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The Dutch Open 2008 - Part 1

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For a small country, the Netherlands has a very interesting and diverse set of tournaments on the ATP, WTA and ITF calendars. All surfaces are represented and in December itís of only three countries to host a Year End Championship: The NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters.

Over the next year I hope to visit every single tournament we have Ė this includes Challengers and Futures. Iím not sure thatís a manageable goal, but itís definitely something worth trying. Each stop along the way should result in a blog and some pictures, the first examples of which get me underway right here and now.

Getting thereÖ

The Netherlands doesnít have real summers anymore. That, unfortunately, is not an exaggeration. Weíre nearing the point where we can say ďsame hereĒ to a Londoner and mean it. Last year the rain wreaked havoc on the Ordina Open, our best-known outdoor tennis tournament, when a shivering Anna Chakvetadze beat Jelena Jankovic at the death of daylight on the Sunday before Wimbledon.

This week the Dutch Open in Amersfoort seemed destined for a Monday or even a Tuesday finish. From Thursday onwards the prediction was rain, rain and a lot more rain. This was mentioned to me on Monday, but with the prospect of getting to see some tennis in a town not too far from home and with semi-VIP seats going for bargain prices, would you not have taken the risk? Exactly.

Each day leading up to Friday Iíd check the weather reports, optimistically thinking that things would clear up. If one weather website didnít give me the information I wanted to see Iíd move on to the next one, only to have my hopes dashed even further. Come Thursday evening the outlook was the worst it had been all week. This significantly changes what you pack. Instead of sunblock I brought an umbrella. Instead of a writing pad I brought my mp3 player and extra batteries. My mom even called me to remind me I needed to wear something warm.

Woodchips and gossips

How can you tell if a tournament is having a really bad week? Is it the printer malfunction at the start of the day, which means the first people hoping to buy a ticket suddenly have the time to get to know each another? Is it the expression on the faces of most of the tournament staff as they look towards the heavens? Is it the amount of woodchips on the ground around centre court to avoid people getting lost in the mud? Me, I vote for the mumbled comments of one stand owner who nearly bumped in to me as I took shelter from torrential rain: ďOh, such miseryÖ such miseryÖĒ

After about five minutes of the dayís first match the heavens opened and centre court was turned into a collection of puddles. Everyone rushed for the tent-covered center stage at which time the announcement came that this was probably the last rain of the day Ė but that the messenger should not be shot if things turned out differently.

All around me were people having a laugh at the downpour and the prospect of sunshine. With time on my side I decided to (finally) try to figure some things out about my camera. I bought it last year, but so far itís only managed to frustrate me beyond belief. Apparently I looked like I actually did know what I was doing, as a man came up to me and asked me if Iíd taken any pictures of Clijsters yet. Please take a moment to imagine the puzzled look on my face. Clijsters? Kim Clijsters? What was I to think of this?

I told the guy that if Kim were to return to tour, it wouldnít be at an ATP tournament. He didnít find that amusing and continued to rant about Kim being there. I asked for proof; he couldnít produce any. I asked other people about Clijsters; they gave me the same look I gave the guy with the story. I then pretended my phone rang and disappeared into the crowd.

Tournament reality

The Dutch Open has quite a rich history, going all the way back to 1957. Amongst itís previous winners are the names of Laver, Okker, Vilas, Muster, Rios and Djokovic. This year, with Beijing just around the corner and almost every big name playing on or preparing for hard court tennis, the entry list for this sweet little gravel tournament had taken a vicious beating.

The top seed is Marc Gicquel, ranked 48th in the world. With Santiago Ventura (world #95) as the eight seed, itís easy to mistake this yearís Dutch Open for a challenger with a silly amount of prize money and ranking points on offer. Tournament director Hans Felius has already said heís looking forward to 2009 when the Dutch Open will be played in the weeks leading up to Roland Garros, hopefully meaning a markedly improved entry list.

As is, the tournament has (had) issues up the wazoo, the weather being the most obvious of the lot. Today it also painfully exposed the restrictions imposed on the tournament by the lack of big-name players. After the first torrential downpour a couple of us went back to the main arena to find centre court looking flooded. The obvious question was ďwhy the hell didnít they cover the court?Ē The answer given was that they simply didnít have the money for it. Whether or not this is true, I donít know. Itís not important either, really. For me, it illustrates that itís not just the lower-ranked players who have hard time making ends meet.




Click here for more photos!

For part two, click HERE!

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Comments

  1. GVGirl's Avatar
    Nice! Three tournaments are being covered by TAT this week!
  2. jjnow's Avatar
    Ooo, Mr. Koffie. Another one with the photog's eye.

    Thanks especially for the photo of Marc Gicquel. I realized while filling out my predictions last week that I see his name in draws often, and frequently pick him to win, but I don't even have the faintest clue what he looks like.