The St. Petersburg Open is one of the first tournaments of the indoor season. Held in Russia’s fourth most populous city, it is part of the ATP 250 series.
The first St. Petersburg Open was staged in 1995, and immediately became a hugely popular event with fans. Between 2002 and 2006, over 300,000 people attended the tournament.
The court surface has undergone minor changes over the years. From 1995 - 1999, and again from 2004 - 2007, the tournament was played on carpet, but in the intervening years and since 2008, hard courts have been used.
The venue for the St. Petersburg Open, the Petersburg Sports and Concert Complex, took 11 years to build and is one of the most iconic arenas in Russia. As well as tennis, it hosts fencing, bowling and table tennis. When being used for music concerts, it has capacity for 20,000 people.
Yevgeny Kafelnikov delighted the home fans when he won the very first St. Petersburg Open in 1995. Marat Safin was the second Russian to win the tournament in 2000, and he also became the first multiple champion when he defended his title the following year. Mikhail Youzhny emulated his compatriots when he lifted the trophy in 2004.
Other notable winners in St. Petersburg include Grand Slam champions Richard Krajicek, Gustavo Kuerten and Thomas Johansson. In 2007, Andy Murray stormed to victory with a straight sets dismissal of Fernando Verdasco in the final; the Scot followed that up with another title run in 2008.
Stakhovsky def. Zeballos, 2009 final:
Two lesser-known players met in the St. Petersburg final in 2009, and each of them beat a Russian to get there. Sergiy Stakhovsky ended Marat Safin’s hopes in the last four, while Horacio Zeballos ousted Igor Kunitsyn in his semi-final.
It was Zeballos who got off to the best start, serving and moving well on the fast indoor surface. He broke his opponent twice on his way to taking the first set 6-2. Stakhovsky’s form improved in the second set, but he still had to fight off double-break point at 4-all. He then reeled off six straight points from 0-3 down in the tie-break, only for Zeballos to catch up with him again. On his sixth set point, however, Stakhovsky nailed a superb forehand pass to even the contest at one set apiece.
There was little to separate the two rivals in the third set, with each man playing well from the baseline and moving forward when the opportunity arose. Stakhovsky eventually broke for a 4-3 lead and had his first match point in the following game, but Zeballos held firm to ensure the championship would be decided in another tie-break.
The crowd were treated to some entertaining rallies as the match neared its conclusion, with both men demonstrating superb defensive skills. Zeballos played with focus to earn a match point of his own, yet the Ukrainian kept pressing. A few moments later, leading 8-7, Stakhovsky moved forward to put away a clean backhand volley, and dropped to his knees in elation. The victory marked the second title of his career, and was particularly sweet given that he had to qualify for the main draw in St Petersburg.
Video: Stakhovsky v Zeballos, 2009
- The St. Petersburg Open has received ATP awards for best attendance, marketing and player services.
- Britain’s Colin Fleming has won the doubles title twice in St. Petersburg: he partnered Ken Skupski in 2009 and Ross Hutchins in 2011.