GRAN CANARIA, January 24, 2021
Mid-January. Sunday afternoon. The sun is shining. The thermometer shows a pleasant 20 degrees. The constant but gentle trade wind carries only a few thin clouds through the otherwise light blue sky. At the spacious venue of the El Cortijo Club de Campo, tennis players face each other on the numerous clay courts. A couple of golfers watch the action on the courts en-passant from the upstairs clubhouse. Their path will lead them to the next tee on the green next door.
If the players off the court and the spectators did not observe the rules of distance or did not wear masks, you could almost forget that we are still in the middle of a pandemic. The general safety and hygiene regulations also apply here in Gran Canaria. The number of cases of Covid-19 infections is increasing, but is comparatively low. There are excellent conditions for playing tennis.
The El Cortijo Club de Campo in Telde, Gran Canaria 🇪🇸 will host back-to-back ATP Challenger tournaments in February/March. The events will be organized by @meftennisevents – Las Palmas native and former World No. 5 in doubles David Marrero could serve as tournament director. pic.twitter.com/oTcp3ijo21
— Florian Heer (@Florian_Heer) January 17, 2021
ATP Challenger Tour returns to Gran Canaria
In just over a month, the professionals of the tennis circuit should also be able to enjoy this ambience. Organized by MEF tennis events from Italy, which gave the starting shot for the resumption of the professional tennis tour with the Internazionali Di Tennis Citta Di Todi last August after the forced suspension due to the coronavirus crisis, back-to-back ATP Challenger tournaments to be held at the El Cortijo Tennis Academy are scheduled for late February and early March.
The El Cortijo Tennis Acdaemy is one of the most renowned tennis facilities on the third largest island of the archipelago. The plant is located approx. 15 kilometers south of the capital Las Palmas in Telde, the second largest city in Gran Canaria. The international airport can be reached by car in just 10 minutes. The club was part of the Challenger Tour in 2006 and 2008. Marc Lopez and Teymuraz Gabashvili won the 2006 and 2008 tournaments respectively.
Talented Mark Owen Endler hopes to participate in the 2021 Challenger
“It would be a dream to compete in the Challenger this year,” says Mark Owen Endler. The 18-year-old has just made it to the finals of the national tournament “Islacao” – named after the main sponsor, a Canarian hot chocolate drink. Endler, born on the neighboring island of Tenerife, competes for Germany.
“My mother is from the United States and my father is German. My grandparents still live in Dresden,” he says, explaining his international background. Although he understands the German language very well, he prefers to speak Spanish or English. “I played a couple of junior tournaments in Germany and had the chance to visit some cities.”
However, Endler recorded his first international success outside of Europe. Two years ago he won the ITF Junior Championships in Bahrain. “It was a great experience, but also really hot on site in Manama. We had about 40 degrees almost every day and it was pretty tough to play tennis. But everything was well organized and I was able to win the tournament in singles as well as in doubles. “
Playing at the Rafa Nadal Academy
On the Junior’s Tour, Endler made it into the top 10 Under-18 players in Spain and was ranked inside the top 500 in the world. Now it’s time to make the transition to senior’s level, where he has made his first experiences recently.
“I’ve just come from the ITF World Tennis Tournament at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca. Unfortunately I didn’t do very well there, but I was able to win a round in doubles alongside David Marrero.” There was this light in his eyes. Playing alongside a former ATP Finals doubles champion was obviously a special event for Endler.
“I was pretty nervous, but it felt fantastic on the court. We played together for the first time. He himself comes from Gran Canaria and could become the tournament director for the upcoming Challenger here. Provided he doesn’t compete in the tournament himself,” laughs Endler, who hasn’t given up hope of a wild card in doubles.
From Tenerife to the big, wide world
Getting a wild card in singles seems to be unlikely for Endler. “The wild cards will likely go to players from the club here,” he said. “I train at the Tenerife Tennis Academy, where I also go to school. My goal is to become a tennis professional. However, I am thinking of going to the United States next year to study and play college tennis. “
Endler has already got in touch with a college in South Carolina. A path that German stars like Yannick Hanfmann and Dominik Koepfer have already taken to finally establish themselves on the ATP Tour. “Maybe I can do that too,” Endler remains positive. Participation in the Challenger in Gran Canaria could at least represent another step in the right direction for him.