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New chapter begins for Stuttgart after grass court makeover

John McEnroe and Michael Stich play an exhibition match in Stuttgart
by Alexandra Willis
Tuesday 22 July 2014

Stuttgart celebrated the opening of its new grass courts ahead of moving to be a grass court event in 2015 as part of the newly-extended grass court season. Wimbledon.com reports...

It seems like a long time ago that executives of the Tennisclub Weissenhof in Stuttgart, Mercedes and the All England Club gathered together in Stuttgart to share a cake that half resembled a clay court, and half a grass court

The culinary creation was designed to represent the decision taken by Stuttgart, a clay court ATP World Tour 250 event, in partnership with title sponsor Mercedes, and with the backing of the AELTC and the ATP, to move to a grass court event in 2015. 

15 months after that cake was cut in March 2013, the tournament's executives hosted an on-court ceremony to officially open the new grass courts, followed by an exhibition match between John McEnroe and Michael Stich. Three-time Wimbledon champion McEnroe defeated one-time chamion Stich 6-4, 5-7, 10-8 in a thrilling display that showed not only do the two former champs still have it, but also just how thrilling grass court tennis can be.

“It was a lot of fun to play on this court and the atmosphere was great," said McEnroe.

“The change to grass is a great opportunity for the MercedesCup," Stich added. "I congratulate the tournament on this brave step."

"Now the grass court season will finally be extended by one week. It is good that the players will have more time to manage the difficult transition from clay to grass."

It is the happy fruition of a long process that began with a conversation between Tournament Director Edwin Weindorfer and AELTC Chief Executive Richard Lewis when the three-week gap was announced in July 2012. 

"We announced we were going to do the three weeks, with the change of date and then the ATP put out invitations to tender for the extra grass-court slots," Lewis explains. "Then Edwin Weindorfer, the Stuttgart tournament director, made contact. He wanted to know what was involved before he put a bid together, talked to the (Stuttgart) club, the sponsors at the Mercedes Cup. We got to know each other and it went from there."

The AELTC has assisted with the preparation of Stuttgart's courts, offering advice from the groundstaff, and support in promoting the event. 

"We helped them first of all with advice. They visited us, mainly, to talk about what was involved, helping them access the right type of soil, let alone the grass seed. And the climate, what to do when, how to construct the actual court, then what to do when the grass starts going. It’s very interesting hearing all the different aspects they need to consider to create top quality grass courts," Lewis explains. "We also gave them a bit of support, in terms of being over there for a couple of press conferences, and just created a partnership, also helping them, to a limited extent, to promote the grass-court event, which we think is good for grass-court tennis."

With a new WTA event planned to take place on grass in Mallorca from 2016, the two tournaments at The Queen's Club and Halle being upgraded to ATP 500, and the WTA event in Birmingham to a Premier, the expanding of the grass court season has yielded positive reaction. 

"The game’s more physical now so the concept of giving players more time to recover is important," Lewis says. "Not just pure injuries, but recovery time, and also, crucially tournament preparation time. It was always acknowledged that having two Slams so close together was hard. We’re pretty content and pretty excited about the 2015 calendar."

 Watch CNN's coverage of Stuttgart's switch to grass...

Watch more from the opening of the Stuttgart grass courts

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