The romance between the city of Valencia and tennis started many years ago. Indeed, from 1995 the Valencian capital hosted an ‘International Series’ tournament which attracted top-level players. Although it was held in the city of Marbella in 1996 and 1997 and in Mallorca between 1998 and 2002, the tournament then returned to Valencia. Between 2003 and 2008, before moving up to the Open 500 category, the Valencia Tennis Club used to host the Valencian Community Tennis Open. In the six editions held since then, on hard courts, the player who has won the most times is Spaniard Nicolás Almagro, who raised the trophy on two consecutive occasions, 2006 and 2007. Juan Carlos Ferrero, David Ferrer, Igor Andreev and Fernando Verdasco have also seen their names inscribed in the Open’s annals. In 2009, the Open took the giant step of joining the ATP World Tour 500 and moved to the City of Arts and Sciences venue. This is where the story of the Guardian of the Agora began, the name given to the winner of the tournament. So far, only Andy Murray, David Ferrer and Marcel Granollers can boast this distinction.
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The Valencia Open 500 ATP World Tour 2013 crowned Russian player Mikhail Youzhny as the Guardian of the Agora after he beat David Ferrer, the top seed of the tournament. Apart from Ferrer, another Valencian native played a key role in this edition of the tournament: Juan Carlos Ferrero took the reins of the tournament for the first time following his retirement from the circuit before an emotional Agora audience one year earlier, in 2012. The line-up for the 2013 event featured players of the stature of Gaël Monfils, Tommy Haas, John Isner, Gilles Simon, Nicolás Almagro, Feliciano López and Fernando Verdasco, amongst others, as well as David Ferrer. In the doubles competition, the pair formed by Peya and Soares laid claim again to the title they clinched in 2012, this time against the Bryan brothers in the most hotly-contested final ever seen in the Agora. Daniel Caverzaschi once again dominated the National Wheelchair Tennis Masters of the Valencia Open 500 – Juan Carlos Ferrero Foundation, while Nicola Kuhn and Ángela Fita won the Valencia Open 500 New Talents competition.
Nadal and Djokovic go from strength to strength while Ferrer gets a taster of glory in Paris
Rafael Nadal (Roland Garros and US Open) and Novak Djokovic (Australian Open and ATP World Tour Finals) were the season’s big winners; this was a very special season for the Spaniard in particular, who returned to the circuit after a knee injury. As well as these two players, David Ferrer and Andy Murray also merit a special mention. The former got to the final of a Grand Slam for the first time, though he failed to clinch the title. The latter managed to succeed Fred Perry and get a British player’s name inscribed on the Wimbledon champion’s list again.
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The Valencia Open 500 left a very special memory in 2012. On the one hand, it was the tenth anniversary of the tournament, if we include the six Opens of the Valencian Community and the four Valencia Open 500s. This was not the only reason, however, because this year’s tournament witnessed a historic event for both Valencian and Spanish tennis – Juan Carlos Ferrero’s farewell to the courts. The former World Number One and upcoming Director of the Valencia Open 500 retired from professional tennis in the Agora building before more than 6,000 emotional fans at a ceremony that brought together some of the top names in tennis, including Rafa Nadal, Nico Almagro, David Ferrer, Àlex Corretja, Anabel Medina and even Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray via a video recording. Meanwhile, in strictly sporting terms, David Ferrer became the player with the most Valencia Open 500 titles after regaining the trophy he won in 2010, on this occasion by beating Ukrainian player Alexandr Dolgopolov (6-1, 3-6, 6-4). In the doubles competition, Peya and Soares beat Spanish pair Verdasco and Marrero (6-3, 6-2), while Daniel Caverzaschi finally managed to overcome Álvaro Illobre (4-6, 6-2, 10-8) in the Spanish Wheelchair Tennis Masters of the Valencia Open 500 - Juan Carlos Ferrero Foundation.
A full hand of aces
In 2012 there were four different Grand Slam winners: Novak Djokovic kicked off the season in a thrilling and electric final against Rafa Nadal. In the second Grand Slam of the year, Nadal took his revenge and once again reigned supreme on French clay. At Wimbledon the spotlight was on Roger Federer, who refused to allow Andy Murray to profane ‘his’ cathedral, a Murray who went on to clinch the next two major victories by winning Olympic Gold in London and the first Grand Slam of his career in Flushing Meadows. At the end of the season, the ATP World Tour Finals in London was all about Novak Djokovic, who won the title for the first time. Another highlight was the fantastic season of Valencian player David Ferrer, the best in his career, with a haul of no less than seven titles.
