NUSSLOCH, January 31, 2016
The three-week ITF Pro Circuit indoor swing in Germany concluded with the final of the $25,000 MLP-Cup, held at the Racket Center in Nussloch for the 13th time.
Two former champions went head to head on Sunday. Top-seed and 2012 winner Nils Langer took his second crown in the metropolitan region Rhine-Neckar, winning 6-3, 6-4 against 2010 champion Niels Desein. The 26-year-old German dominated most of the rallies from the baseline, having good length in his groundstrokes to finish the match with his 12th ace after 70 minutes.
“I played pretty quick and aggressive tennis, took a lot of risk but I just felt good on court today. I also served well, which is very important on this surface here,” Langer summarized the key to success. The world number 211 arrived from Australia, where he played the qualifying of the first major of the season as well as the ATP Challenger in Happy Valley, where he lost in the second round and eventually received a wild card for Nussloch.
“It was not too difficult for me to adapt to the indoor conditions again. I was just happy to get the chance of playing here. I just wanted to get some matches and so I was happy to get into the main draw. The plan has worked,” Langer was satisfied by lifting his eighth ITF Future trophy, his first since claiming the title in St. Pölten 2014.
“I reached two Challenger finals last year, which might be categorized even higher than winning a title on the ITF Future Circuit. I couldn’t win a title in 2015 but I played well during the second half of the season. Of course the result here is a motivation for the rest of the season,” said Langer, who takes away $3,240 in prize money as well as 27 ATP ranking points, and added that he also had an eye on the Australian Open.
“Of course you watch some of the matches from Melbourne on TV. This is also a motivation. Angelique has proved that everything is possible by beating Serena Williams in the final,” he stated and will continue his tennis tour in Bergamo.
“I will play on the ATP Challenger level for the next three of four weeks starting in Italy, Poland and will then go to France. I would like to crack the top 100 by the end of the season and we will continue working hard for that over the next couple of weeks,” Langer said about his further schedule and his goal for 2016.
The MLP-Cup was the first ITF Future tournament of the season with a total prize money of $25,000 held on European soil, and the event’s organizers want to keep proceeding on the chosen path.
“We are a commercial venue here with about 120 staff members and in the end we need to cover our costs. But it is all about the authentic sport. I want to create an atmosphere for the players, in which they are willing to deliver their maximum performance,” tournament director Dr. Matthias Zimmermann, who is also the CEO of the Racket Center Nussloch, told about his motivation to create such a tournament.
“We also want to involve young players with the event when they act as ballkids or linesmen during the matches. So they have the chance to get an impression of the game as close as possible. Eventually, they should get the chance to play here as well when young players get a wild card into the tournament like we had with 16-year-old Tim Heger in the qualifying this year,” he continued and took up the challenge to organize the season’s first $25,000 ITF Future event in Europe.
“We got support from the regional and the national tennis association, as well as the ITF to increase our total prize money this year. Of course it is a dream to maybe fill the gap, the ATP Challenger in Heilbronn has left,” he said. The Heilbronn Open was an ATP Challenger event of the highest category, which took place annually in January during the second week of the Australian Open from 1984 to 2014 at the Tenniscenter in Talheim. “MLP (a German corporation providing financial services) currently covers a quarter of the tournament’s total budget, but if you do not have a title sponsor covering at least 60% of the total costs, you will not have a chance to organize a bigger event,” Zimmermann explained and added that there is also a lot of competition in the region with other sports like football, handball or ice-hockey.
About 500 spectators attended the matches during the final weekend. “It is important to have a local hero. In 2010 we had with Mario Ancic and Gilles Muller well-known players on the international tennis tour but it didn’t have the effect in terms of spectator numbers we might have wished,” Zimmermann told about having a great field of players. “Nonetheless, the level of tennis is great and last year’s final was amazing. The people loved it but it doesn’t make sense to organize a Challenger event with only a few more people attending the matches.”
Yet, the concept and motivation seems to be there. The venue also meets the requirements and maybe it is the right time to create a new and bigger indoor tennis event in Germany in the near future.