The love affair between the city of Valencia and tennis goes back many years. In fact, since 1995 Valencia has held an 'International Series' tournament which has brought together top-level players: the Valencia Tennis Open. Although it was played in Marbella in 1996 and 1997, and Mallorca between 1998 and 2002, the tournament returned to Valencia from 2003 to 2008, specifically to the Valencia Tennis Club. Amongst the list of achievements, the player who has won the tournament most times is the Spanish player Nicolás Almagro, which he’s done twice, in consecutive seasons, 2006 and 2007.
The giant leap
The year 2009 marked a turning point thanks to the efforts of institutions, sponsors and tournament organizers. A step forward was taken and the tournament was given the status of Open 500, the category just below the Masters 1,000 and Grand Slam tournaments. From this point on the tournament has had relentless growth; It was renamed the Valencia Open 500 and changed venue. The site of the City of Arts and Sciences became the headquarters of the new tournament and the Agora building became a symbol for the Valencia Tennis Open, and also for the city that welcomed it. The tournament also changed dates, moving from the last week in October to the first week in November, a few weeks before the end of the season and the ATP World Tour Finals, a competition that brings together the eight best players in the world. This new location, linked to the spectacular Agora building, the lineup of players, and the creation of the FUN PARK, were factors that contributed to the fact that the tournament had a before and after, which continues to this day.
Birth of a tournament open to everyone
One of the most distinctive facts about the new Valencia Open 500 was the creation of the FUN PARK, the shopping, entertainment, and restaurant area of the revamped tournament. This space, unlike other tournaments, allows free access, where all tennis fans, visitors to the exhibition, the general public, or the simply curious could get close to this leisure facility, and experience firsthand the best tennis atmosphere in a unique place. The first edition of the Open was played from October 31st to November 8th, 2009, and had an attendance of over 175,000 people during the nine days of competition. The stands were crowded, especially from the quarter-finals through to the semifinals and finals. The matches played at the Agora recorded a total audience of 56 million TV viewers and were seen in over 30 countries around the world during 546 hours of broadcast.
On a purely sporting note, in the 2009 edition the Champion was one of the main attractions and tournament’s top seed, Britain's Andy Murray. The then world number four beat a battling Mikhail Youzhny (6-3, 6-2) in a final that saw a full house in the Centre Court stands. This edition also included the likes of Juan Carlos Ferrero, David Ferrer (both co-owners of the tournament rights), Nikolay Davydenko, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Fernando Verdasco, Gilles Simon and Gael Monfils, amongst others. In the doubles the Czech, Cermal, and Slovak, Mertinak picked up the title, beating the Spanish pair formed by Marcel Granollers and Tommy Robredo, by 6-4, 6-3.
The first edition of the tournament also included the celebration of the first Open Wheelchair Tennis Open 500 Valencia. The tournament pitted the top eight national wheelchair players for the last three days of competition. It’s a form of tennis that few fans are accustomed to seeing, and reflects the effort and sacrifice of these athletes. The Catalan, Quico Tur, was the first to inscribe his name as winner of the tournament after beating Álvaro Illobre (6-4, 6-4).
The consolidation of an ambitious project
Following the success of the first edition, the 2010 even improved on it in many aspects. One of the highlights was the renovation and expansion of 25% of the shopping, entertainment, and restaurant areas, which provided the public with more activities, more entertainment, and more fun. Court 1 was located inside the Prince Felipe Museum, next to the practice courts, and the space it left led to the creation of the KIDS FUN PARK, an activity area exclusive to children, which consolidated the Valencia Open 500 as "more than a tournament". The capacity of the Centre Court (located again in the Agora building) was significantly increased to more than 6,000 seats. Capacity was also significantly increased in the VIP area of the tournament, the new Open Club, which included numerous boutiques as well as the official tournament restaurant Maset-Ferrero. It’s also worth noting the increase in broadcasting and television audience. If the 2009 tournament had a total of 546 hours of television broadcasting and recorded a total audience of 56 million viewers worldwide, last year the figure rose significantly. In 2010 broadcasting hours reached 890 with a total audience of 61 million viewers, figures that, once again, help to project the image of Valencia to more than thirty countries over the five continents.
Prophet in his own land
The lineup of players last year had nothing to envy with regard to the 2009 edition. Andy Murray returned to Valencia to try to keep his crown, but to stop him doing it some of the major world tennis players turned up, including Robin Soderling, Fernando Verdasco, Nicolas Almagro, Nikolay Davydenko, Gael Monfils and of course the Valencian players Juan Carlos Ferrero and David Ferrer. This time the tournament was held from October 30th to November 7th and it was David Ferrer who lifted the trophy after beating the surprise player of the tournament, Marcel Granollers, 7-5, 6-3. In the doubles the leading role was played by last year's singles winner, Britain's Andy Murray, who with his brother James took the title. In a close and exciting final they beat Bhupathi and Mirnyi 7-6 (8), 5-7, 10-7. As for the wheelchair tournament, and taking into account the success of its first edition both for the quality and level of expectation, the tournament again took place 2010. This time the young Daniel Caverzaschi claimed the title after beating Alvaro Illobre in a very tight final by 7-6 (5), 4-6 and 10-8.