POPRAD TATRY, June 25, 2017
The third edition of the €64,000 Poprad-Tatry Challenger concluded on Saturday with Germany’s Cedrik-Marcel Stebe lifting his first trophy in four years. The outdoor clay court tournament is maybe one of the less known stops on the ATP Challener Tour.
Reason for that could be the rather challenging journey to the destination tucked in northern Slovakia at the foot of the High Tatra Mountains. Stebe took an eight hours car trip from Munich along a couple of secondary roads. The landscape and the hospitality of the people, however, was worth all the effort.
“Not that many players had come to the tournament, but I was pleasantly surprised by the venue with a nice hotel right next to the tennis complex,” Stebe told after his victory in the singles final, as only 19 players entered the 32-man-qualifying-draw.
Andreas Mies, who clinched the doubles title alongside Mateusz Kowalczyk, thanked the drivers of the tournament during his winner’s speech for their fast transportation from Kosice airport more than 100 kilometres away from the event.
The tournament is held at the Tenisove Kurty Mesta in Poprad, a city with about 55,000 inhabitants, which is famous for its picturesque historic centre and as a holiday resort. The venue is situated right next to the NTC Poprad football stadium, which pitch was used by many players to warm up ahead of their matches.
Prominent Faces Of The Tournament
“We increased the total prize money and a couple of higher-ranked players came to the tournament compared to the two previous editions. Actually it is the 15th year of the tournament as we used to host the event in Kosice before. I am happy that it is still alive, as we need more tournaments like this in Slovakia,” tournament director Miloslav Mecir told after the eight days of competition.
The 53-year-old former professional, who won the men’s singles gold medal at the 1988 Olympic Games and played in two Grand Slam singles finals, is one of some famous names representing the Poprad-Tatry Challenger.
“We wanted to move the tournament closer to the mountains, experiencing the tradition of the winter sports and to boost tourism during the summer months. A lot of school kids from Vysoké Tatry and the entire region had the chance to practice here at the sites in Poprad,” Mecir explained but also mentioned that the audience attendance was not as high as it had been in Kosice before.
“We enjoy a great co-operation with Aqua City, which is very crowded. However, the weather during this week was so nice that many people prefered to stay there,” Mecir added with a smile. The Aquapark is the city’s main attraction featuring three outdoor pools as well as many more water highlights and is only separated from the tennis complex by a small river.
“The tradition for tennis in this region is not as high as it was in Kosice, which makes it a bit difficult to get in mind of the public but the tournament will continue for sure, here in Poprad or in Visoké Tatry,” Mecir is looking forward to the 2018 edition and will be supported by organizer Branislav Stankovic and tournament manager Marián Vajda, ex-coach of Novak Djokovic. Former World No. 5 and Poprad native Daniela Hantuchova also attended the event.
“We enjoyed a lot of dramatic matches and it was also great to see the local players doing a good job,” said Mecir, who is also Slovakia’s Davis Cup captain. “The young guys had the chance to gain their first experience at ATP Challenger level.”
After his own professional career, the “Big Cat” stayed involved with tennis after he had coached Karol Kucera from 1997 to 2001. “My days are less busy than in the past. I am the vice-president of the Slovakian Tennis Association and the president of a big tennis club in Bratislava. It keeps me busy but basically I follow the youngsters at the National Tennis Centre trying to give advices to the coaches in order to help them with their careers.”
Alex Molcan was one of the good examples. The 19-year-old leftie knocked out the tournament’s number five Andrej Martin in the opening round and eventually fell to Elias Ymer in three sets.
“He is from Presov, less than one hour drive from here. He is now based in the National Tennis Centre in Bratislava and a very talented player. I am happy about his progression and it is good to see that he can compete with the top Slovakian players,” Mecir said.