Tennisportal had the fortune to sit down with the tournament director of Mercedes Cup, Edwin Weindorfer, before the start of the most prestigious Grand Slam tournament there is – Wimbledon. How was it possible to to sign the “Goat” of tennis, Roger Federer? How did the change from clay to grass lift the tournament and what are the the possibilities of a “Fedal”-rivalry next year in Germany?
2014 was the last edition of Mercedes Cup played on clay. A surface where Claycourts-specialists such as Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Alex Corretja, Gustavo Kuerten, Guillermo Canas and Alberto Berasategui all lifted the trophy at the intriguing Tennis Club Weissenhof. When Wimbledon in 2013 decided to go back one week in the calendar to add one more week before the Slam, Edwin and his colleagues acted quickly.
– The tournament in summer is very tough to do because so many players don’t want to play on clay after Wimbledon and they prefer to go on holidays and prepare for the hardcourt-swing. Not all of them but certain players don’t want to play in that period of time so when Wimbledon announced their changes, we were basically the first one who said: “We want do this”.
– We took the chance and we started talking to the club, to Mercedez Benz and we said, look, this is a great chance to be part of the Wimbledon-Series. We have 25 courts up there in the club on clay so the members would not have a problem if we have 6 grass courts.
How has the move to grass lifted this tournament would you say?
– It has lifted the tournament in a big way because of television rights, television distribution and of course it is always good to be part of the Wimbledon series. Grass gives it a special flair, plus another point is that it’s easier for us to get players, the top players. Our goal is to have 7-8 top-20 players. We had 4 this summer, obviously we tried to get that level up, if we wouldn’t have Roger we could have more top-10 players but we decided to go with one big star, that is Roger Federer.
People would say that to get Roger in a 250-tournament, that’s impossible. How did you do it?
– We did it because of three reasons. Number one: because of the grass court. He wants to prepare for Wimbledon, unfortunately this year it was not great that he lost in the first round, that’s just the way it is. The grass court is the most important thing because it’s Rogers most important surface and he wants to win Wimbledon one more time to be on his own, it’s 7-7 between him and Sampras.
–If he win this year, or next year, Roger will be the greatest Wimbledon-winner of all times with the 8 championships. The second thing is Mercedes Benz, not only our title sponsor but they are also one of the big sponsors of Roger Federer. The third thing is that he likes this club, he knows it very well. He always expressed interest to play here and he is very close to Switzerland and his home. These are the factors that made it happen.
Will Roger Federer come back to Stuttgart and Mercedes Open next year as well?
– Yes, we already started a negotiation, we had a two-year contract that expired but we will try to get Roger and next year my goal is to get Roger and Rafa, because they both want to play here! It’s a question of budget, if we can make it happen to have Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer here at the same time. Roger because he didn’t play well yet here and Rafa because he already won here three times.
Are you considering Mercedes Cup to move up to a 500-tournament in the future?
– Well, the question is where is the future? Is the future 500-level? ATP is reconsidering the whole construct of tennis. It could be in the future that there are no 250, 500 and 1000-tournaments anymore. We need to wait and see what the ATP decides in 2020 and onwards because at this stage, everything is open. We will definitely open for an upgrade if there is a chance, whatever the upgrade will look like.