The Latvian city is best known for its beautiful landscapes and extensive beach. Here's all you need to know about the WTA Tour's newest venue.
WTA Staff
July 19, 2019

The WTA Tour takes in a new stop from July 22 through 28 as it stops in Jurmala, Latvia for the Baltic Open.

The clay court event will have a draw of 32 and is a WTA International event with prize money of $250,000.

Four Top 50 players will be taking part, including No.1 seed and home favorite Anastasija Sevastova, who was born some 120 miles away in Liepaja, as well as 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko.

Here are six facts about the latest city on Tour:

It is the home of a former Top 10 tennis star

For a country with a population of only 1.95 million, Latvia has produced more than its share of tennis stars. Anastasija Sevastova, headlining this tournament, is currently their top-ranked player at WTA World No.11, but it has also produced a Grand Slam champion in recent years in the form of 2017 French Open winner Jelena Ostapenko.

However, Jumala is the home to the country’s greatest male star, Ernests Gulbis, who reached a peak of ATP World No.10 in June, 2014 off the back of his run to the French Open semifinals.

The 30-year-old, who is currently outside the Top 100 on the men’s Tour, has also reached the second week of Wimbledon and the US Open, has six ATP titles to his name, and boasts career prize money in excess of $7 million.

Jurmala literally means ‘seaside’

With a population of 56,646, Jurmala is the fifth-largest city in Latvia, and lies, as its name suggests, on the coast.

The name derives from the Latvia ‘jura’, meaning sea, and ‘mala’, which means edge or margin. As such, its name translated back into English is literally seaside.

In fact, Jurmala is a conglomerate of a number of different villages - Ķemeri, Jaunķemeri, Sloka, Kauguri, Vaivari, Asari, Melluzi, Pumpuri, Jaundubulti, Dubulti, Majori, Dzintari, Bulduri and Lielupe – along a coastline that stretches 20 miles.

An up-and-coming sporting destination

The WTA Tour is not the first major sporting event to take place in the city, with the 2012 Winter Swimming World Championships hosted in Jurmala.

More recently, meanwhile, the 2017 European Beach Volleyball Championships were hosted extremely successfully, with fans crowding into the 2,800-capacity purpose-built stadium on Majori beach for much of the tournament.

Latvia had a successful competition, with the best men’s team claiming a silver medal behind Italy, while their top women’s team claimed a spot in the quarterfinals.

Meanwhile, local soccer club Spartaks are two-time national champions, having lifted the domestic league title in both 2016 and 2017.

A popular tourist destination

With a long stretch of white, sandy coastline, it is little surprise that Jurmala has long been a popular tourist destination.

Since the late 1900s, the great and the good have been visiting the town. Russian army officers were among the first to take some time out in the area, which became a popular spa town due to its sea breeze, pine aroma, mineral springs and beach.

When Latvia was part of the USSR, it was a favored holiday destination for top officials, with Leonid Brezhnev and Nikita Khrushchev notably taking breaks in the city.

Although the tourist industry has yet to take off with Western Europeans, an increasing number of Russian celebrities are returning.

One of Northern Europe’s largest waterparks

For water lovers, Jurmala offers one of the largest waterparks in Northern Europe, Livu Akvaparks. The attraction boasts a wide variety of slides and pools, including the Kamikaze, which begins seven stories up, and the Tornado, a dizzying experience that is the third largest slide of its type in the world.

For those in search of a more sedate experience, there is a Spa, which includes a fitness lagoon, which allows visitors to try their hand at special aquatic fitness equipment and also the option of an underwater massage.

There are also various saunas, steam rooms and options for foot massage, not to mention the ‘Russian showers’ – buckets of freezing water tipped over you, apparently all in the name of a healthy experience. 

A place of natural beauty

While Jurmala’s most striking natural feature might be its beach, there are other places of beauty in the nearby countryside.

The Kemeri National Park, for example, is the third largest of its type in the country and gives visitors the opportunity to marvel at its forests and mires. The Great Kemeri Bog Boardwalk has an observation platform popular with photographers, who have earmarked the spot as one of the best in the country to get sunrise or sunset images. 

The Dzintari Forest Park, which is near the center of the town, has extensive pine groves that connect a skate park, several playground, basketball courts and a watchtower, which stands 33.5 meters high and is free to enter.

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