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At the ninth anniversary of the tournament, the name of Marcel Granollers shone brightly. The Catalan player, a finalist in 2010, managed to up his game a notch and beat Juan Mónaco in the final (6-2, 4-6, 7-6), thus achieving the third title of his career. The 2011 tournament will be remembered for the overwhelming presence of Spanish and Argentinian players, who apart from Granollers and Mónaco included David Ferrer, Feliciano López, Fernando Verdasco, Juan Martín del Potro and Juan Ignacio Chela. The fans who visited the Agora this year were able to watch players of the stature of Ferrero, Almagro, García López and Andújar in action; French players Gilles Simon, Gael Monfils and Wilfrid Tsonga; the American John Isner, the Croatian Marin Cilic, the Russian Nikolay Davydenko and the Canadian Milos Raonic. In the doubles competition, victory went to the top doubles pair in history, the Bryan brothers, who vanquished Butorac and Rojer in the final (6-4, 7-6). In the wheelchair tennis tournament, which was given the category of National Masters for the first time, Quico Tur regained the title he won in 2009 by defeating Daniel Caverzaschi in the final (3-6, 6-3, 10-4).
The Balkan big guns
Serbian player Novak Dkojovic was the star of the season, not just for his record of 43 consecutive victories but also by winning every Grand Slam with the exception of Roland Garros, which once again belonged to Nadal. 2011 was a great year for Spanish tennis: Ferrer, Ferrero, Robredo, Almagro, Andújar and Granollers all finished the season with one or more titles to their names. In addition, Rafa Nadal, Fernando Verdasco, David Ferrer and Feliciano López rounded off the year by giving Spain its fifth Davis Cup ‘silver salad bowl’.
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The 2010 edition of the Valencia Open 500 grew exponentially. The shopping, leisure and restaurant zone was remodelled and enlarged by 25%. The capacity of the Centre Court was also increased to seat just over 6,000 people and provide enhanced broadcasting to the TV audience. Andy Murray returned to Valencia to try to hold on to his crown, though some of the top players from the tennis circuit also turned up to try and stop him, including Soderling, Verdasco, Almagro, Davydenko, Monfils and, of course, Valencian David Ferrer. Ferrer raised the trophy after defeating the revelation of the tournament, Marcel Granollers, 7-5, 6-3. In the doubles competition, the spotlight was once again on the winner of the singles tournament the previous year, Scottish ace Andy Murray who, with his brother Jaime, won the title in this second edition of the doubles event. In a thrilling and very tightly-contested final they overcame Mirnyi and Bhupathi 7-6 (8), 5-7, 10-7. In the wheelchair tennis tournament, victory belonged to Daniel Caverzaschi after defeating Álvaro Illobre in the final by a very close 7-6 (5), 4-6, 10-8.
A commanding Nadal and the fifth ‘silver salad bowl’
The Manacor boy was the shining star of the 2010 season. The year started with Federer’s victory at the Australian Open but the other three Slams were dominated by Rafa, who also won the Masters 1000 tournaments in Monte Carlo, Rome and Madrid, demonstrating his total command of clay and finishing the year as the World Number One. Meanwhile, Valencian players Ferrero and Ferrer, the joint owners of the rights to the Valencian tournament, managed to win five trophies between them; Ferrero won in Umag, Buenos Aires and Costa Do Sauipe while Ferrer won in Valencia and Acapulco and became the only player to win both the Valencian Community Tennis Open and the Valencia Open 500.
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In 2009 the tournament raised its game and joined the Open 500 category, which comes immediately below the Masters 1000 competitions and the Grand Slams. From this point, the tournament embarked an unstoppable upward trajectory; it became known as the Valencia Open 500 and changed venues to the City of Arts and Sciences, with the Agora building becoming a symbol for both the tournament and the city. The dates of the Open also changed, moving from the last weekend in October to the first in November. The new venue, along with the spectacular nature of the Agora building, the line-up of players and the creation of the FUN PARK (the shopping, leisure and restaurant zone, with free entrance to all), were other factors that contributed to marking a before and after of the tournament which has lasted until the present day. The first 500 edition also attracted more than 175,000 people during the nine days of the competition. In sporting terms, victory went to the tournament’s number one seed, Scottish player Andy Murray. Other players in the line-up included such great names as Ferrero, Ferrer, Davydenko, Tsonga, Verdasco, Simon and Monfils, amongst others. The doubles was won by the Czech pair Cermak and Slovak Mertinak after defeating the Spanish team of Granollers and Robredo, 6-4, 6-3. The first edition of the tournament also featured the very first Valencia Open 500 Wheelchair Tennis tournament. Catalan player Quico Tur was the first to see his name inscribed in the record books after beating Álvaro Illobre (6-4, 6-4).
