Arantxa Sanchez Vicario coming as an honorary guest – “Hamburg was one of my favourite tournament”

A Spanish tennis legend is returning to Hamburg – Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, the three-time Rothenbaum winner, will be present at the 2023 Hamburg European Open as an honorary guest. Her visit will be a part of the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). The 51-year-old  former world No. 1 will be honoured for her services to the Rothenbaum tournament on 28 July. She will also be a member of the presentation party at the women’s victory ceremony on 29 July.

“I had great victories here against Steffi Graf,” remembers Sanchez Vicario when interviewed. “And I had a great connection with the German public.” Now living in Florida, the mother of two – daughter Arantxa is 14, son Leo is 11 – spoke in an interview about just how much she is looking forward to returning to the northern German city.“I loved the city, the people back then.”

She chalked up six final appearances, only eight-time finalist Steffi Graf has more. The four-time Grand Slam champion competed for the last time in Hamburg in 2000 when she was defeated in the final by the young Swiss Martina Hingis.

What things come to mind when you think of the Hamburg tournament?

Sanchez Vicario: “Hamburg has always been a very special tournament and city for me. It was one of my favourite tournaments on the WTA circuit where for many years I was able to achieve great success, and play my best tennis, with great victories against Steffi Graf, winning the tournament three times in 1993, 1994 and 1996 and playing another three finals in 1990, 1992 and 2000.”

After beating the German hero Steffi Graf twice in a Hamburg final, how come you’re a crowd favourite there? How do you explain the strong bond?

Sanchez Vicario: “I had a great connection with the German public, they really liked my fight, my dedication on the court and my personality and I noticed it when I played. They made me feel like I was playing at home, and they helped me a lot. They would cheer me on as if I were German and that motivated me a lot. They also liked that I always tried to speak German with them.”

When were you in Hamburg for the last time and what do you like about the city itself?

Sanchez Vicario: “I think that the last time I was in Hamburg was when I played in 2000, wow! That seems such a long time ago! I loved the city, the people. I remember going around the Alster, such a beautiful place.”

The WTA is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, it is a great pleasure for us to invite you here as a WTA legend. What are you looking forward to most of all about coming here and taking part in all the celebrations?

Sanchez Vicario: “It makes me very happy, and I can’t wait to return to Hamburg as a guest legend and be able to be part of the celebrations of the 50 years anniversary of the WTA. Hamburg has always had a very important place in my heart and now being able to go back and relive those great moments and memories after such a long time fills me with happiness. It is an honour to be part of the history of such a great tournament and I just can’t wait to be there!”

WTA jubilee celebrations – German Helga Masthoff also invited as a guest of honour

“We’re so pleased that Arantxa has taken up our invitation and will be celebrating the WTA’s great history with us. Arantxa was and is one of tennis’ great personalities – so unbelievably tenacious on the court and a wonderful person,”says promotor Peter-Michael Reichel.To mark the WTA anniversary festivities, the organisers of the Hamburg European Open will also be honouring other Rothenbaum legends on Center Court on 28 July and will celebrate with them at a reception later in the evening. Helga Masthoff, a German tennis legend from an earlier era, has already accepted the invitation. Now 81, she won three tournaments in 1972, 1973 and 1974 – just like Sanchez Vicario. The Hamburg crowd can also look forward to other surprise guests.

Girls’ Nations Cup – a new competition on the tournament schedule

Different generations will come together as the Girls’ Nations Cup – a mini edition of the Billie Jean Cup – will be hosted on 28 and 29 July. It will take the form of international matches between Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland, and is a new competition on the Hamburg schedule. Talking about the Girls’ Nations Cup, Tournament Ambassador Andrea Petkovic, the 2021 Hamburg runner-up, says, “For me it’s super important that we incorporate youngsters as soon as possible and give them a certain preparation on the way through the stages of their development. Young girls have to get the feeling early on of being a part of an important tournament. And it’s enriching for the event and the fans. The spectators on the outside courts can already see the stars of the future.”

Women’s tennis at Rothenbaum has a long and glorious tradition. The women’s tournament celebrated its premiere in Hamburg way back in 1896, just four years after the first men’s event. Inscribed in the oldest German tournament’s roll of honour are world stars like Margaret Court (Australia/1964, 1965, 1966), Billie Jean King (USA/1971), Venus Williams (USA/1999, 2001), Martina Hingis (Switzerland/1998, 2000) and Kim Clijsters (Belgium/2002). The record winner in the professional era is Steffi Graf who won six times in succession from 1987 to 1992 – Graf’s series came to an end when she was beaten in the 1993 final by a certain Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.

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