Chile Proudly Celebrates ATP Tour Return
At the Club San Carlos de Apoquindo, everything looks sparkling new. There’s a feeling in the air that only comes with a brand new tournament on the ATP Tour as tour-level tennis returns to Chile after a six-year absence with the Chile Dove Men+Care Open.
However, the scene in the Precordillera is one of perfect organisation. The tournament staff have also successfully hosted other editions of this tournament, with Tommy Robredo winning the most recent event held in Santiago in 2011. The Los Condes venue, both spacious and compact, allows concepts to be put into action that improve spectator hospitality, make it a fan-friendly event and ensure that everything meets expectations to satisfy the tournament organisers, fans and players.
Tournament Director Catalina Fillol acknowledged that the process leading up to the event had been both challenging and entertaining.
“Once you start to see everything you’re planning and imagining, it’s a nice feeling,” Fillol said. “For example, Court Central starts with the size, the seating plan... And that’s on a piece of paper, so seeing it in real life was exciting. It’s wonderful now to see it in action.”
The tournament is a family experience. Catalina is the fourth daughter of Jaime Fillol Sr., who peaked at No. 14 in the FedEx ATP Rankings in 1974. Fillol Sr. and his brother, Alvaro Fillol, ran the country’s biggest tennis tournament from 1993-2014, which alternated between venues in San Carlos de Apoquindo, Santa Rosa and Vina del Mar.
Since that last edition of this event at 2014 Vina del Mar, the goal has been to once again have an ATP Tour event in the country. From there came the SACS group (a Spanglish acronym for sisters, friends, brothers-in-law and members), which includes the five Fillol Haggstrom children and their spouses. The goal of organising themselves as a professional outlet started with ATP Challenger Tour events, allowing them to maintain the family tradition and bring world-class tennis back to Chile.
Their big break back came last year when Octagon, the company that owns the rights to this tournament and the Cordoba Open, was looking for a new city to host an ATP Tour event. Santiago was an attractive prospect with interesting ingredients. Tennis had become far more popular in Chile and the country had star power with local favourite Cristian Garin, who recently broke into the Top 20.
“Tennis has grown greatly here in recent years thanks to the new players. It’s a strong Latin Swing and Chile was a great chance to go back to a country with a lot of history”, said Jorge Salkeld, Vice President of Octagon. “With Garín in the Top 20 and a country that is behind the event… It’s the perfect combination. To him, it’s a great platform where he can play at home, which is always special.”
Catalina is one of the few female tournament directors in the world. She said it made her immensely proud to be the only one for an ATP Tour event in South America, but quickly pointed out that getting this event off the ground was a family affair.
“Setting up the event in two months was non-stop work... But here we are. The history continues,” she said. “Now our families are working at the head of the tournament and our children are supporting us. I have children and nieces and nephews working as ball boys and girls, others are doing accreditations, my niece is in hospitality. It’s unique and we’re passionate about it.”
The tournament has produced great moments throughout its history, with several former World No. 1 players competing in Chile including Rafael Nadal, Gustavo Kuerten, Carlos Moya, Marcelo Rios, Mats Wilander and Jim Courier. This year, Catalina expects that fans will rally around home favourite Garin, who won his first ATP 500 event last week in Rio de Janeiro (d. Mager).
“He was always a quality player. He had huge potential and maybe it took a little longer and more hard work, but it was something that we were hoping might happen and he is doing it,” she explained. “He deserves credit. He is showing that he has the presence, the game and the status to be there.”
With the semi-finals and final already sold out and the venue expected to host more than 3,500 people each day, the tournament is shaping up to be a week-long party in Santiago. As long as players and fans are enjoying themselves, Catalina will consider the event to be a success.
“If the players feel that they are having a good time, that they like it and feel at home... we’ll be more than happy,” she said. “We want it to be a sports event and also a show for the public. We’ve said that we want to create the best tournament in South America and we’re only just starting.”