkacz edged wild card Nick Kyrgios, 4-6, 7-6, 7-6, after the Australian waylaid Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, the No. 2 seed, 5-7, 6-2. 6-4 in the second round.
In the other semifinal, Medvedev defeated Oscar Otte, 7-6, 6-3. Using a Special Exempt to enter the tournament, Otte, a Cologne resident, became a crowd favorite after scoring back-to-back three set second round and quarterfinal upsets over Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia and Karen Khachanov of Russia, who had to compete under a neutral flag.
The final was notable not only for Hurkacz’s sublime play, but for two incidents that occurred during the match.
In a follow-up to the crowd disruption during the Marin Cilic v Caspar Ruud match at Roland Garros, and perhaps in an effort to pause the day’s “boil”, a climate activist wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “Noch 3 Yahre” (Only 3 Years) raced onto the court. With Medvedev down 0-5 and serving to stay in the first set, the activist attempted to tie herself to the net, but after a struggle tournament security eventually moved her to the shade.
Medvedev became wound up during the final as Hurkacz bossed him around with a tremendous all court display. As the match wore on, Medvedev began directing a number of frustrated outbursts towards his coach Gilles Cervara in the player’s box.
Cervara reached his tolerance limit after one such outburst early in the second set. He promptly picked up his bag and left the court leaving Medvedev’s wife to watch the remainder of the final alone.
If a player is ranked No. 1 in the world, it may seem foolish to say he is not playing well, but since becoming the 2021 US Open champion, Medvedev hasn’t played like…Medvedev. He is now 0-3 in 2022 finals, having also lost the Australian Open final to Rafael Nadal in five sets and being beaten 6-4, 6-1 last week in s-Hertogenbosch by Tim van Rijthoven, the wild card from the Netherlands ranked No. 205.
For Hurkacz, who was born in Wroclaw but is now living in Monte Carlo, winning the final against Medvedev carried special significance considering the surface. “I’m super excited,” he said after the tournament. “I’ve been waiting a little bit for my first title this year. I’m happy to win my first ATP 500 and, of course, on grass it is very special.”
Hurkacz was watched by his sister Nika, ten years younger and apparently a promising player who has occasional lessons with her big brother. She observed the match intensely, encouraging him with fist pumps after his winners.
The Singles contest was a “routine” one hour and three minutes long. Happily, the Doubles final in which Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina, the No. 2 seeds, escaped with a 6-4, 6-7, 14-12 victory over Tim Puetz of Germany and Michael Venus of New Zealand, the No. 3 seeds, was 49 minutes longer. For the champions, it was the first title they had won since 2021 Cincinnati.
The crowd fervently supported Puetz, who lives a three hour drive from Halle in Usingen, but their support couldn’t carry the day. Granollers, after saying, “I think it was a very good match…” added, “There was a bit of luck at the end because you never know what is going to happen when you are 10-10 in the Match Tiebreak.”
For Zeballos, their win meant even more, as he explained, “…this is really a special moment for me. I came here for the first time when I was 17 with my father. I met Roger (Federer) here…I have really nice memories…I enjoyed the whole week and now that we won the tournament, it is perfect.”
It would have been flawless if Federer, who has a lifetime contract with the event and has won the Singles a record 10 times and the Doubles once, had been able to play… But he injured his right knee in a 6-3, 7-6, 6-0 quarterfinal loss to Hurkacz at The Championships in 2021. Having played only 13 matches in 2021, he had his third surgery on the knee last August and has yet to play this year.
Ralf Weber, the son of Gerhard Weber, has been Tournament Director since the event’s inception. Following established protocol, he offered insights about this year’s championship on the day before its conclusion. In his summary, he admitted, (concerning a Federer comeback in Halle), “Only Roger knows that. It probably depends on how the first performances go like at home in Basel, this autumn.”
He addressed the player participation at the 29th version of the tournament, saying, “Despite the injury to Sascha Zverev, top players Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Felix Auger-Aliassime played Halle, along with fan favorite Oscar Otte, an exciting newcomer, and Nick Kyrgios, a special kind of player.”
Weber candidly added, “…there were few German players…We used to have years with nine Germans in the singles draw. Oscar Otte was the only German to make the second round…that really is not good…”
The television coverage drew praise, but the attendance figure did not pass the “Magic 100, 000” mark. “The last evaluation shows the total number was around 95,000 spectators…some of those who bought tickets in 2020 (when the pandemic canceled the tournament) were not able to utilize their tickets…We are sure that next year, we will again be over 100,000.”
In the past, “Tennistainment”, a concept Weber devised to mix daily tennis matches with evening entertainment acts and create a festive atmosphere, made attending the tournament appealing for young and old. This year, he explained, “…world class sport in front of enthusiastic spectators plus the amazing ‘Tennistainment’ – That was great.”
Referring to 2021 as a “Ghost Tournament” because of COVID crowd restrictions, Weber pointed out that this year was, “an emotional return of the fans…We have positioned ourselves in the tennis world where we could have only dreamed about this in the beginning.
“Tennis is a big family here in Halle that was reunited in 2022. We are proud of our achievements…But we are not resting on our laurels, particularly since next year we celebrate our 30th birthday.”
Title photo of Hubert Hurkacz by Mathias Schulz