Hamburg Masters Venue: Rothenbaum

HAMBURG, GERMANY - MAY 19: A general view of the Rothenbaum Tennis Stadium during day six of the Tennis Masters Series Hamburg at Rothenbaum Tennis Centre on May 19, 2007 in Hamburg, Germany. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Bongarts/Getty Images)
In all of its 115 years in existence the Hamburg Masters has never deviated from the site we now know as Rothenbaum. In high summer, winter ice fields were converted into lawn tennis courts in the early days of the competition, which was originally known as the German Open.

In the early 1900s, as the popularity of the event grew, plans had to be made to accommodate the hundreds of fans who would congregate in Hamburg to watch the best in amateur tennis compete against each other.

By the early 1920s the humble lawn tennis courts had grown into an impressive tennis centre said to rival the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in London and the Stade de France in Paris. Players were indulged and even given free food coupons to swop for iced cocoa, and it soon became clear that extensions to the seating on the ‘Medenplatz’ or centre court would be necessary.

All plans for German tennis, and Rothenbaum in particular, had to be put on hold due to the rise of Nazism in Germany and the subsequent Second World War, which robbed Europe and the world of some of the most impressive tennis players of their time. New Zealander, Anthony Wilding and German great, Henner Henkel, were only two of the hundreds of potentially great tennis players who were cut down in their prime.

The first post-war event only took place in 1948 when the German Tennis Federation was again allowed to take its rightful place in world tennis.

With the advent of professionalism in the 1960s, Hamburg Masters venue, Rothenbaum, was allocated a permanent spot on the international tennis calendar, and by 1964 the Hamburg Masters was attracting in the region of 8 000 spectators for each of the top matches.

The entire Rothenbaum stadium was re-constructed and by the time Guillermo Vilas took the tile from Pole, Wojtek Fibak in 1978, over 45 000 spectators were comfortably accommodated at the enlarged venue. The Medenplatz or Centre Court seating was increased to 9 000 and by 1983 over 84 000 roaring fans saw Yannick Noah crushing Mats Wilander en route to the final, snapping the Swede’s winning streak of 43 matches on clay.

The icy weather had long posed a problem for the German Tennis Federation, and in 1997 a new roof was built over the centre court and the venue was again expanded to increase court-side capacity. Over 50 million Deutsche Marks was spent on enlarging the venue, its final renovation.

The 102nd and final tennis tournament will be held at the Hamburg Masters venue, Rothenbaum, in 2008 – get there, and if you can’t, wager a bet or two on who you think will claim the final Masters Series title in Germany.