As a result of COVID-19, many long-standing ATP Tour events have had to cancel the 2020 editions of their tournament to protect public health. For the Mallorca Championships, the global pandemic has delayed the tournament from making its highly anticipated ATP Tour debut.
The ATP 250, one of three tour-level events in Spain, would have made its debut this week if not for the current suspension of the ATP Tour.
Mallorca, the largest of the four main Balearic Islands off the Spanish east coast, has a rich tennis history. Despite a population of less than one million people, the island has produced two of Spain’s three players to have risen to World No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings: Carlos Moya and Rafael Nadal.
ATPTour.com spoke to former chair umpire and Managing Director of e|motion Group Felix Torralba about the event’s preparations for its ATP Tour debut. Alongside the MercedesCup in Stuttgart and the Erste Bank Open in Vienna, e|motion Group manages the Mallorca Championships, controlling the year-round business operations of the ATP 250. For the first time since 2002, Mallorca was set to welcome the stars of the ATP Tour this week.
“Mallorca breathes a lot of tennis and it is a tennis destination,” said Torralba. “I think the island, by having an ATP Tour tournament, was extremely excited. There was an ATP tournament 18 years ago, when Rafa won his very first ATP match, so there is a story to Mallorca and tennis.
“You can feel that on the island, the excitement to bring back world class tennis to the island… The event is an extremely strong and valuable asset for the island and for the institutions. They have the possibility to shine and showcase that [the island] is a sports destination.”
After hosting a WTA event between 2016 and 2019, the tournament made a considerable investment in its infrastructure ahead of its ATP Tour debut. The tournament built a new centre court, allowing a greater number of fans to access the facility and take advantage of new tournament features.
“There are lots of changes from the WTA event we had in the past,” said Torralba. “That was a big workload in the past year, with the focus on the ATP event… We are now moving into a new facility with a new centre court that can go above 3,500 [in capacity]. It has a total capacity of 4,000 by adapting new areas.
“We also have a completely new layout with the VIP area, a new VIP building… The former centre court is now Court 1 and that allowed us to create new access, with new fan experience zones and a sponsor area. There were a lot of changes, especially for people who have come to the event in the past.”
Scheduled the week before Wimbledon, the ATP 250 tournament was ready to provide players with the perfect final preparation for SW19. The event has been in regular contact with experts at Wimbledon in an attempt to match the conditions of courts at the All England Club.
“Wimbledon is heavily involved in Mallorca. There is consistent communication throughout all the year and also with the development of the grass courts,” said Torralba. “We have regular visits and regular communication with their court keepers, with our team and with their team. We try to match 100 per cent the surface.
“They have been testing and they have been checking, so there is definitely a strong communication there. That allows us to deliver the same or similar grass-court conditions to the players, in order to have a perfect preparation.”
One player who has already taken advantage of those facilities in preparation for previous Wimbledon campaigns is Nadal. The Manacor native visited the site during the WTA event last year, ahead of his run to the semi-finals at SW19. Nadal’s uncle and former coach, Toni Nadal, is also the event’s Tournament Director.
“We have a very strong relationship [with Rafa], through Toni being our Tournament Director… We have the only grass courts in Spain, so obviously for Wimbledon preparation during the grass-court swing — if he is not playing somewhere else in tournaments — that is obviously an important and great possibility for him to practise on great grass courts where he can get ready for Wimbledon. That is always there for him and we have a fantastic relationship,” said Torralba.
Aside from the tournament’s new centre court and top-level grass-court facilities, players visiting the Mallorca Championships in 2021 will also be able to enjoy their time away from the court with a range of activities available. The island, which welcomed more than 13 million tourists in 2019, is known for its impressive beaches and natural beauty. Just behind the club site, visitors will be able to view part of the Serra de Tramuntana, a mountain range listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011.
“Mallorca is probably one of the top destinations in Europe,” said Torralba. “The tournament takes place in Calvia, a city in the Santa Ponsa area. Calvia is a hotspot of tourism in Mallorca. It is under 15 minutes by car from Palma, which is the main city on the island.
“It is very easily accessible from the highway and you have beautiful beaches, beautiful cliffs and small bays. All that area from Palma to Andratx, with Calvia in the middle, is a very high-end residential and touristic area. You can really expect impressive nature, great restaurants and services for players.”
Despite the disappointment of the 2020 tournament cancellation, Torralba is convinced that the entire team behind the event will be even more determined to provide players and fans with a memorable Mallorcan debut in 2021.
“The motivation to deliver an even better event in 2021 is definitely there, in the whole team,” said Torralba.