Ferrero wins again
The Valencian player won the Casablanca tournament; after six years without a title, despite having reached six finals, in 2009 Juan Carlos Ferrero tasted victory once again. In spite of his joy at winning this title, Ferrero ended the year on a more bitter note as he was knocked out in the first round of ‘his’ Valencia Open 500. With regard to the Grand Slams, Nadal took the Australian Open, Federer won Roland Garros and Wimbledon and Del Potro the US Open. Here in Spain, Albert Montañés and Tommy Robredo stood out with two ATP titles each, Albert in Estoril and Bucharest and Tommy in Buenos Aires and Costa do Sauipe. In December the Spanish Davis Cup team crushed the Czech team 5-0. Nadal, Verdasco, Ferrer and Feliciano López were the stars of that particular final.
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The name of David Ferrer started to be written in gold letters in the record books of the tournament, being the only player to have won both the Valencian Community Open and the Valencia Open 500. The Jávea native started building up to this achievement in the sixth edition of the tournament. After defeating every rival who came before him – Spanish players Navarro, Andújar, Verdasco, Robredo and Almagro (4-6 6-2 7-6(2) in the final) he won his first trophy on the courts of the Valencia Tennis Club. Meanwhile, the Argentinian duo Juan Mónaco and Máximo González won the doubles competition.
The 2008 season will forever be remembered as the one in which Rafa Nadal was crowned as the best tennis player in the world. He achieved this pinnacle during the second half of the season, on 18 August, right after having won Olympic gold in Beijing. Previously, he had won Roland Garros and Wimbledon. Indeed, this season was the second biggest haul of titles in the Manacor native’s career thus far (a total of eight). At the Australian Open Djokovic won his first Grand Slam and Federer had to ‘content’ himself with a fifth US Open title. One of the stars of the VI Valencian Community Tennis Open was Scottish player Andy Murray, who forged one of his best-ever seasons, reaching the final of the US Open and winning five titles, most notably the Madrid and Cincinnati Masters. 2008 was a great year for other Spanish players too: Almagro won the Costa do Sauipe and Acapulco tournaments; Verdasco won in Umag; Robredo in Bastad; Montañés in Amersfoort; Granollers in Houston and Ferrer in s-Hertogenbosch and Valencia. This same year the Davis Cup was back in Spanish hands thanks to the hard work of Ferrer, Verdasco, Feliciano López and Granollers, amongst others, in Argentina.
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The Valencia Tennis Club hosted the tournament for the fifth year running in 2007, kicking off the clay season in Europe after the first two Masters Series of the year in Indian Wells and Key Biscayne. Valencia thus signalled the start of two intensive months of clay tournaments, culminating in the second Grand Slam of the year at Roland Garros. At this edition, Nicolás Almagro entered the tournament’s history books by becoming the first player to win in Valencia more than once. In a thrilling final, watched by the Prince of Asturias, he defeated Italian Potito Starace in three sets (4-6, 6-2, 6-1). Moodie and Perry won the doubles competition against Allegro and Prieto 7-5, 7-5.
And the same again...
The 2007 season pretty much followed the script of the previous year in terms of the Grand Slam results. Rafa Nadal continued his reign at Roland Garros, while Roger Federer maintained his hegemony at the other three big matches on the circuit. The Swiss player, who won eight titles this year, two more than Nadal and three more than the up-and-coming Djokovic, ended the year in the number one spot on the ATP ranking. Apart from Rafa, three other Spanish tennis players garnered several prizes in 2007: Ferrer won in Auckland, Tokyo and Bastad; Robredo in Sopot and Metz, and Carlos Moyà in Umag, in what proved to be the last ATP World Tour title of his professional career.
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In 2006, Valencia hosted the fourth edition of its Tennis Open, a tournament which, with three consecutive editions behind it, had positioned itself as one of the most interesting events on the clay circuit due to the calibre of its players and the consistently supportive response from the Valencian spectators. At this year’s edition, a young Murcian player called Nicolás Almagro managed to clinch the first title of his career in Valencia as well as his first ATP trophy as a professional player by beating Frenchman Gilles Simon (6-2, 6-3). The Russian players Marat Safin, Nikolay Davydenko and Igor Andreev, and the Spanish players Juan Carlos Ferrero, David Ferrer, Guillermo García López and Fernando Verdasco, were other standout names in the line-up of the IV Valencian Community Open. In the doubles competition, Skoch and Zib won the title against Dlouhy and Vizner (6-4, 6-3).
A duel at the summit
The tennis world witnessed a top-level duel between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal this season which turned out in the Swiss player’s favour, winning the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. The only trophy to escape his grasp was Roland Garros, which once again went to Rafa. The two players ended the year in the top two positions on the world ranking (Federer at number one). With regard to the other Spanish players, leaving aside Almagro’s victory in Valencia, we should mention the triumphs of Tommy Robredo at the Masters Series in Hamburg and the Bastad tournament; of Carlos Moyà in Buenos Aires, and of David Ferrer in Stuttgart. This same season, Andy Murray won the first title of his career in San José.
