As ATP Tour stars competing at this week’s Terra Wortmann Open in Halle leave their hotel, they don’t emerge onto the busy streets of a major capital or jump in a car to head off to an out-of-town sports complex. Instead, they find themselves immediately face-to-face with the OWL Arena, the 11,500-capacity stadium in which they all hope to find grass-court success at the ATP 500 event.
“It’s a very unique set up,” says fourth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, who defeated Mackenzie McDonald on Wednesday evening to reach his second-straight Halle quarter-final. “You rarely play tournaments nowadays where you have the hotel in the site, and everything is walking distance. Everyone is here.”
Halle is a small town of just over 20,000 people, tucked away in rural North Rhine-Westfalia, a state in north-west Germany. It is also home to the OWL Arena complex, which contains an on-site hotel for players and their teams and maintains a countryside feel despite the impressive arena at its heart.
“It’s unique, I think weeks like these are refreshing in a way,” said Nick Kyrgios, into the quarter-finals on tournament debut after overcoming Stefanos Tsitsipas in a three-set thriller on Wednesday. “Because you’ve got weeks like Miami, such busy weeks all the time. It’s really hard to relax and find that downtime.
“Weeks like this where you just go back with your team, [have] nice little dinners…there’s not much to do, you just really enjoy the time and the greenery and the quietness and the stillness.”
It’s not just the peaceful setting that appeals to the world’s best. The non-existent commute from the hotel to the courts also positively impacts the pre-match preparations for players, according to World No. 1 Daniil Medvedev.
“It changes your routine a little bit,” said the 26-year-old after winning his opening-round match against David Goffin on Wednesday. “Some tournaments, like the US Open or Shanghai, it can be up to one hour’s drive from hotel to site. So, if you play at six in the evening, you still leave the hotel at 11 or 12 and spend the whole day at the court.
“I like that way, but at the same time here [in Halle], I had the match at 12 p.m. I could wake up at eight, I didn’t have to wake up at six. I had a small tennis warm-up, two minutes from my room. Check in back to the room to take a shower, not even to the locker room. I’m [quote good at] adapting to things in life, so I like it both ways. It’s a change of setup.”
As they spend much of their year in the hustle and bustle of some of the world’s biggest cities, it can be easy to forget that many of the world’s best hail from small-town or rural backgrounds. For Kyrgios, Halle is a nice reminder of home.
“I like it,” said the six-time Tour-titlist. “I live in Sydney now, but I lived in Canberra my whole life and it’s quiet as anything, so I like places like this.”
Having reached the semi-finals last week at the Libema Open in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, a relatively small city in the Netherlands, Auger-Aliassime is enjoying two of the more serene weeks of his 2022 season. But that’s not to say you can’t have too much of a good thing.
“I like it for a change,” said the Canadian. “I don’t know if I would like it all the time, every week, because it is nice to go around the city and go to restaurants and walk around in the big cities of Europe or in America. But it is nice for a change.”