Rafa Nadal will defend his 2006 championship
One of Spain’s oldest tennis clubs, the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona 1899, will host the Open Seat tennis tournament again this year, as it has done for the past 55 years. This ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) men’s event has been going strong here since 1953 and, historically, is probably Spain’s most important international tennis tournament.
The Open Seat also plays an important role in the careers of many Spanish tennis players, and a victory here often signals that a young Spanish player is making a bid to move out of the crowd and into the top ranks. Since 1996, there has been a Spaniard in the final every year, and the last four champions were Spanish (Rafael Nadal, 2006 and 2005), Tommy Robredo (2004) and Carlos Moya (2003). They join the likes of other greats such as Mats Wilander, Rod Emerson and Ivan Lendl, who have all been champions in Barcelona. This year, the Open Seat will be held between April 23rd and 29th, with some of the world’s best players competing in a week of hard-fought tennis, to win the Conde de Godó trophy, 13 kilogrammes of sterling silver on a base of American oak.
The Open Seat’s status as Spain’s premier tennis event has been somewhat eclipsed by the success of a new event, the Mutua Madrileña Masters Madrid tournament, which debuted in 2002. It is played indoors on a hard surface, and offers more money and more points to the players. The Madrid tournament is held in October toward the end of the tennis season, and offers €2,100,000 in total and €378,000 to the champion. The Open Seat offers a total purse of €850,000, of which €130,000 goes to the winner. Because players from the US prefer the harder, faster surfaces, the Madrid tournament tends to draw an even more star-studded lineup than the Open Seat.
However, the Open Seat’s organisers are not worried. They point out that theirs is a tournament firmly anchored in Barcelona, while a higher bidder could lure the Madrid tournament away to another city in any given year. And the tournament’s dedication to Barcelona and its commitment to stay here has been expressed in more than words—it has been demonstrated in bricks and mortar. The Royal Tennis Club has just put the finishing touches on an extensive overhaul of its facilities, in which the centre court, built in 1961, was demolished and rebuilt, and it will comfortably seat up to 7,500 spectators for the big matches.
Despite the clout of Madrid’s tournament, every year many of the world’s best clay court players gather at the Royal Tennis Club for a week of fine tennis. Dedicated locals such as Rafa Nadal consider the Open Seat as their home-town tournament, and they enjoy playing in Barcelona, returning year after year.
For those who want to savor a piece of living Spanish tennis history at the same time as they enjoy matches between some of the world’s best tennis players, the Open Seat is no further than a number 66 bus ride away. The tournament will be preceded by a seniors’ tournament in which retired tennis greats will be trying to show that they still have their stuff. Tickets for these senior tournament matches run from €7 to €12.
Tickets for the Open Seat quarter-finals, semi-finals and final matches go from €38 to €69, depending on how close a person wants to sit. Tournament passes, which allow admission to all matches, are on sale for €174 to €342.
So, go enjoy a sunny day watching exceptional tennis, and see if Rafa Nadal makes it three in a row.
For further ticket info: www.openseatbarcelona.com