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2005 was the centenary year of the Valencia Tennis Club and also served to consolidate the Valencian Community Tennis Open. Now in its third edition, the tournament featured some of the top stars on the circuit. The participation of Rafael Nadal was one of the big draws of the competition, as well as the presence of three-time Roland Garros champion, Gustavo Kuerten. The line-up of great players was rounded off by Spaniards Juan Carlos Ferrero, Fernando Verdasco and David Ferrer; Russian Nicolay Davydenko; Chilean Fernando González and Argentinian Agustín Calleri, amongst other big names. Finally, the trophy ended up in the hands of Russian player Igor Andreev, a disciple of the Valencian school, who managed to withstand the onslaught by local boy David Ferrer in the final (3-6, 7-5, 6-3). In the doubles competition, the pair formed by Fernando González and Martín Rodríguez won their first doubles title after defeating the Argentinian team of Lucas Arnold and Mariano Hood in the final 6-4, 6-4.
Nadal comes to the fore
The emergence of a young Mallorcan tennis player called Rafa Nadal was one of the highlights of the tennis scene in 2005. The Manacor native managed to win eleven titles, most notably his first Grand Slam at Roland Garros and the Masters Series tournaments in Rome, Madrid, Canada and Monte Carlo. He also rose from 56th to 2nd on the ATP ranking. With regard to the other Grand Slams, Russian player Marat Safin won in Australia and Swiss champion Roger Federer clinched Wimbledon and the US Open.
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Verdasco gets his first major win
At the second edition of the Valencian Community Tennis Open, a young Fernando Verdasco (aged 19) won the first ATP tournament of his career at an event that was full of surprises. In the final match of the tournament he was up against Catalan player Albert Montañés, who he defeated 7-6 (5), 6-3 in a match in which both finalists had to contend with an extremely strong wind. In addition, the II Valencian Community Tennis Open highlighted the fantastic moment being experienced by Spanish tennis in general at that time, with all four semi-finalists coming from Spain: Juan Carlos Ferrero, Fernando Verdasco, Alberto Martín and Albert Montañés.
In the doubles competition, the Argentinian team of Gaston Etlis and Martín Rodríguez defeated Spanish players Feliciano López and Marc López by a close 7-5, 7-6.
The dawn of Federer’s reign
In 2004, the world discovered a tennis legend, Roger Federer, who practically dominated the entire season. Just one Grand Slam escaped the Swiss player’s clutches; he won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. This time, the Roland Garros crown went to Argentinian Gastón Gaudio. Federer also won the Masters Cup and Masters Series tournaments in Indian Wells, Hamburg and Toronto, quite naturally finishing the year at the top of the ATP ranking. With regard to Spanish players, in 2004 Carlos Moyà won the Masters Series in Rome and the Chennai and Acapulco tournaments. In addition to Verdasco’s victory in Valencia, Feliciano López won in Vienna, Tommy Robredo in Barcelona and a very young Rafa Nadal in Sopot. At the end of the year, Ferrero, Nadal, Moyà and Robredo were the heroes of Spain after winning the second Davis Cup ‘silver salad bowl’ in Seville against the USA team.
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Ferrero wins at home
The inaugural edition of the Valencian tennis tournament was won by a local idol and the player who started off as the top favourite for the title, Juan Carlos Ferrero. Having come to the tournament as the third best player in the world, the Onteniente native confirmed all predictions and won the first Valencian Community Tennis Open trophy. Ferrero displayed a sure touch throughout the final against Belgian player Christophe Rochus, winning 6-2, 6-4. With this victory at the Valencia Tennis Club, Juan Carlos moved up to second place on the world ranking and presented his credentials for winning Roland Garros and assailing the number one spot, which at that time was held by American player Andre Agassi. A few weeks later he would achieve both goals.
In addition to Ferrero, the first edition of the Open boasted a line-up of top class players such as Russian Marat Safin, Spanish players Àlex Corretja and Fernando Vicente, Swede Magnus Norman and Argentinians Agustín Calleri, José Acasuso, Mariano Zabaleta and Gastón Gaudio. The team of Lucas Arnold and Mariano Hood won the doubles title after beating Brian Macphie and Nenad Zimonjic in the final (6-1, 6-7 (7), 6-4).
Juan Carlos achieves glory
In 2003 there were four different winners of each Grand Slam. In Australia, Andre Agassi won the first big title of the year. On the clay courts of Paris, Juan Carlos Ferrero went into the tournament’s history books and became the world’s number one player. That same year, the Valencian player also won the Master Series tournaments in Madrid and Monte Carlo. A few weeks after Juan Carlos’ victory at Roland Garros, Roger Federer won his first Wimbledon title in London, and in September Andy Roddick won the US Open, his first and only Grand Slam. The straight-shooter from Nebraska, who retired recently, ended the year as world number one just ahead of Federer and Ferrero. In the Davis Cup, the Spanish team managed to reach the final but were defeated by Australia who were playing at home.