On the fourth day of my Weird Al & Grass Court Tennis trip in July 2019, I visited the Tennis Hall of Fame Open 2019, the only grass court major tournament on the ATP men tennis professional tour in the USA. It was a dream coming true to me, after having visited the Tennis Hall of Fame grounds in Newport, Rhode Island, some years ago. This posting features my tournament impressions as well as my visit to the Hall of Fame and museum. I visited the tournament on 20th July 2019, which featured all semifinals (singles and doubles) as well as the 2019 Induction of tennis legends to the Tennis Hall of Fame.
I selected the Tennis Hall of Fame Open as my Personal Sports Event of the Year 2019.
Int. Tennis HoF – Location & Museum Admission
The International Tennis Hall of Fame, on which grounds the tournament is also held, is located in the heart of picturesque Newport. It is quite well signposted and thus easy to find. You may however use one of the downtown parking lots, especially during tournament days, as the parking situation around the Hall of Fame is challenging (and pricey).
You can visit the museum daily between 10:00 and 17:00hrs. In the summer months, it closes at 18:00. Between January and March, the museum is closed on Tuesdays. The adult admission is 15 USD, kids and members are free. My visit in 2019 was included in the tournament ticket. In general, the tournament ticket prices are very reasonable. As the induction ceremony is held on semifinal day, these tickets are the most expansive ones of the tournament week (not the final day tickets).
International Tennis Hall of Fame – The Grounds
The Tennis Hall of Fame grounds are very traditional. Practically all courts are traditional lawn courts, there are just few practice courts, which are hard courts. The capacity of the Center Court of the Newport Casino is just about 3,000, which is mainly reached due to a major stand on one short side of the court. Other seats are originated by minor stands and chairs in front of it.
There are two additional courts in the center of the Hall of Fame grounds, which have been used for the first rounds of play. On my day of visit, one of these outer courts, Court 1, featured a men’s doubles semifinal. However, the facilities at these outer courts are very limited: there are just limited stands and there is no potential for challenges on linesman calls. None of the courts featured a shot clock.
The traditional center court at the entrance to the grounds is likely the most beautiful spot of the whole area. However, it is unfortunately not at all practical to use this court for the tournament. In addition to the courts, there are buildings to manage and drive the facility and, of course, space for the Tennis Hall of Fame and adjacent museum.
International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum
The Tennis Hall of Fame & the Tennis museum is located quite close to the (Main) West Gate on the right hand side of the Traditional Center Court. The entrance is on ground level, while you go up the stairs to the exhibition after passing the cashier.
The Tennis Hall of Fame
After reaching exhibition level, you first enter the commemorative shields of the Hall of Fame members. Of course, it is fun for any tennis fan to stroll through the room and look for your favorites. There is one special board for Contributors to the sports like coaches.
Tennis History Museum
Especially in the first part of the exhibition, the museum majorly follows a chronological display of items which tell the history of tennis. There is much more than old record which you may enjoy.
Later exhibits show the evolution of the sports, not just its equipment. It also shows how tennis influenced society, e.g. by certain toys.
Finally, there are more specific exhibits like some items of the Battle of Sexes match between Bobby Riggs and Billy Jean King. You also find some stuff about certain tournaments like the Grand Slams, World Team Tennis or Davis Cup and Fed Cup. Though he is still active and thus no member of the Tennis Hall of Fame, you also find some pictures of my all-time favorite player, India’s Leander Paes.
Compared to the last visit, Todd Martin, the CEO of the Hall of Fame, and his team have invested significantly to improve the museum experience. There are a couple of interactive screens and displays. The highlight of the museum in that category is a hologram exhibition of Roger Federer.
The souvenir store of the museum is on street side, Bellevue Avenue. Even during the tournament, it practically did not feature any tournament merchandise, just shirts, mugs, magnets and whatever about the Hall of Fame and Museum itself. There was only a 2019 Tournament glass, which reminded of the 2019 of the tennis event.
