For 25 years, Luxembourg has been home to one of the most popular stops on the WTA calendar, earning the loyalty of players who have enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere cultivated by organizers and appreciative fans. The enviable roster of champions grew to include Marie Pierce, Jennifer Capriati, Elena Dementieva, Victoria Azarenka, Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki, while Kim Clijsters won a record five-time WTA 250 title.
Although the event period on the WTA calendar will expire in 2022, tournament director Danielle Maas and her colleagues in the International Women’s Tennis Promotion (IWTP) were determined to build on that legacy, but using a different format.
The result was the debut last week of the Luxembourg Women’s Tennis Championships, an eight-women’s fair, where Clijsters reunited with fellow former top seed Martina Hingis and Jelena Jankovic, former second seed Agnieszka Radwanska, Kiki Bertens and Daniela Hantuchova. and Julia Georges and Mandy Minella from Luxembourg.
Just like in antiquity, in addition to training and playing matches (perhaps a little less intense than in the past), WTA graduates offered practice clinics, met with fans and sponsors and toured picturesque city sights.
They also enjoyed the opportunity to catch up as friends, not just rivals.
“We were talking in the locker room of course, but there was a different kind of energy,” Clijsters said. “Now we can talk about our children, about what we do in life. It is a wonderful experience to share these stories, and to see that the tennis family is holding on to it. I will not miss it for the world.”
First-round matches at Coque’s new stadium in Grand Duchy saw victories for the Clijsters (over Minella), Hingis (over Bertens), Radwanska (over Goerges) and Hantuchova, who advanced when Jankovi? After Hingis defeated Hantuchova in the semi-finals and Clijsters outplayed Radwanska, the Belgian marched to beat Hingis in Sunday’s final, 75 62.
Speaking on gala night, Clijsters further reflected on the importance of maintaining relationships in sport and in life.
“I hear the players talking about the ‘family atmosphere’ in Luxembourg and it’s not just something we say,” she said. “We really mean it. From the moment I set foot in the Luxembourg Tennis Hall in 1999, I felt comfortable and connected with the fans. This support has never left me.”
Turning to the organizers, sponsors and Luxembourg officials in attendance, she added: “I think I can speak on behalf of all the tennis players, and we’re so excited that you’ve decided to start an event like this. It just shows your commitment to women’s tennis, not just in the past, but going forward. It’s fantastic. Really, so thank you.”
The focal point of the night was the presentation of the Jana Novotna Prize to the Clijsters. Created in 2017, this award honors players who demonstrate a special affinity and commitment to Luxembourg’s women’s tennis, just as the beloved Czech champion has done throughout her career. Previous winners include Monica Niculescu, Mandy Minella, Andrea Petkovic, Anna Ivanovic and Julia Gorges.
Clijsters said: “I’ve never been able to play against Jana, but I was able to train for her once at a legends event at Roland Garros. I was very honored and humbled that she asked me to train, but we probably just sat on the bench and chatted more than we played tennis.
“She was a great champion and it was a great moment for me to talk to someone who had her experience. Unfortunately, she is not with us anymore, but I am very honored to have been able to receive this award in her name.”