Puerto Vallarta, Braunschweig, Heilbronn & Szczecin Named Best 2019 Challengers
The ATP has announced the 2019 ATP Challenger Tournaments of the Year, with players voting for Puerto Vallarta (Mexico), Braunschweig (Germany), Heilbronn (Germany) and Szczecin (Poland) as their favourite stops.
The Challenger of the Year Awards recognise excellence in standards set across the global ATP Challenger Tour, comprising 158 tournaments staged in 39 countries and territories. From the cosy European clay-court confines of Braunschweig, Heilbronn and Szczecin to the sun-kissed beach paradise of Puerto Vallarta, all four are integral events on the circuit.
The Puerto Vallarta Open is fast becoming one of the top Challenger destinations, taking home the award in both of its first two editions. An oceanside oasis on the west coast of Mexico, the scenic setting has quickly become a favourite among players. The tournament burst onto the scene in 2018 and made even greater strides this year.
Once again, Germany is rising to the top of the ATP Challenger Tour, with Braunschweig and Heilbronn setting the standard. Braunschweig's Sparkassen Open, which celebrated its 26th anniversary in July, was awarded with the top honour for the fifth time since 2014, when player voting began for the Challenger awards. The NECKARCUP in Heilbronn is honoured for the third straight season, following another impressive edition in western Germany.
The oldest of the four winners is the Pekao Szczecin Open in Szczecin, Poland. For 27 years, the tournament has welcomed tens of thousands of fans through its doors and provided players with a home away from home. After first receiving the award in 2016, the clay-court stop has been recognised once again.
ATP Challenger Tour Committee Co-Chairs, Alison Lee, ATP International Executive Vice President, and Ross Hutchins, Chief Player Officer, said: “These Challenger awards have significant meaning to promoters as they are a validation of their hard work and commitment to staging an excellent event. Players appreciate the way these tournaments are operated and how the event organisers try their utmost to ensure a fantastic player experience throughout the week. This year, there is a mix of four repeat winners, new and old. Braunschweig and Szczecin have both staged high-quality Challengers for more than 25 years, while Puerto Vallarta and Heilbronn are only a few years old, but have been committed to staging the best possible event from the very beginning.”
The ATP Challenger Tour is the launching pad for the stars of tomorrow. Players develop their skills and gain valuable experiences as they fight to take the next step on the ATP Tour. The circuit's intimate settings provide a pressure-packed atmosphere for players to hone their craft. And for the fans, these tournaments are a unique opportunity to follow the career trajectory of a rising star from its infancy.
The Challenger circuit visits some of the most historic and scenic locales in the world. Look no further than Puerto Vallarta, Braunschweig, Heilbronn and Szczecin.
In Puerto Vallarta, it is tennis in paradise. For the second straight year, the Puerto Vallarta Open welcomed players under the radiant glow of the Mexican sun. With the Pacific Ocean glistening in the distance and the Sierra Madre mountains towering overhead, it provided the perfect setting for a tournament on the ATP Challenger Tour. Fans once again packed the Parque Parota for one big fiesta from first ball to last.
A sunset boat cruise with a live Mariachi band shuttled players around the Bahía de Banderas on the eve of the tournament. Later in the week, one of the city's most popular dance clubs hosted a vibrant player party, providing an ideal escape for those looking to toss aside their racquets and take in the local culture.
"We are honoured to have been given the Challenger Award for a second consecutive year and humbled by the support and trust bestowed on us," said Tournament Director Javier Romero. "We are unequivocally committed to further improving our tournament in the world’s most beautiful beach resort."
In Braunschweig, the Braunschweiger Tennis Club is steeped in history, having been founded in 1901 and partially rebuilt after the city was destroyed during World War II. More than two decades ago, the Sparkassen Open was founded with a small Centre Court and one catering tent. The main stadium has since been upgraded to hold a capacity crowd of 2,000 patrons, with a big stage for nightly concerts and over 50 concession tents for catering and exhibitions. It has boasted future Top 10 players Gaston Gaudio, Tomas Berdych and Alexander Zverev as its champions.
"Winning the ATP Challenger Award for the sixth time is fantastic and gives us new strength for the future," said Tournament Director Volker Jaecke. "A very special thanks to the ATP and all players who have voted for the 2019 Sparkassen Open in Braunschweig."
For three straight years, the NECKARCUP has represented the best of the ATP Challenger Tour. With the river Neckar curling around the downtown district and a vast expanse of vineyards dotting the surrounding region, Heilbronn’s tranquility provides players with a relaxed setting. Not only is the TC Heilbronn Trappensee the second-oldest tennis club in all of Germany, but it is also the third-oldest on the Challenger circuit today. The tournament has been fortunate to have a glittering list of champions, with four of the five winners going on to crack the Top 50 of the ATP Rankings.
"We are very pleased and appreciate that our long, hard work has been honoured by the ATP and the players," said Tournament Directors Mine and Metehan Cebeci. "We are proud and happy to receive this award for the third time’ Although we do our very best, this is great motivation to work even harder."
Tennis in Poland is enjoying a golden era on the ATP Challenger Tour, with tournaments in Szczecin and Poznan celebrating more than 25 years and former Top 10 doubles star Mariusz Fyrstenberg leading the charge in Sopot. The Challenger 125 event in Szczecin is the oldest and largest pro tournament in the country. Packed crowds are the norm in the Polish metropolis, with the locals contributing to the electric atmosphere. Former Top 10 stars Nikolay Davydenko, Nicolas Massu, Nicolas Lapentti and Richard Gasquet have lifted the trophy over the years.
"This is great news and an amazing Christmas gift for our team," said Tournament Director Krzysztof Bobala. "We will continue to work even harder on next year’s event."
While all four tournaments have their own unique identities that set them apart, they are similar in their passion for growing the game and devotion to creating a first-rate experience. It is a show from start to finish, both on and off the court. In addition to the world-class tennis between the lines, all successful events cultivate a vibrant culture for the players and fans. The quartet have set the bar in that respect. Their social scenes, which include concerts and other performances, as well as sponsor villages and exhibitions, contribute to the soul of the tournaments.
All winners will be presented with their awards in ceremonies during their tournaments. Puerto Vallarta is first up in late April, followed by Heilbronn two weeks later. Braunschweig takes centre stage in early July and it all culminates in Szczecin in September.