Rio’s Carnival of Sport
Originally published on 07/01/14
In February, Rio de Janeiro will host the Rio Open, the only combined ATP World Tour 500 and WTA International event in South America.
With world No.1 Rafael Nadal already committed to the tournament, organisers are hoping the inaugural Rio Open at the Jockey Club Brasileiro will be a sign of things to come.
“All eyes are in Brazil now and our team is committed to making a successful event,” tournament director Lui Carvalho told tennishead. “After the Confederations Cup we are the next new big event in the country and we must deliver a world class event to the players, fans, sponsors and media.
“We not only want to cause a good first impression but also make sure fans keep coming back in the following years.”
It will not be the first time the Jockey Club has hosted a professional tennis event. Nestled between the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon and the Botanical Gardens in the south of the city, the multi-sport complex formerly hosted the final of the Copa Ericsson – a Challenger Circuit around South America and for the past two years the Peugeot Tennis Cup on the ATP Challenger circuit.
With the main court seating up to 7000 spectators and the best clay court player in history in the draw, Carvalho and his team are excited to offer Brazilian tennis fans a world-class tennis event – the country’s second most broadcasted sport after football.
“I would say tennis gained huge popularity when Gustavo Kuerten won the French Open back in 1997,” Carvalho said. “There are still a large number of fans who remain loyal to the sport and still follow it closely – fans can watch ATP and WTA matches every week on cable networks.
“Nadal’s announcement made a lot of noise across the country. Obviously when you bring the world No.1 and a global star such as Nadal it attracts a lot of attention from media and fans.”
While the Olympic tennis tournament at London 2012 took place at All England Club, the annual Sydney International is held at the NSW Tennis Centre, which was constructed for the 2000 Olympics. Likewise, the Olympic Green Tennis Center in Beijing has hosted the China Open since 2009, a legacy from the 2008 Games.
The Olympic Tennis Centre in Rio will be Brazil’s first national tennis centre and will be taken over after the Games by the Brazilian Tennis Confederation (CBT). Of the ten competition and six training courts that will be built for the 2016 Games, the 10,000-seater main stadium and seven additional courts will remain.
“We plan on working very closely with Rio 2016 and the CBT to use the Tennis Centre in the future,” Carvalho says. “It makes sense for us to play the Rio Open, South America’s biggest event, in such an iconic venue.”
Three-time Roland Garros Champion Kuerten, the man responsible for such appetite for tennis in Brazil, echoes Carvalho’s thoughts.
“It’s very important to find out how the space will be used once the Olympic Games are over,” Kuerten said recently. “I believe we face a watershed for Brazilian Tennis. We cannot waste this reward.”
The Rio Open presents the opportunity for the city to showcase its ability to put on a world-class sporting event ahead of the World Cup next summer and the Olympics in 2016. However, it is also about the legacy of those events and vision for the future of Brazilian tennis.