My Visit at the Tennis Hall of Fame Open 2019
My visit majorly featured three matches. The first match was the Men’s Doubles semifinal, which Marcelo Arevalo and Miguel Angel Reyes Varela won against Ben McLaclan and John-Patrick smith, 10-4 in the deciding Match Tie Break. I personally felt that the level of doubles tennis was not world class, but the match itself was very entertaining.
The second match on center court was another thriller. Kazakh Alexander Bubiik sealed his first ever ATP Tout final by beating eleven year old Spanish Marcel Granollers 6-4 in the third set. Bublik had a significant lead in the first set, wasted it and just nipped over the Spanish in the first set tie-break. Granollers took control in the second set and did not trouble there at all. Neverthless, Bublik could improve and get back on the winner’s track.
I skipped the second Men’s singles semifinal, in which top-seed John Isner took a three-set fight to beat French Ugo Humbert, and waited for Leander Paes‘ match to incept. My all-time favorite sportsman from India partnered New Zealand’s Marcus Daniell. They faces Granollers and Ukranian Serhij Stachowskyj in the second doubles semifinal. The first set looked very easy for the Indo-Kiwi combination.
When Paes and Daniell broke the opponent’s serve in the first chance of the second set, they seem to be on the road to the final, but finally could not hold the advantage. The second set went into the tie-breaker, in which there was a match point already. Granollers and Stachowskyj adopted well to the game of the opponents, though – and even though the match was very nervous and had some very disputable scenes, you have to say that they just had the deserved to have a tie in the match at a tie-break score of 10-8.
Match Tie-Breaker Decision on Court 1
Third set’s Match Tie Break was a drama, in which Paes and Daniell did not manage to take the advantage in the middle of the gamble, which was the only period, where they had some control on it. Finally, this top match would have deserved much more focus. The following day, Granollers and Stachowskyj won the tournament.
Even US players like John Isner receive limited support at the Newport ATP tournament. However, the overall tournament atmosphere is quite nice. The tournament is not just very traditional, but also very intimate and thus provides a very nice touch. At induction day, there are autograph sessions with the inductees. The food was very nice and very reasonably priced. There were also some sponsor and merchandise booths.
Leander Paes practice pictures
Being able to see Leander Paes, who won his only ATP singles title in these grounds, again was my highlight of the tournament visit. I just have been able to see a few points of him right when I arrived at the US Open Grounds in 2018. Thus, I favored to watch him during his warm-up for the doubles semifinal rather than being sun-grilled on Center Court. Here are some impressions.
2019 Tennis Hall of Fame Induction
At the end of a long day full of heat in the sun and interesting tennis matches, the induction ceremony of the 2019 Class of new Hall of Fame members was conducted. There were three new members, namely Mary Pierce, Li Na and Yevgeny Kafelnikov. As I am not a too big fan of these kinds of ceremonies and felt like having a nice hotel sleep, I just watched the first induction, the one of French Mary Pierce. Nick Bolletieri, her former coach, gave the induction speech.
International Tennis Hall of Fame – My View
The Tennis Hall of Fame is a magical place. The Hall of Fame itself and the museum is thereby only a part of your visit. You feel the tradition and the spirit of the sports much more when you stroll around the grounds than if you visit the museum. You just feel the urge of playing on these holy grounds once in a lifetime (which is in general possible for a nominal fee). Unfortunately, this also means that the museum just makes limited use of its potential. You need to be fair – the traditional facilities also just give a limited potential just due to the space available. Regarding that, the museum does a good job.
View on the Tournament
And the tournament? The week after Wimbledon, it is no longer featuring the big names of the business. The number of spectators was quite limited. However, you do not need Top 10 players at Rhode Island. The tournament has its own spirit, its own tradition and identity – it was a lot of fun seeing players like Alexander Bublik taking the chance and reaching his first ever ATP Tour final. Some features like the mobile network reception and lack of WiFi may be a bit too traditional. The worst thing, however, was the bad communication about the inception of the second men’s doubles match. Nobody could give you a hint, when the match was in fact going to start – this is unworthy for an ATP tournament. Nevertheless, I absolutely enjoyed being at the Tennis Hall of Fame Open 2019, which is just a very special experience.
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