The ATP makes a swift return to clay courts in the week after Wimbledon with the annual Stuttgart Open.
The tournament dates back almost one hundred years, and has welcomed some of the greatest clay court players of all time.
Stuttgart first held a tennis event in 1916, but the German city did not host a regular men’s tournament until 1949. Before the dawn of professional tennis at the end of the 1960s, many notable players of the amateur era triumphed in Stuttgart, including Gottfried Von Cramm, Cliff Drysdale and Roy Emerson.
From the 1970s onwards, the tournament gained prestige, and it was moved to the state-of-the-art Tennis Club Weissenhof complex in 1978. Today, as well as receiving a generous amount of prize money, the champion in Stuttgart is awarded a Mercedes car from the tournament sponsors, making it one of the most lucrative stops on the tour.
The list of Grand Slam winners who have triumphed in Stuttgart is extensive. In the Open Era, Vitas Gerulaitis, Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Andre Agassi, Goran Ivanisevic, Michael Stich, Juan Martin Del Potro and Juan Carlos Ferrero have won the Stuttgart Open either before or after tasting success at one of tennis’ four major tournaments.
However, only a few greats have won in Stuttgart more than once. Thomas Muster, who remains the only man to win back-to-back titles, won in 1995 and 1996. Fellow French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten was victorious in 1998 and 2001, and current King of Clay Rafael Nadal won in Stuttgart in 2005 and 2007.
Ferrer def. Acasuso, 2006 final:
The 2006 Stuttgart final, a clash between third seed David Ferrer and fifth-seeded Jose Acasuso, became one of the biggest clay court epics of the last decade. It featured countless lengthy, gruelling rallies between two of the best scramblers on tour, a sublime exhibition of clay court tennis at its most enthralling.
A break in the ninth game was enough to guide Ferrer to the first set, but his opponent hit back in the second to take it 6-3. Under unusually hot conditions in the southern German city, both men fought for every point in the third set, which eventually went to a tie-break after an exchange of breaks. Acasuso proved stronger on the big points, and took it by seven points to three. The Argentine then seized control of the match, winning five consecutive games to lead 5-1 in the fourth set.
With such a deficit, Ferrer would have been forgiven for mentally throwing in the towel, but instead the Spaniard dug deep into his reserves and mounted an extraordinary comeback. Scurrying and retrieving from all corners of the court, he broke back twice, saved a match point when serving at 4-5 down, and broke again to take the fourth set 7-5.
In spite of the dramatic momentum shift, Acasuso managed to recover at the beginning of the deciding set, winning the first game to show that he was still willing to fight. Yet Ferrer was reinvigorated, and full of belief. The rallies remained intense, but Acasuso was now cramping in both legs, and fell behind 5-2. In a final display of heroics, he got one break back, but couldn’t prevent his rival from holding on to the advantage. Ferrer finally sealed the 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-5, 6-4 victory after five hours of draining but exhilarating tennis.
Video: Ferrer v Acasuso, 2006
- Gaston Gaudio, the 2004 French Open champion, was a three-time runner-up in Stuttgart.
- The 2012 Stuttgart winner, Janko Tipsarevic, gave the diamond white metallic Mercedes SLK he won to his wife.
- Since 2007, the men’s final has been played as the best of three sets.