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Wimbledon backs revamped grass-court schedule for 2020: New WTA event in Berlin and ATP 250 in Mallorca

Hannah Wilks in News 18 Sep 2019
  • New-look grass-court schedule for 2020
  • Birmingham to be downgraded in favour of new WTA Berlin event
  • WTA Mallorca Open to be replaced by ATP 250 event
Ashleigh Barty celebrates winning the Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham in 2019 (PA Sports)

Wimbledon backs revamped grass-court schedule for 2020.

The AELTC have backed a new-look slate of grass-court tournaments for the 2020 tennis season.

The Nature Valley Classic in Birmingham is to be downgraded from a Premier to International event, with its Premier status passing to a new WTA Tour event in Berlin.

The new Berlin event will be played at the LTTC Rot-Weiss on three grass courts to be built with the support of the AELTC, with the biggest court to be the 7,000-seat capacity Steffi Graf Stadium.

The International event in Birmingham replaces the one previously held in Mallorca, which will be an ATP Tour 250 event from 2020, inheriting the spot previously held by the event in Antalya, Turkey.

A new WTA International event in Bad Homburg is also planned but must be approved by the WTA Board. It would replace the Istanbul event played on clay in April.

The All-England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), the governing body of Wimbledon, plan to invest in new grass courts in Stuttgart and Mallorca and will become the owner, rights or license holder of four tournaments under the new scheme.

The grass-court season is a notoriously busy time of the tennis season with just three weeks between the climax of the European clay-court season at the French Open, which ends on Sunday 7 June in 2020, and the beginning of the year's third major at Wimbledon, which begins on 29 June in 2020.

Given the contrast in playing conditions between clay and grass, the majority of top players opt to participate in at least one grass-court tournament in the three-week interval between the two Grand Slams. 

Here is how the grass-court schedule will change in 2020.

Proposed changes to the grass court schedule

Week2019 schedule2020 schedule
#1 (8-14 June 2020)Stuttgart (ATP 250)
's-Hertogenbsoch (ATP 250/WTA International)
Nottingham (WTA International)
Stuttgart (ATP 250)
's-Hertogenbsoch (ATP 250/WTA International)
Nottingham (WTA International)
#2 (15-21 June 2020)Birmingham (WTA Premier)
Queen's Club (ATP 500)
Halle (ATP 500)
Mallorca (WTA International)
Berlin (WTA Premier)
Queen's Club (ATP 500)
Halle (ATP 500)
Birmingham (WTA International)
#3 (22-28 June 2020)Eastbourne (WTA Premier/ATP 250)
Antalya (ATP 250)
Eastbourne (WTA Premier)
Mallorca (ATP 250)
Bad Homburg (WTA International)

‘A strong and successful grass court season is absolutely critical to the future of grass court tennis and thus the future success of The Championships,' outgoing AELTC chairman Philip Brooks said.

'Having worked to expand the grass court season to be a meaningful gap between Roland Garros and Wimbledon, we’re pleased to be making these significant further investments into ensuring that quality grass court tournaments can be provided at all levels of the professional game.'

In 2017, Wimbledon was moved back a week in order to expand the grass-court season from two to three weeks.

The biggest loser from the changes is the Nature Valley Classic, a tournament which has a rich history dating back to 1982 when Billie Jean King won the inaugural edition. The Nature Valley Classic, played at Edgbaston Priory Club in Birmingham, was promoted to Premier status in 2014 and in recent years has regularly featured draws including multiple top-10 players. Since its promotion to Premier status, its champions have included Grand Slam winners Ana Ivanovic, Angelique Kerber, Petra Kvitova and, most recently, Ashleigh Barty, who sealed her rise to world no. 1 by winning the 2019 tournament.

With prize money set to be reduced from $1 million to $250,000 in accordance with its new status, the Nature Valley Classic should struggle to attract such strong player fields in the future, although some players may choose to stick with grass courts of proven quality, at least until they have seen how the courts in Berlin hold up.

Grass courts are notoriously finicky and expensive to maintain - hence the AELTC's investment.

The new WTA Berlin event will be owned by elmotion sports, who already own the Mercedes Cup in Stuttgart, the Erste Bank Open in Vienna (an ATP 500-level tournament played on indoor hard courts in the autumn) and the WTA Mallorca Open, which was created in 2016. Rafael Nadal's uncle and former coach Toni Nadal served as the tournament director for the WTA Mallorca Open and will continue to serve in that capacity as the event becomes an ATP 250.

'I am very proud, that there will be an ATP tournament in Mallorca after so many years again. We expect to offer the fans a strong line-up in the final week before Wimbledon. After four successful women’s tournaments we are now starting a new, exciting tennis era in Mallorca with this men’s event,' Nadal said.

Spain already hosts the Mutua Madrid Open - a Masters 1000 Series event for the men and Premier Mandatory tournament for the women - and the Barcelona Open, an ATP 500 event. It is also due to host the new-look Davis Cup Finals in 2020. 

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Wimbledon backs revamped grass-court schedule for 2020: New WTA event in Berlin and ATP 250 in Mallorca

The AELTC have given their backing to a new-look grass-court schedule with the creation of a new WTA Premier event in Berlin seeing the Birmingham tournament downgraded and an ATP Tour 250 event in Mallorca replacing Antalya

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