For half of the WTA’s 50 years, Luxembourg was home to one of the most popular stops on the tour, earning the loyalty of players who enjoyed the family vibe and appreciative fans. An impressive list of champions grew to including no fewer than six World No.1s -- among them Kim Clijsters, who captured the WTA 250 title a record five times.

When the event’s tenure on the WTA calendar came to an end in 2021, tournament director Danielle Maas and her team at International Women’s Tennis Promotion (IWTP) were determined to build on this legacy but using a different format -- and in 2022 the Luxembourg Ladies Tennis Masters, an eight-woman prize money exhibition, was born.

Appropriately enough, Clijsters reigned supreme in last year’s debut edition, defeating Martina Hingis in the final. The Belgian star was back in town last week, this time spearheading a field that also included Daniela Hantuchova, Andrea Petkovic, Pauline Parmentier, Monica Puig, Lucie Safarova, Mandy Minella and recently retired Anett Kontaveit.

Roland Miny

Before action got underway, guests at a gala dinner saw Clijsters join the WTA to present IWTP with a framed collage -- a token of appreciation for the group’s ongoing efforts to share the spirit of #WTA50 by providing a platform for the game’s role models beyond the professional circuit.

“After all these years, now it’s my turn to present you with something,” Clijsters said. “Thank you for your amazing commitment to women’s tennis, and for creating this wonderful event. It’s really an honor for all of us to be part of.”

Another focal point of the evening was presentation of the IWTP’s Jana Novotna Award to former World No.5 Hantuchova. Established in 2017, the award recognizes players who demonstrate special affinity for and commitment to women’s tennis in Luxembourg, just like the much-loved Czech champion did during her lifetime.

With Luxembourg prime minister Xavier Bettel watching on, Anne Kremer, the country’s former No.1 and a Top 20 player, introduced Hantuchova.

“Over the years, you have not only enchanted us with your performances on the court, but you have always supported us in an exemplary manner with our supporting programs,” Kremer said. “Now, we greatly appreciate your friendship and your commitment to marketing our new tournament format.”

Accepting the accolade, Hantuchova responded: “Luxembourg, as you know, means the world to me. I think we players always felt there was something special here as soon as we entered the site -- wherever we came from in the world, we felt like we were playing at home, thanks to the team here and the amazing fans. Suddenly we became like a family and those friendships and memories created over the years mean more than any winner’s trophy.” 

Roland Miny

The Slovak star continued: “When I was flying here, I was thinking about how lucky we players are to have an event at our age, where we still get to be competitive, feel those nerves again, wondering whether we’d be able to perform. In our retirement, to be given an extra reason to be motivated to practice and train is really a privilege. Thank you for creating this incredibly unique event -- as we celebrate 50 years of the WTA, it really is the cherry on the cake.”

Subsequent quarterfinal action at the d’Coque arena was attended by the country’s Grand Duke Henri and saw wins for hometown heroine Minella (over Clijsters), Petkovic (over Hantuchova), Safarova (over Parmentier) and Kontaveit (over Puig).

After Petkovic defeated Minella in the semis and Kontaveit bested Safarova, the 27-year-old Estonian marched to victory over Petkovic in Sunday’s final, 7-5 6-2.

After her victory, which earned her a winner’s check of €50,000, former World No.2 Kontaveit paid tribute to the high level of competition.

“I was watching the first match between Kim and Mandy and thought, ‘Oh gosh, I should have practiced more,’” she said, laughing. “I thought the level in all the matches was really great. It’s impressive to see the form of players who retired some time ago. I mean, Lucie has had two babies in the last few years. I’m happy with the win and how I managed to play and fight.”

Next up for Kontaveit: a farewell match before her home fans in Tallinn on Nov. 11, against World No.7 Ons Jabeur.