In 2022, when Valérie Tétreault was appointed tournament director of the National Bank Open, she joined an impressive group of retired pros who’ve gone on to run WTA and ATP tournaments.
Kim Clijsters oversaw the BNP Paribas Fortis Diamond Games in Antwerp, Belgium, and, more recently, James Blake supervised the Miami Open. In April, Feliciano Lopez and Anke Huber will take their turns as tournament directors in Madrid and Stuttgart, respectively.
The Porsche Tennis Grand Prix—a WTA 500 tournament that marks the start of the women’s clay court season—is held in the city where the automaker was founded, in the Porsche Arena. The winner will drive off in her shiny new Taycan Turbo S Sport Turismo.
As the German No.1, Anke was at her peak in the mid-1990s. She was one of the last two players standing at the 1995 WTA Finals and the 1996 Australian Open a few months later. In October 1996, she rocketed to World No. 4.
In her trophy case, there are twelve winner’s trophies in singles and one in doubles.
Even with all her success, she always faced sky-high expectations as Germany’s next top player after the legendary Steffi Graf.
Graf never won in Stuttgart, but Huber took the top honours twice, in 1991 (versus Martina Navratilova) and in 1994 (versus Mary Pierce), much to the delight of her fellow citizens.
Unlike a lot of former players, Anke’s never been very interested in coaching, preferring to stay out of “the whole tennis circus”, as she calls it. She didn’t want to travel all year anymore but has always been open to sharing her tennis insights.
As far as the emergence of Germany’s next big tennis star, she seemed somewhat concerned when she spoke to Tennis World USA in 2020. “If players like Angelique Kerber, Andrea Petkovic or Julia Gorges are gone, we will probably have to prepare for a longer losing streak. Although I don’t want to be too pessimistic because sometimes things can go quickly and suddenly there is a player who was not on the horizon.”
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That player may be Jule Niemeier or Eva Lys, the only two under 23 in the Top 200.
Niemeier, 23, is No.65, and Lys, 21, is No.112. Niemeier’s been treading water for the past year, but Lys has gained an impressive 210 spots in the rankings since last season.
ANNUAL GATHERING IN STUTTGART
Like a winning doubles team, Anke Huber works with tournament director Markus Gunthardt.
The duo can be proud of the quality of the competition, which attracts the world’s brightest stars year after year. The feeling of wellbeing every player should feel is at the core of Huber’s mission.
“We look forward to every player that comes to us, no matter whether they are the number one or the number 50. I’ve built up a good personal contact with most of them over the years. I don’t have to convince the players that have already been here about the quality of our tournament. The feel-good factor plays a big part too. The players stay in the hotel right next to the arena and can walk to practice and the matches. For many players, Stuttgart is a fixture when planning their season.”
And the players are always delighted to know the tournament they’re competing in is led by someone who’s shared their experience.
As for the WTA stars who’ll descend on Montréal in August, they can be sure that Valérie Tétreault’s been where they are and understands them. And let’s not forget that she built strong ties with them in the years she spent as the tournament’s director of communications.
Here’s a partial list of former players who became tournament directors.
Kim Clijsters: Antwerp
Anke Huber: Stuttgart
Amélie Mauresmo: Paris (Roland-Garros)
Valérie Tétreault: Montréal
James Blake: Miami
Tommy Haas: Indian Wells
Feliciano Lopez: Madrid
Richard Krajicek: Rotterdam
Dick Norman: Antwerp
Robin Soderling: Stockholm
ABOVE AND BEYOND
Let’s wrap things up with a look back at how tournament director Kim Clijsters went above and beyond in Antwerp back in 2015.
A few minutes before the final, Carla Suarez Navarro was forced to withdraw due to injury. To avoid sending ticket holders home and with the two losing semifinalists already gone, the big boss and four-time Grand Slam champion stepped up to the net to take on finalist Andrea Petkovic in an exhibition set.
And they didn’t disappoint.
Things came to a close with Kim on serve and leading 5-3. The result may have come as a surprise since Petkovic was a regular player, but she faced quite a challenge. In addition to being the tournament director, her opponent was an exceptionally talented athlete.