Meet the Woman Behind the Hamburg German Open


The old saying goes “behind every great man is a great woman,” but it is safe to say for the 2019 Hamburg German Open it should be said “behind every great tournament is a great woman.”

Tournament director Sandra Reichel here at the Hamburg European Open is currently one of the few female tournament directors on the ATP Tour. She was previously the tournament director for two WTA tournaments, and most recently the ATP 250 in Kitzbühel for two years in 2005-2006.

She sat down with the press at Hamburg and talked about what it was like to be the tournament director for Hamburg and what the role encompasses.

Tough challenges

As this is the first year for Reichel here as the tournament director in Hamburg, she admits the toughest challenge was getting to know the culture of the city and the long-standing of the Hamburg Tennis Championships.

“The toughest thing is whenever you do something for the first time. Everything was new to us [when we arrived]. We had to find out how the site is working during the event.

“The toughest challenge was to understand Rothenbaum (the venue of the tournament). The history, the people who are involved, the club, the city. It’s nearly impossible to get to know everything in one year.”

Having served as a tournament director for both WTA and ATP events, and when asked whether if she thought which type of tournament is easier to run, she answered, “It’s a tricky question. As a woman to run an ATP event, I think for the men it’s a bit different. Because I’m the only woman [to have the role as tournament director on the ATP Tour].

“But I think the men are a little bit easier… it’s more uncomplicated. With the women it’s more difficult in terms of who is playing on which court… As a woman, it’s difficult to say [that] woman are more difficult.”

Scheduling difficulties

One of the problems Hamburg is facing is that it is unable to attract many top players due to the lateness of a clay tournament in the grueling tennis calendar.

“We all know the tournament date is not the best. Because after Wimbledon, the players want to go on the hard courts. It’s a difficult topic, and we will do our best to run after different dates or a different surface. Next year we are directly after Wimbledon because of the Olympics, but we will see.

A possible solution that has been raised to attract more players is to change the surface to a hard court to match the tennis calendar and the players’ liking.

“Again, it’s also a question for the ATP. You cannot say I would like to play on hard courts. You need the ATP, the site here- the club. And it’s not too easy just to say we’ll build some hard courts here.”

Hamburg German Open: Combining both genders?

The Hamburg Open was combined both men’s and women’s from 1982 to 1983, and again from 1987 to 2002. Some notable champions include Steffi Graff, Martina Hingis, and Venus Williams.

The proposition of bringing back the tournament to both genders has been a topic of debate for a long time, and Reichel has voiced her support for this addition. “In my opinion, the best product you can have as a tennis tournament is to have [both] men and women… It would be great, but there’s a long way to go.

“You need the confirmation of the ATP. Currently, the ATP is not happy to have more combined events. I think this is hard work to convince them. Also, some players are not happy [about] combining events. I am personally convinced that it’s the best product and [the] perfect fit for Hamburg. But we need some more time for that.”

Sleep is for the weak

When asked about how long she is on-site every day and if she gets to rest, the 48-year-old joked, “You don’t want to know that really! This year was quite tough and I think the last three months I did not leave this site before one or two in the morning, and I was here seven or eight [in the morning].”

“I can’t remember when was the last time I slept more than four or five hours. But that’s ok.”

Hamburg German Open 2020

Preparations have already started for next year’s tournament, the Austria native said. “Now [we are preparing]. Because we are walking what we can do differently. We have to talk to sponsors, players, manager, coaches… And we have to hear from them what they are thinking of the tournament, what could be improved… We are working already for the future.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Reichel was the only female tournament director of an ATP tournament.

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