BAD HOMBURG, Germany - Crowned Wimbledon champion on the hallowed lawns of the All-England Club in 2018, Angelique Kerber christened a brand-new grass court in her home country at the Bad Homburg Tennis Club on Saturday.
With the club in the German state of Hesse expected to be the venue for a new WTA International event this year, the inaugural Bad Homburg Open was postponed to 2021 as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic earlier this summer.
Nonetheless, in the spirit of the tournament, the former World No.1 and three-time Grand Slam champion participated in a special mixed doubles exhibition match to christen the new stadium court at the historic Kurpark, where the first tennis court on the European continent was built in 1876.
Kerber partnered with German Fed Cup captain Rainer Schüttler, against rising 17-year-old Mara Guth and German Davis Cup captain Michael Kohlmann on the “Spielbank Bad Homburg“ Centre Court.
”This was definitely a very special feeling," Kerber said. "In general, this great atmosphere at the Kurpark and, in particular, this beautifully laid-out grass court have increased the anticipation for next year’s premiere even more."
Guth peaked at a career-high junior ranking of World No.36 in January, while former ATP World No.5 Schüttler coached Kerber from November of 2018 to July of last year.
Though the event was closed to public, several guests of honor were in attendance including: the mayor of Bad Homburg, Alexander Hetjes; president of the German Tennis Federation (DTB), Ulrich Klaus; president of the hosting club TC Bad Homburg, Uwe Eyles; president of the Homburg TG, Ralph Gotta; and president of the Hessian Tennis Federation (HTV), Kai Burkhardt.
And virtually, the celebration welcomed another dignitary: Wimbledon chairman Ian Hewitt, who spoke on behalf of the AELTC, which supported the efforts to build grass courts at the venue.
The grass seeds for the three match courts and three practice courts were imported from Great Britain.
In a message, Hewitt said in part: "We are delighted that the grass courts, which the team at Bad Homburg had been working so hard to carefully cultivate with the guidance from our Wimbledon grounds staff, could be opened.”
Following the match, Kerber presented a check for €25,000 to the UNICEF Children's Emergency Fund. The 32-year-old has been a UNICEF ambassador since 2017.
Big Point für #TeamMenschheit: 25.000 Euro erspielte UNICEF-Patin @AngeliqueKerber heute beim Charity Match in Bad Homburg für unsere weltweite Arbeit im Kampf gegen die #Covid19-Pandemie.— UNICEF Deutschland (@UNICEFgermany) July 11, 2020
Danke Angie, dass du dich mit uns für Kinder weltweit einsetzt. https://t.co/kJN7NNs9l1 pic.twitter.com/Er1dno2kQK
In addition, Klaus awarded her honorary membership of the DTB, in recognition of her outstanding contributions to tennis in the country.
With the support of tournament ambassador Kerber, tournament director Aljoscha Thron also confirmed that home favorites Julia Goerges and Andrea Petkovic will also take part in the event next year.
“When I heard that there will be a WTA tournament in Hessen, I was completely thrilled," Petkovic said in a statement. "To be able to play at home in front of my home crowd at the end of my career is the best gift that could have been given to me."
The 32-year-old former World No.9, who did not compete in the first eight weeks of 2020 due to a knee injury, has been exploring other avenues during the tour's hiatus, including working as presenter of the ZDF television program “Sportreportage.”
Added Thron: “The entire team is already working with great enthusiasm to make the fascination of grass court tennis and a hint of Wimbledon come alive at the Kurpark next summer."
The 2021 Bad Homburg Open is scheduled to take place from June 20-26.