The final clay court tournament on the ATP calendar takes place in the Austrian Alps in July. The Austrian Open Kitzbühel is part of the 250 series, and is one of the oldest tennis competitions in the world.
A tournament was first held in Kitzbühel in 1894. Britain’s Josiah Ritchie reached six consecutive finals at the beginning of the 20th century, winning the title five times. As travel became easier for international players, famous names such as Bill Tilden and Henri Cochet made the trip to Austria in the 1920s and 1930s.
Following the Second World War, the tournament was restyled as the Alpine Country Cup. Over the next two decades, amateur players from even further afield competed in Kitzbühel, including the great Australians Lew Hoad, Roy Emerson and Rod Laver.
With the advent of the professional era, the tournament became part of the Grand Prix circuit in 1970, and awarded generous prize money for the first time. As the ATP underwent restructuring in the 1990s and 2000s, the Austrian Open also changed status several times, and it was even classed as a Challenger event in 2010. In 2011, however, it returned to the tour as a 250 tournament.
Many notable players have triumphed in Kitzbühel in the Open Era. Guillermo Vilas, who won four times from 1977 - 1983, remains the tournament’s most successful player. Albert Costa, another French Open champion, is second on the list of multiple winners, having lifted the trophy in 1995, 1998 and 1999. Thomas Muster thrilled the home fans with victory in 1993.
The Austrian Open roll of honour also features some players less renowned for their success on clay. Pete Sampras won the very first clay court title of his career in Kitzbühel in 1992, and Goran Ivanisevic edged Fabrice Santoro in a memorable five-set final in 1994.
In recent years, a quintet of Argentines - Guillermo Coria, Agustin Calleri, Gaston Gaudio, Juan Monaco and Juan Martin Del Potro - have been victorious at the Tennis Stadium Kitzbühel. Robin Hasse of the Netherlands became the first man since Albert Costa to earn back-to-back titles when he won in 2011 ad 2012.
Garcia-Lopez def. Benneteau, 2009 final:
The 2009 final was a contest between two men who had never won a title on the ATP Tour. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain was aiming to become the latest in a long line of Spaniards to taste success in Kitzbühel, whereas Julien Benneteau was attempting to become the first French winner of the tournament in the Open Era.
Both players were understandably nervous in the opening set, which featured five breaks of serve. It was eventually Benneteau who managed to remain the steadier, however, holding on to take it 6-3. In the second, a more settled Garcia-Lopez cut down on his unforced errors, but there was little to separate the rivals until the 12th game. Benneteau saved two set points at 5-6 down to force a tie-break, but his resistance then crumbled, and Garcia-Lopez took it buy seven points to one to set up an intriguing deciding set.
Once again, the rivals went toe-to-toe from the baseline. Benneteau was more willing to advance towards the net, but Garcia-Lopez was threading the needle with some impressive passing shots. As the clock reached the three-hour mark and fatigue became a factor, the Spaniard converted his 10th break point of the match to move ahead in the third set for the first time. He then held serve for the remainder of the contest for the biggest moment of his career to date.
- The Austria Open Kitzbühel used to be held prior to the French Open.
- Thomas Muster made a return to the event in 2011, but the 42-year-old lost 6-3, 6-0 to Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber.
- Although no Austrian has triumphed in the singles competition since the early 1990s, two local players have enjoyed success in the doubles in recent years: Stefan Koubek was part of the winning team in 2006, and veteran doubles specialist Julian Knowle won the 14th title of his career in Kitzbühel in 2012.