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What has happened to the indoor tennis centre in Filderstadt-Plattenhardt where everything began? Anke Huber, Operating Tournament Director of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, wanted to find out. When visiting the birthplace of the tournament, she met a contemplative mayor – and the past.

Green. Incredibly green. The various installations, the court surface, the scoreboard. If it was not for the orange seats – all the rage at the time – in the stands, everything would somehow be so terribly green. Time has stood still in the “Tennissporthalle Filderstadt” but is also prepared to start up again. Logos and big letters bear witness everywhere to a past that is steeped in history but also one that can be turned into lively future: Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.

On the walls – photos from Porsche models up to 2005. In the narrow gangway behind the tennis courts are all the tournament posters since 1978. In the catacombs are framed photos of great women athletes – the grand dame of tennis, Billie Jean King, the young Chris Evert, a battling Martina Navratilova, a determined Gabriela Sabatini hunting down every ball, a beaming Anke Huber, almost still a child. Exactly the same Anke Huber, today a mother of two children, is looking around surprised and says, “Nothing’s changed at all. One could start playing again immediately.” The veto comes back like a return. “It’s not quite so easy,” says Christoph Traub, the Mayor of Filderstadt.

Weilerhau 6, Plattenhardt, a lovely spot with an enormous indoor tennis centre, built in another era. Tennis is booming. Chemist shop owner Dieter Fischer, he runs the centre, joins up with Porsche as the sponsor. And the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix is created in 1978. A small, fine tournament, friendly but always high class. The world’s best women players like coming to the area known locally as the Filder. Spectators too. The tournament becomes world famous – and moves to the modern Porsche Arena in 2006. Reason enough to, with Anke Huber – the two-time winner in Filderstadt and today the Operating Tournament Director – visit the birthplace of the event on the occasion of its 40th anniversary. The wish however poses Ellen Schweizer, the personal assistant of Filderstadt’s mayor, a few problems. Last year in autumn, the leasehold with Dieter Fischer ran out. The centre is closed. A survey has attested that the building is structurally sound but it nevertheless needs more than just a coat of paint. In some places water drips from the ceilings into well-placed buckets.

The centre is opened specially for Anke Huber’s visit and the lights are switched on. Hanna Frey from the town’s treasury office had cleaned up the day before. Ellen Schweizer provides the guests with coffee and bread rolls. Mayor Traub has brought along the golden book of the town for Anke Huber to sign.

Anke Huber sits in the former player’s lounge, in the very same wicker chairs as in the old days. One can look into the hall. At the back was a temporary stand for the Centre Court. Immediately before it Court One with a little stand and two practice courts. Above the main stand, as if carved in stone, is the resplendent old scoreboard dating back to 1986. Doubles final: Navratilova / Shriver against Garrison / Sabatini 7-6, 6-4. “The scoreboard was there when I played here for the first time,” said Huber.

Her first time: in 1989, Anke Huber battled her way through qualifying. One year later she was a direct main draw acceptance. 4-4 in the third set against the Australian Rachel McQuillan. At the time, the women wore tennis skirts with a snap fastener. The one on Anke Huber’s skirt was defect and right in the middle of the match, the skirt came undone and Huber was standing there in her underwear. “It was so embarrassing that I didn’t win another point,” she remembers. A year later the first win. As the first German. Anke was 16. Her father let her drive around a car park in her winner’s Porsche every now and again. The second win came in 1994. She still drives her trophy, a 911 cabriolet, today. Anke Huber played 12 years at the Porsche Tennis Grand – she was injured in one year. 2001 was the final tournament, retirement. She wanted to take a break from tennis but Udo Cervellini, the man responsible for the tournament at Porsche, kept badgering her. From 2002 on, she has worked as the Operating Tournament Director. In 2005 and to Anke Huber’s delight, Markus Günthardt took over as the director of the tournament. “This year is my 28th Grand Prix,” she says. Almost half a lifetime. Melancholy wells up. “I’ve seen tennis centres in use that are in a far worse state,” she says.

It has to have something to do with sport believes mayor Traub. Filderstadt, which has a population of 45,000, has seven big sports clubs. For Traub too, the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix is a “part of the history” of the town that was founded in 1970. Therefore, the first person allowed to enter the hall after its closure was the town historian. He had to look around and find out what was still there. Everything is still there. But how does one utilise it? “We need investors, we have to redevelop it as the hall is too big for a single sport,” knows the mayor.

“Pizza, spaghetti Bolognese and salad,” says Huber suddenly, it’s what we always ate. Very good it was too.” Hanging on the wall is a poster of Ivan Lendl, a reminder of a photo shoot with a Porsche in the hall. On it he writes to the football freak Dieter Fischer: “Thanks very much for everything. And play tennis rather than football.” Anke Huber takes another look around. “Actually,” she says, “we should come here with the players during the tournament in April. They should see it all.” The tennis museum. All in green.

TEXT Reiner Schloz
PHOTOS / MONTAGE Rafael Krötz / C3

19/04/2017

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