By Fernando Tetes
He had participated in 1994 as an active tennis player in the last edition of the two that were played in Montevideo of the ATP circuit, and decided to move the chips and his facility for public relations, and then began a long journey of 20 editions, but in total It has taken about 23 years since the initial tournament in 1998.
How did the Uruguay Open emerge, from those initial years in which it had other names?
At the beginning the tournament was part of a South American circuit or, rather, at the beginning we were not part of anything, because the first year that the Ericsson Cup was held, Uruguay was not on the calendar.
That is when that anecdote arose that I went to Porto Alegre, I met Ericsson’s number one for the Americas, he came to Montevideo, and thus we were able to bring that first edition to Uruguay.
In this way we became part of a Latin American circuit and it was an incredible time because we engaged in the dream of South American tennis.
Among those who were champions in Montevideo, plus those who played, but did not win the tournament, are Gastón Gaudio, David Nalbandian, Mariano Zabaleta, Juan Ignacio Chela, Fernando González, Nicolás Massú, Nicolás Lapentti.
Then came the Petrobras Cup?
It was incredible, because the first year that the tournament became the Petrobras Cup, Juan Martín del Potro won it when he was just 17 years old. And soon after, Guillermo Cañas returns after being suspended and wins here before beating Roger Federer in Indian Wells and Miami. We had tremendous champions at that time.
How did the idea of transforming it into the Uruguay Open come about?
At one point the above was cut off, from Ericsson and Petrobras, and we started to think about what to do. We already had our little place won and we decided to risk organizing the Uruguay Open, which was born at that time.
The idea was that something more should not be called a cup, because that completes a cycle and then remains in the memory and is difficult to change. A mixture is generated that is not good. Since we changed the name, the tournament also acquired another weight. It is a very personal opinion. It was not easy to start because we did not have the help of those sponsors who supported the tour, but, although we did not start from scratch, we had to obtain more resources than before. It was a complicated fight but little by little we were gaining our place, growing until we reached the Uruguay Open today.
What do 20 editions of the tournament mean?
When you think that 20 years have passed, it is a bit impressive. It is quite a figure. You look back and see all the way you have traveled. It shows in how much the tournament has grown and that, to those of us in the organization, makes us very proud.
What the tournament has grown in these two decades makes us happy because we have been able to go through the different circumstances that the country and the whole world have experienced, and we continue to improve what we offer each year.
It is a pleasure to be able to continue doing it, because when we started, we never imagined that we could continue for so many years.
Now the challenge is to maintain it?
It is quite a challenge to keep it current. The good thing is that we have sponsors who have accompanied us for 20 years, another 10, another six or eight. We never start every issue from scratch. Another great action we carry out is, as soon as the tournament ends, prepare a final balance to deliver to the companies after 15 days, and then, already in December, set up meetings to listen to the feedback from the companies and listen to what they understand that can be done. improve and, in addition, we warn you that we will return the following year. We work well in advance, which is essential. This year it was not possible in December 2020 to start planning anything, not even in March or April, which were the worst months of the pandemic. Therefore, having less time we had to multiply the hours of work. Every year it is a nice challenge to plan and think about the next edition.
In 20 editions it is possible to make a more than positive balance of the names that passed through the Carrasco Lawn Tennis, right?
It happens that every year or we meet tennis players who were very well ranked and come to Montevideo to reinforce their year a little, win games and finish their season at the top. 60 or 70 of the world arrive and in a short time you see them among the top 30. An example, to name someone closer, is Diego Schwartzman. Who won the tournament in 2016 being 58 in the world and we all know what his later career was like. There are several of those examples, among which are Guido Pella or Pablo Cuevas himself, without going any further. The tournament was always characterized by having good players, who are of the first level, who like to come a lot. The club and the neighborhood are wonderful and that shows when it comes to receiving the registrations for each edition. The ball begins to flow that the Montevideo tournament cannot and some tremendous tennis players end up coming.
How did the idea of the transformation into an extra tennis show come about?
I understand that the tennis community in Uruguay is not that big, as it is in other countries. From that data we began to think that it is not just about coming to the court to watch seven hours of tennis. That it should also be entertainment. That had to include participating in a Maxi de la Cruz or Nacho Obes show, or coming to eat something at the food trucks, or playing in the commercial stands. The idea was to ensure that whoever comes to have a good time, and incidentally, if they want to see good tennis, to enter the courts. That way we were able to open the tournament to an audience that is perhaps not that much of a tennis fanatic, but wants to have a good time.
What does it mean to have been able to develop Tennis for All?
Tennis for All is a beautiful program. It came about a decade ago, when a sponsor suggested that I invite kids from INAU to participate in Ball Kids. It seemed like a fantastic idea to me and that year about 15 kids came from various centers. There we saw that when they were not on the court collecting balls, they were 20 in other courts in the background and they got rackets. After the second year they came, the educators themselves asked us if there would be any chance for the children to learn to play tennis. There I started looking for the return and that’s how Tenis Para Todos was born. We dedicate part of the Uruguay Open resources to this program, in which more than 200 boys and girls play weekly, from March to November, in four shifts and boys and girls between eight and 13 years old participate. We provide them with rackets, balls, teachers, and they play on the courts in Plaza de Deportes 3, in Parque Rodó. The idea is not to get tennis champions, but it is so nice to see the enthusiasm with which they come running to play, taking off their tunic on the way to enter the court. And we must highlight the work of Pelayo Martínez, who is a phenomenon and has managed to maintain interest and entertain by educating 20 children per tennis court.
What role does Carrasco Lawn Tennis play in positioning the tournament internationally?
This is a dream place to have a tournament. The place, the infrastructure, the neighborhood, the amount of courts it has. Tennis players hang out here all day. They have the opportunity to walk through Arocena, go for a run to the beach or walk around the area and breathe a little. It takes very little time to get from the hotel to the club, and there are tournaments like the one in San Pablo, where you spend an hour and a half in the middle of the traffic. And then they fall to a club with 30 thousand members locked in the middle of the city. This is different and they value it very much.
If 20 years is a milestone, what is the future challenge?
The Uruguay Open has always risen in level and has improved every detail year after year, but in this edition I would like to set the bar a little higher. That those who arrive will be surprised by how beautiful it is, from the closed street with the food trucks, to the VIP room, or the space for tennis players. This 2021 we want to put the tournament even higher, despite the fact that every year we try to improve and grow.
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