KASSEL, July 16, 2015
It’s summer in Germany and high season for professional tennis tournaments in the country. Besides the ATP World Tour events, there are also a couple of tournaments at lower levels taking place at that time.
Last week, Germany’s biggest ATP Challenger with a total prize money of € 106,500 took place in Braunschweig and was awarded the world’s best of its category by the Association of Tennis Professionals in 2014. This week it’s time for the country’s highest ranked ITF Future tournament, played in Kassel.
It is the 18th edition of the Wilhelmshöhe Open, executed at the Kassel Tennis Club Bad Wilhelmshöhe, established in 1896. A total prize money of US-$ 15,000 is on stake and a lot of international players entered the draw. Top-seed is Spaniard Oriol Roca Batalla, currently ranked on career high 234th position. The Barcelona resident defeated Fabricio Neis from Brazil in the second round on Wednesday and is happy to be in Kassel.
“Everything is perfect here. This is one of the best ITF events I have ever been,” Roca Batalla says. “You have everything. You can have a car whenever you want. They pick you up at the time you wish. Food, accommodation – everything is provided and it’s really nice that you can fully concentrate on your game.”
The better the tournament, the better are the players.
“It is a tough draw here. There a so many good players. You have to play at your best every day,” the 22-year-old tells. “Of course, as a top-seed you have a bit more pressure. There are maybe a bit more eyes on you, but you just have to try your best and think day by day.”
Roca Batalla has already captured two ITF Future titles this season and would like to win his third here in Kassel. “You have to think of your best shot and just try to improve it every day. You need to be calm on court as well as focused. Every point in the game is important,” he explains and adds that reaching the qualifying of a Grand Slam would be wonderful. “That’s a thing, you have always in mind, but it is more a consequence of successful matches, than a goal. If you play well, you will have the chance to be there. I do not care which one of the majors, I just want to play the big tournaments.”
First of all, however, he needs to gain the points in order to climb up the rankings. 34 ITF Future tournaments, taking place in Spain this year will definitely help to do so. “I think we have a good circuit in Spain. Young guys can play a lot of tournaments close to their homes, so they do not need to spend so much money on traveling. If you’re ranked between 500 and 600, the tennis tour is so expensive,” Roca Batalla tells.
Back in Kassel, there are also a lot of locals in the draw. Michael Kohlmann, Germany’s Davis Cup captain is sitting in the stands, watching the second round match between Lukas Ruepke and Maximilian Marterer. The latter, is considered as one of the country’s big tennis hopes for the future. Marterer is only 20 years old, but has already claimed three ITF tournaments this season. He entered the draw through a wild card, granted by the German Tennis Federation (DTB) and is the fifth favourite in Kassel. Marterer had no problems winning Wednesday’s encounter in straight sets and advanced to the quarterfinals in a rather comfortable way.
“At the moment, I am pretty satisfied with my game,” the world number 337 expresses. “I didn’t feel so well in recent times. I was ill and injured. Now I am back and I feel great on court again. I want to play a good tournament, gaining as many points as possible. Challengers and Futures in Germany are of highest standards. For me those are the best organized tournaments on the tour. For obvious reasons, you do not want to spend so much time on the Future Circuit, although it’s very nice here. But I was in Stuttgart a couple of weeks ago, playing the ATP 250 event and this a different level for sure. The treatment for the players is better and of higher standards,” the youngster from Nuremberg explains.
“It is not easy to compensate all of your costs at this level. I can understand, if there are a lot of players, who prefer playing national tournaments. In Italy and Spain there are Future or even Challenger events almost every week throughout the year. It’s nice that two German ITF tournaments in Ismaning and Oberhaching were added to the calendar. Of course, this helps in particular younger players. It will be great, if there are more coming up.”
“Organizing a good Future tournament is better than a bad Challenger!”
First of all, however, the established ones have to remain. This is one of the big challenges, tournaments at this level have to face. “It is not easy to cover your costs,” Dr. Eberhard Engelmann, Kassel’s tournament director for the last ten years knows. “We have three main sponsors. One of them provides the accommodation for the players, umpires and the supervisor during the week.” The Willhelmshöhe Open are Germany’s only ITF tournament additionally marked in the calendar with “+H”, which means plus Hospitality.
“We are only eight people in the official organization’s committee. Honorary offices are not in great demand,” he smiles and adds that he actually has to close his dentist’s surgery during the time of the tournament. “Nonetheless, this is still a challenge for me and the people, who support and help me have become family. This creates a very special and personal atmosphere. We just prefer organizing a good Future instead of organizing a bad ATP Challenger,” Engelmann tells his motto and talks about his motivation and intention.
“It is also great to see, how the players develop in the future. When Dustin Brown defeated Rafael Nadal in Wimbledon and the TV-commentator told about Dustin’s life on the tour in former days, I really had to smile, as I experienced it. Dustin was here with his bus, in which he lived in order to travel the tour the cheapest possible way. He even asked, if could get some electricity. Those are great memories.”
About 2,500 people will come to watch the matches and they can experience a Future tournament at highest standards. Even electronic scoreboards are provided on the two main courts, which also feature stands for the spectators. “We had to pay about € 10,000 for the scoreboards but we thought it would be more comfortable to follow the matches. And for the players it’s great to have many people attending the encounters. They really appreciate it.”
Engelmann hopes that he is able to continue with the tournament. “If the ITF realizes their plans to increase the prize money to US-$ 25,000 it will be difficult for us. Then we will have to see. Maybe we will get some financial support from the DTB. But first of all, we want to conclude with this year’s edition.”
At least the weather is in the tournament’s favour this week. Last year’s final had to be played indoors due to rain, but currently the sun is shining all over Kassel and this is expected to be the case for the rest of the week.
Photo Gallery Wilhelmshöhe Open 2015: