The Netherlands hosts a rare combined ATP/WTA grass court event in the third week of June.
Held in ’s-Hertogenbosch, a city in the south of the country, the tournament offers top players a final chance to fine-tune their grass court games before Wimbledon.
Holland’s first grass court competition was staged in 1989, but in a format similar to that used at the current ATP and WTA end-of-season championships. Eight of the world’s best players were invited to the two-group, round robin event, and the eventual champion was former Olympic Gold Medallist Miloslav Mečíř.
In 1990, the tournament adopted the standard knockout format and became a regular fixture on the ATP Tour. Until the Gerry Weber Open in Halle began in 1993, ’s-Hertogenbosch was the only grass court event to be played in continental Europe. In 1996, the tournament further distinguished itself by adding a women’s singles and doubles competition.
Now known as the Topshelf Open, the event is played at the Autotron Rosmalen Exhibition Centre.
The Netherlands’ very own Richard Krajicek was the first multiple champion in ’s-Hertogenbosch, winning in 1994 and 1997. He was emulated a few years later by compatriot Sjeng Schalken, who won back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003. Two other men have lifted the Rosmalen trophy twice: big-serving Croat Mario Ancic in 2005 - 2006, and David Ferrer, who proved himself a proficient grass court player with victories in 2008 and 2012.
To date, however, the most successful player at the ’s-Hertogenbosch championships is Patrick Rafter. The Aussie had a stunning 15-1 win-loss record at the tournament during his career, and won three titles in a row from 1998 - 2000.
Despite a roll of honour that includes multiple Grand Slam champions Kim Clijsters, Martina Hingis and Mary Pierce, only two women have ever triumphed more than once at the event. Thailand’s Tamarine Tanasugarn, a grass court specialist, won the title two years running in 2008 and 2009. Justine Henin, who first won in ’s-Hertogenbosch in 2001, also earned the last tournament victory of her career there in 2010.
Ljubicic def. Wessels, 2007 final:
One of the closest ever men’s finals in ’s-Hertogenbosch was a classic David-versus-Goliath contest, with second seed Ivan Ljubicic taking on the home favourite Peter Wessels, a qualifier ranked 488th in the world. Wessels had beaten the top seed, Tommy Robredo, earlier in the tournament, and although he narrowly lost the first set to Ljubicic on a tie-break, he secured the first break of the match to take the second 6-4. With both men continuing to dominate on serve throughout the decider, it too went the distance, but the more experienced Ljubicic proved slightly stronger in the closing stages and sealed victory after two hours of high quality grass court tennis.
Henin def. Petkovic, 2010 final:
Justine Henin had returned to the tour at the beginning of 2010 with the intention of winning the only Grand Slam to elude her, Wimbledon. As a result, her grass court preparation was crucial, and she entered the ’s-Hertogenbosch final that year determined to get her hands on the trophy. But the fast-rising German Andrea Petkovic was just as focused, and surprised the top seed by serving brilliantly and taking the first set 6-3. Henin, one of the toughest competitors in the history of the sport, bounced back in the second, charging towards the net at the right times to put her less experienced opponent under pressure. The comeback looked to have been short-lived, however, as Petkovic moved into a 3-0 lead in the deciding set. Yet the Belgian recovered once again, playing with measured aggression as her rival, looking increasingly fatigued, began to make more errors. Henin finished the match with an ace out wide to claim the 43rd singles title of her career.
Video: Henin v Petkovic, 2010
- Cyril Suk reached six consecutive doubles finals from 2000 - 2005, winning five times.
- The 1999 men’s doubles final had to be cancelled due to heavy rain.
- In 2006 Michaella Krajicek followed in her elder brother’s footsteps by winning the women’s singles title. She also won the doubles title two years later.
- Michael Stich beat John McEnroe in the semi-finals of the 1992 tournament. The former Wimbledon champions teamed up to reach the doubles final that year, but lost in three sets.