Gran Canaria Challenger Organizer Marcello Marchesini: “We Are Ready!”

Marcello Marchesini at the El Cortijo Club de Campo in Gran Canaria (photo: Florian Heer)

GRAN CANARIA, January 28, 2021

The ATP Challenger Tour will return to Gran Canaria for the first time since 2008. Organized by MEF Tennis Events from Italy, which gave the starting shot for the resumption of the professional tennis tour with the Internazionali Di Tennis Citta Di Todi last August after the forced suspension due to the coronavirus crisis, back-to-back tournaments will be held at the El Cortijo Club de Campo in late February and early March.

The El Cortijo Tennis Acdaemy is one of the most renowned tennis facilities on the third largest island of the Canary Islands. The venue is located approximately 15 kilometers south of the capital Las Palmas in Telde, the second largest city in Gran Canaria. The international airport can be reached by car in just 10 minutes.

We met MEF Tennis Events founder Marcello Marchesini at the El Cortijo Club de Campo to talk about the new event.

Tennis TourTalk: Marcello, when did you come up with the idea organizing ATP Challenger Tour tournaments in Gran Canaria?

The idea came up in November when all the tournaments we organize in Italy had come to a close. As the ATP was very pleased with the job we did during the coronavirus crisis, they were happy to hear about our plan. We wanted to do something abroad for the first time and we were looking for a place where we can play outdoors in the winter months. We have already been in touch with the Spanish Tennis Federation and that’s why we decided to go to Gran Canaria.

What’s the difference between organizing a Challenger in Italy and abroad?

It is not that different, as our mind is always the same. The support of the administration is fundamental for us. They need to understand what we do and what they can get. Tourism in Gran Canaria is very important and an event like this is a good promotion for the island. As we run six tournaments in Italy, and we are the only organizers to stage Challenger events in two different countries, we made a deal with the tourist board of Gran Canaria that their logo will appear at all of our tournaments during the season. The same thing happens for the city of Todi (Umbria, Italy), which will bring its promotion to the Canary Islands thanks to our tournaments.

There will be two tournaments in a row. What was the reason for it?

The ATP pushed us to do at least two events at the same place, as it is easier for the organization as well as for the players due to the ongoing travel restrictions during the pandemic.

What will be the official name of the tournaments and what will be the prize money?

The prize money will be €44,280 at both events and each winner will earn 80 ATP Ranking points. The official name of the tournaments is Gran Canaria Challenger 1 & 2. Our priority is to bring the name of the island around the world and doing it through the tournament title is the best choice. The tournament director will be David Marrero but he will not play. That’s excluded by the rules.

Will the tournament be held in front of spectators?

That’s not sure yet. If spectators are allowed, we will be ready.

Is there a particular player you would like to see here?

The entry list will be published on February 1. Of course, it would be nice to have Lorenzo Musetti here, who clinched his first Challenger title in Forli last year. In general, I like to see young players, who will have the chance to get into the Top 50 or even higher in the future.

What do you think of Musetti and his game?

Last year, I didn’t think that he could crack the Top 50. Not because of his technical skills but of the mentality. However, he has improved a lot and I think that he can make it.

Your home tournament in Todi last August was the first international tournament to be held after the suspension of the circuit because of Covid-19. Were you nervous ahead of the start?

It was terrible to think about it but in the end it wasn’t that stressful. We had support from the Mayor of the city and a very strict safety and hygiene protocol which helped us to host the event even in front of spectators. The tournament’s supervisor Roland Herfel kept an eye on the rules during the entire week and eventually he was very pleased with the outcome.

Can you tell us a bit about MEF Tennis Events in general?

The company was founded in 2007. I was the president of the Todi Tennis Club. The situation of it was not the best, as the club needed modernization. That’s what we did and we thought that we could redeem the costs by organizing a big event. That’s when we hosted our first tournament at Todi. After seven successful editions, a couple of important tennis people in Italy like Corrado Barazzutti, the former captain of the Italian Davis Cup and Fed Cup team, pushed me to organize more tournaments. In 2014 we did a tournament in Perugia. One year later, we founded MEF Tennis Events, which stands for Marcello, Elena and Federica. It’s a family-run business and has become our main job.

How will your 2021 tournament schedule look like?

Tournaments in Todi, Perugia, Forli and Parma have already been confirmed. Parma will be an ATP Challenger 125 tournament. The others will be ATP Challenger 80 events.

What’s the reason of Parma being the standout tournament?

The region of Emilia-Romagna wanted to have a tournament of the highest category, which is even more important than the others.

What will be the next step? When will you be part of the ATP Tour?

If the ATP offers us the possibility of a temporary license, we are ready.

How will your next couple of days look like here in Gran Canaria?

There are still a lot of things to do. The transportation and hospitality has already been organized. The players will stay at the Bull Reina Isabel & Spa Hotel, overlooking the well-known Playa de Las Canteras, in Las Palmas. In one week the hard work will start. My team from Italy will arrive on the island and we have to build up the stands, so that everything will look like a proper Challenger event.

Thank you for your time and all the best.

Interview: Florian Heer