A look at the 5 warmup tournaments for Wimbledon: who is playing where and when.

Aegon Classic, Birmingham 10-16 June

Previous winners include Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King – who was Birmingham’s inaugural champion in 1982 and collected the last of her 67 Open Era singles titles here in 1983 – and more recently, Jelena Jankovic, Li Na and Maria Sharapova, who in 2004 became the only player to capture Birmingham and Wimbledon in the same year.

Prize Money: $235,000
Defending Champ: Melanie Oudin
Official site
Who is playing: Kirsten Flipkens, Laura Robson, Heather Watson, Sorana Cirstea, Sabine Lisicki

Aegon Championships, Queens 10-16 June

Andy Murray makes his comeback from the back injury that forced him to miss Roland Garros. The Scot, who reached the Wimbledon final in 2012 (l. to Federer), won the Queen’s title in 2009 (d. Blake) and 2011 (d. Tsonga).
Since its inception in 1979, there have been six different players to complete the Queen’s Club-Wimbledon title double in the same year, including John McEnroe (81, 84), Jimmy Connors (82), Boris Becker (85), Pete Sampras (95, 99), Lleyton Hewitt (2002) and Rafael Nadal (2008).

Prize Money: € 683,665
Defending Champ: Marin Cilic
Official site
Who is playing: Andy Murray, Tomas Berdych, Juan Martin Del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Marin Cilic

Andy Murray

Check out our Queen’s 2011 recap: part 1, part 2

Gerry Weber Open, Halle 10-16 June

German veteran Tommy Haas beat Roger Federer in Halle last year to capture his 13th career title, his first since 2009. Both eliminated in the Roland Garros quarter-finals, Federer and Haas will compete in Halle again this year, and they also are going to pair up in doubles together.

Prize Money: € 683,665
Defending Champ: Tommy Haas
Official site
Who is playing: Roger Federer, Richard Gasquet, Janko Tipsarevic, Milos Raonic, Tommy Haas, Kei Nishikori

Read Mauro’s report from Halle last year on his meeting with Stefan Edberg

Topshelf Open, s-Hertogenbosch 16-22 June

Launched as an ATP tournament in 1990, it became a joint event in 1996. Champions include Martina Hingis, Kim Clijsters, Mary Pierce, Justine Henin – who won the last of her 43 titles here in 2010 -, Goran Ivanisevic, Pat Rafter and Richard Gasquet.

Prize Money: $235,000
Defending Champ: Nadia Petrova
Who is playing: Roberta Vinci, Dominika Cibulkova, Kirsten Flipkens, Kiki Bertens, Francesca Schiavone

Prize Money: € 410,200
Defending Champ: David Ferrer
Official site
Who is playing: David Ferrer, Stanislas Wawrinka, John Isner, Jérémy Chardy, Benoit Paire

Aegon International, Eastbourne 17-22 June

Formerly the International Women’s Open, Britain’s biggest international women’s event joined forces with the ATP World Tour to host a combined men’s and women’s tournament at Devonshire Park. In past years the men’s ATP World Tour event had been played in Nottingham.
Sunday June 16 will feature a host of legends competing in a Father’s Day tussle as former British No.1 Greg Rusedski faces off with Mark Philippoussis before they team up with former world No.1 Lindsay Davenport and two-time Wimbledon Doubles Champion Rennae Stubbs in a mixed doubles match.

Prize money: $690,000
Defending champ: Tamira Paszek
Who is playing: Agnieszka Radwanska, Sara Errani, Li Na, Angelique Kerber, Sam Stosur, Petra Kvitova

Prize money: € 526,060
Defending champ: Andy Roddick
Official site
Who is playing: Gilles Simon, Juan Monaco, Andreas Seppi, Fabio Fognini, Bernard Tomic

Video and text by Mauro:

Some highlights and funny moments at the 2012 Champions Trophy in Halle, a mixed doubles exhibition among tennis legends introducing the Gerry Weber Open. Stefan Edberg and Anastasia Myskina met Michael Stich and Martina Navratilova in a show match played at the best of three sets with a Champions’ tie-break in the final set.

