STARNBERG, March 1, 2021
Professional tennis at Tempelhof Airport will not remain a unique experience. After the exhibition tournament held last year as part of the bett1ACES, the ATP Challenger Tour will make a guest appearance on the grounds of the former airport this summer. The Berlin Open, endowed with a total prize money of $156,240, is scheduled for the week of July 19-25.
“We have been working in the events industry in Berlin for many years and would like to set a signal with the Challenger,” said Ulrich Weingärnter, one of the two managing directors of Gil & Weingärnter GmbH responsible for the event, during the last episode of the tennis podcast “Challenger Corner”. The architect and tennis fan describes men’s tennis in the German capital as a “diaspora”, which must be countered.
Second attempt for Berlin Open
The tournament should have been held last year, but the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis prevented the project. “For us as newcomers in the world of tennis, the event was not feasible under the new conditions in the midst of a pandemic,” admits Weingärtner. However, it also makes it clear that the situation has improved with increasing experience.
That the experienced Austrian tennis organizers from e-motion, who have been organizing ATP Tour tournaments in Stuttgart, Vienna and Mallorca for years, have already chosen the extraordinary location for the bett1ACES and provided spectacular photos with a court placed in the middle of the airport’s Hangar 6, is not a big deal for Weingärtner.
Tempelhof as USP
“Of course we want to make sure that the photos will be even more spectacular,” he said smiling. “The location fits in perfectly with Berlin and represents a unique selling point on the Challenger Tour. At every corner you can feel the history of this venue. For our tournament we will use the General Aviation Terminal with the historic gates and stairways as well as the covered apron with a perfect view of the airfield.”
Players, coaches and officials will be accommodated in Hangar 5 of the international airport with its three-letter code “THF”, which opened in 1923 and closed in 2008. “Matches will be played on a hard court, as there is a lack of tournaments held on this surface. In the run-up to the US Open, we could thus present a small, fine European solution,” said Weingärtner, specifying the strategic direction and adding that “there is enough space to grow”. The event is definitely intended to be held for a longer period of time.
Birgit Bach as tournament director
Birgit Bach, sports director of the Leipzig Open since 2015, will serve as tournament director of the Berlin Open and, as a licensed coach and marketing expert, will contribute her tennis expertise in order to ensure the success of the tournament. In 2016, Bach was awarded for hosting the best international tournament of the year by the German Tennis Federation (DTB).
Pandemic is a big question mark
Ultimately, from the point of view of the Berlin organizers as well as the tennis fans, it is to be hoped that the coronavirus will not thwart the plan again. Weingärtner also makes it clear that the tournament, which would also include side events and the presentation of other sports as part of an “Urban Sports Festival”, only makes economic sense with spectators attending the tournament.
“We are confident to host the tournament with appropriate safety and hygiene measures. Unfortunately, the development for events this year in Germany is still unclear at the moment. Various parameters have to fit, otherwise it will not work out. However, we are approaching the matter positively, remain optimistic and continue to enjoy the preparations,” said Weingärtner.
You can listen to the entire interview here (in German):