Germany’s biggest tennis tournament is held each July in the country’s second largest city of Hamburg. The German Open Tennis Championships, part of the ATP 500 series, is also one of the oldest events on the calendar.
The German Open was first played in 1882 in Uhlenhorst. In 1906 it was relocated to Rothenbaum, where it has remained ever since. In the amateur era, the competition was recognised as one of the most prestigious events on the tour, and regularly hosted the best players of the day.
Part of the GP Championship Series from 1978 - 1989, the tournament then became an ATP Super 9 and eventually an ATP Masters Series event. Held in the run-up to the French Open, it was seen as a key indicator of which players were likely to perform well at Roland Garros. Following a shake-up of Masters events in 2009, the German Open was reclassified as a 500 tournament; it also switched to a later date in the calendar.
The Am Rothenbaum boasts the largest centre court in Germany, seating over 13,000 spectators. A retractable roof was installed in 1997, enabling play to continue regardless of the weather.
German players dominated the event until the end of the 1940s. Between 1907 and 1925, Otto Froitzheim won seven singles titles in Hamburg. His compatriot, Gottfried Von Cramm, won the tournament six times between 1932 and 1949, and would probably have won more trophies had the event not been cancelled during the Second World War.
Towards the end of the amateur era, Australia became the most successful nation at the tournament, with champions such as Lew Hoad, Fred Stolle, Roy Emerson and Rod Laver. Since the dawn of the Open Era, many men who triumphed in Hamburg went on to win at Roland Garros, including Guillermo Vilas, Yannick Noah, Ivan Lendl, Gustavo Kuerten and Rafael Nadal.
But the most successful player of the modern era in Hamburg is Roger Federer. Between 2002 and 2008, the Swiss reached five finals, and won the title four times. His defeat of Nadal in the 2007 showpiece match was his first ever win over the Spaniard on clay.
Nadal def. Federer, 2008 final:
In 2008, Rafael Nadal was desperate to win the one major clay court title still to elude him. As an added incentive, he had an opportunity to avenge his loss to Roger Federer the year before. But Federer, who had won the deciding set of the 2007 final 6-0, began their 2008 clash in a similarly ruthless vein. Serving brilliantly and clipping the lines with pinpoint groundstrokes, he raced into a 5-1 lead, and even held set point. But after overcooking a swing volley, Federer lost momentum, and Nadal upped his game. Hitting with greater depth and topspin than he had done at the beginning of the match, the Spaniard roared back to win the first set 7-5.
Nadal broke Federer in the opening game of the second set, but the Swiss stemmed the tide by breaking back immediately. Summoning the aggressive tennis that guided him to such a strong position in the first set, Federer once again built up a 4-1 lead, and served for the set at 5-3. However, Nadal also rediscovered his form from the opening set, and broke back to force a tie-break. Federer, visibly frustrated at losing the advantage, stepped up to take it by seven points to three.
After two hours of relentless fighting from both men, the third set featured less to-ing and fro-ing. Once Nadal earned a crucial break in the fourth game, he didn’t look back, whipping winners past Federer from all corners of the court and simply refusing to break down during gruelling rallies. Holding triple match point at 5-3, the Matador hit a sharp-angled crosscourt winner to seal one of the hardest-fought victories of his career and lift the Hamburg trophy for the first time.
Video: Nadal v Federer, 2008
- Stefan Edberg won a rare clay court title in Hamburg in 1992.
- Michael Stich is the only German to win the event in the Open Era.
- The last American to win in Hamburg was Harold Solomon, who beat Guillermo Vilas in a five-set final in 1980.