I was able to film some of the best moments of the day from the stands: the presentation of the players, some rallies and the on court interview to Stefan Edberg. At a moment in the clip, a little band appears on the stands of the Gerry Weber Stadion and starts playing the Italian pop song “Quando, quando, quando” during play, causing ilarity from the crowd and the players. Stich and Navratilova eventually won the match 5-7, 6-2, 10-8.

More info on STE…fans.

Read part 1 of Mauro’s report here.

Where to start from? When you have the chance to meet your childhood idol, suddenly every word becomes foreseen. So I would like to begin from the kindness of the staff at the press office of the Gerry Weber Open. It was only thanks to them that, without any media credential, I managed to access the press conference of the Champions Trophy and, believe it or not, without really knowing how, I found myself sitting in the first row, watching the winners of 70 Grand Slam tournaments combined speak, two meters away from the man I had always only watched on tv and who was the owner of my feelings back in my teenage days.

I was there, waiting to come in at a sign of the tournament communication director after all the players had ended speaking. He, indeed, introduced me to Stefan who saw me and smiled at me, when he recognized the outfit I was wearing: «Ah… and he has a nice Adidas jacket!», he said, maybe going back with his memory to 25 years ago, when he lifted his second Australian Open trophy with that on.

I was not shaking as I thought I would be, it was such an informal situation, after all, and, no need to say, Stefan is surely not the guy who makes you feel uncomfortable or out of place. I had the chance of shaking his hand and came in with very straight words:

«Hello, Stefan, nice to meet you. My name is Mauro and I’m from Italy. I’m the admin of STE…fans, the international fan community dedicated to you. I want to give you this special screenshot of the home page of my site in memory of this day, that, for me, ranks at the very top of the best moments that I had in my life».

Stefan didn’t know of the site (secretly I hoped he would…), but nevertheless he said: «Thanks very much, I appreciate it!». Then, he came down to the space before the seats in the media room and kindly accepted to take pictures of the moment. Unfortunately I didn’t have the chance to exchange more words with him. But, just the meeting itself was an extraordinary opportunity that I received from the tournament staff only thanks to the quality of my work and, maybe, to the human interest of the story of a fan who had flown to Westphalia from Italy just to hand his hero a little gift.

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Thanks a lot to Mauro for his report from Halle. Check out his website STE…fans for more news, pics and videos about Stefan Edberg.

Halle is the Gerry Weber Open. Everywhere you can see the logo of the tournament, that turns 20 years old in 2012, and the walk from the quiet and tidy historic centre of the town to the Gerry Weber Stadion, along Alleestraße and Gartenstraße, is filled with indications that seem to celebrate it as the most important touristic attraction. Surely not everybody is a tennis expert here, but everybody knows (or has heard of) the tennis tournament, even the nice taxi driver that takes me to the hotel from Bielefeld, a town 18 kilometers away, and doesn’t speak a word of English.

Halle, Gerry Weber Stadion

Many would say there’s not much more to see in Halle Westfalen, but, in my opinion, this is not true. Surely not the best destination if you’re looking for “movida” and intense night life (you would hardly meet twenty other persons in the centre if you take a walk from 7 to 9 pm, just as I did), but there are at least a couple of things that catch the eye of a foreigner.

Halle is definitely a “green” city. Without need to reach the near Teutoburg Forest, you will find plenty of nature-friendly spaces inside the town itself and going slightly outwards. Most of the houses built in the characteristic half-timbered style, that remind of the Medieval history of the town, have a very well kept garden space that shows the love and respect for nature by the inhabitants. More bikes than cars around, and this, for an Italian abroad, is always something amazing to watch, just like the “culture of silence” they have here and, generally, in this area of Europe. If you were to think of a tennis tournament for Halle, it could only be on grass, and the rainy weather, the temperature just over 13-14 Celsius degrees of these days reflect the perfect “scenario” for the typical grasscourt tournament of middle June.

Halle Gerry Weber Open
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