Tournament director Sandra Reichel does not see any problems because of the date during the semester break in eastern Austria. “Of course there are semester breaks in Vienna, but I don’t see that as a problem at all because our catchment area is more Upper Austria, Salzburg and Styria,” she said.
The Design Center, which has been the venue in the past, seats around 2,000 spectators on center court and a further 500 on match court one. The new Green Set rubber is a touch faster and, contrary to the name, is not green, but purple-grey. “We notice a spirit of optimism. Everyone who has visited us at the Design Center says ‘wow’. The location is really cool and we came up with some ideas,” said Reichel. With topics apart from sports such as the environment, inclusion, a women’s symposium and a health day, which is also dedicated to cancer prevention, they want to break new ground. “Our tournament is more than just tennis.”
Mix of established players and newcomers
Reichel is looking forward to stars like Sakkari and Melbourne quarter-finalist Donna Vekic. Again a good mix of established players and newcomers was successful. Stories like Coco Gauff’s first WTA title in Linz are to Reichel’s taste and would of course be good for the tournament.
It will only be possible to judge how much the new date will affect after the tournament. “I don’t dare say anything about the future. Now we’re going to do the tournament at the new date in the new location and then we’ll see what’s next,” said Reichel, who stated that she had a total budget of 1.8 million euros. For the future, however, a title sponsor is on the wish list. That’s why they want to show what other possibilities the Design Center offers in addition to tennis.
Wildcards for Kenin and Grabher
Ekaterina Alexandrowa (RUS/WTA-17th), Irina-Camelia Begu (ROU/27th), ex-Linz winner Camilla Giorgi (ITA/69th) and just Vekic (33rd) also named for Linz. One of the wildcards is ex-Melbourne winner Sofia Kenin from the USA, who fell back to 143rd place after some personal difficulties and injuries. This year she wants to make her way back and was last in Hobart in the semi-finals.
From an Austrian point of view, Julia Grabher, who is also there thanks to a wildcard, carries the hopes in the main competition. The 26-year-old from Dornbirn can be seen in Austria for the first time since entering the top 100 last September. She made her debut in a major competition at the Australian Open, but failed in round one. Playing in front of a home crowd is an “extra motivation,” she said at a press conference in Linz on Friday. Even if she’s “going in the right direction, I’m not satisfied, I want more,” she announced. At the beginning she meets the American Madison Brengle.
So she trained with Austria’s decathlete Dominik Distelberger in preparation for the season on Tenerife to improve her fitness. “Because decathletes are complete athletes, they know their bodies very well,” explained their coach Günter Bresnik.
Three Austrians play in the qualification via wildcard for entry into the main competition, including Sinja Kraus. “It’s always nice to be able to play in your own country,” she said. There are also Barbara Haas, Austria’s long-standing number one, and Veronika Bokor, the winner of the Young Ladies Challenge. Anastasija Pavljutschenkowa, the 2015 Linz winner, was also included in the elimination with a “free ticket”. “The fans in Linz were fantastic,” the Russian recalls the experiences around eight years ago.
Guest WTA President Lawler
WTA President Micky Lawler is also coming to Linz for the first time for a women’s sports symposium. “Upper Austria Ladies Linz has an incredible history. It’s the second oldest indoor tournament on the WTA Tour and has featured the best players in the world over the past several decades. The event has been a permanent fixture on the calendar for over 30 years,” Lawler said prior to arrival.
The WTA will also celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2023. That’s why on “WTA 50” day, Tuesday, all women get tickets in the first category at half price.
WTA 250 tournament in Linz
(Austria, €225,480, hard court)