Helibronn Harbours High Hopes As Tournament of the Year
Editor's Note: This story was originally posted in 2017. The clay-court event has since won Tournament of the Year on the ATP Challenger Tour with Braunschweig and Vancouver.
A 45 minute drive north of Stuttgart into the sprawling German countryside will lead you to the TC Heilbronn am Trappensee, a tennis club founded in 1892. Over a century has passed but the 600-member club is steeped in tradition in the tranquil rural surroundings.
This week, the site hosts the €85,000 ATP Challenger Tour event called the Neckarcup, which in 2017 is celebrating a fourth edition. It is not only the scenery that makes the Neckarcup such a special event. The tournament is determined to keep evolving and boasts an indoor tennis centre as well as floodlit courts to enable the introduction of night matches.
Casper Ruud, into the quarter-finals so far this week, hopes to follow in the footsteps of fellow #NextGenATP player Alexander Zverev, champion here in 2015, and he’s been highly impressed by the tournament’s complex. "The tournament is really nice, with a great organisation,” said Ruud. “It's not the biggest city here (Helibronn), but that's not a bad thing as the club is great and you can focus more on the tournament. I think German clubs are in general very good and they always have good courts and decent food at the site. The weather has been great here too, so not much to complain about.”
Tournament Director Metehan Cebeci is proud of what has been achieved thus far in four years, but he is hungry to see the Neckarcup evolve and grow. Here are Cebeci’s thoughts on the development of his tournament and the ATP Challenger Tour as a whole...
What has changed since the opening of the Neckarcup in 2014 and how has the
I am very happy with the development of my tournament. Of course, it has been a lot of work, but the Neckarcup did not come about from a night of work. I have had time to plan the tournament. I have benefited from my experience in ITF youth tournaments. From the beginning, it was my ambition to give the professionals the greatest possible comfort. Secondly, I have looked at the interests of the ATP, the spectators in the stands, and finally, my requirements as Tournament Director. For example, new to this year, we will play night sessions for the first time thanks to a floodlight system.
How did you manage to organise a Challenger in Heilbronn?
As a former player and later a school tennis coach, it has always been my goal to create a tournament of this magnitude. It was important for me to find a suitable date for this. Since Germany is predominantly a clay place, I definitely wanted to organise an event on the dirt, ideally before the French Open. Fortunately, that worked.
What are your thoughts on the growth of Challenger events in Germany?
The attention has grown, but it could be even better. Of course, it is also down to the tournament organisers, as they promote their tournament. For the ATP, the importance of the Challenger Tour has increased. This means that the gap between the Challengers and the ATP World Tour is not as big as it was before. There are great players here who can compete with the best.
What are your goals for this event?
We want to continue to grow. I would like to expand the Challenger category and expand the Neckarcup to an €85,000 or €100,000 event. We need financial support in the long term. Until now I am doing everything I can and I really want this tournament to succeed, no matter how much effort and stress. The smile of the players and the joy I see at the end of the day compensates me for everything.
Are there other tournaments that you have learned from?
The tournament directors of the ATP Challenger Tour events in Germany have a strong exchange amongst ourselves. We visit our events and meet at least once a year. I also look at how others raise their tournaments.