The Internationaux de Strasbourg held at the ‘Tennis Club de Strasbourg’ in France is one of the 31 tournaments that are categorized under the ‘WTA International’ tournaments. It is the biggest event on clay for the ladies in France after the Roland Garros. The tournament has a rich history spanning across three decades with some of the most legendary players conquering this clay court event.
In 1987, the Grand Prix tennis circuit added Strasbourg as a venue for a Category 1 event. The tournament was named as “The Strasbourg Grand Prix” and the inaugural event was won by Former Top 10 player, Carling Bassett. The following year, the Alsatian Tennis League took over and renamed the tournament to the name it is today known as: The Internationaux de Strasbourg (IS). The first decade of the tournament saw nine different winners, of which only Lindsay Davenport managed to win the title twice. She won the 1995 event after defeating Japanese player Kamiko Date in three sets. Davenport successfully defended her title the next year by defeating Barbara Paulus 6-2 7-5.
Steffi Graf lost her World No.1 ranking to Martina Hingis in 1997. The Fraulein’s 1997 season was plagued by injuries but she had her moments in France when she won the Strasbourg Open. Strasbourg was now considered as a Tier III tournament and was attracting top ranked players at a steady rate each year. Three-time grand slam champion and former World No.1, Jennifer Capriati entered as an unseeded player in 1999. In the quarter-finals, she defeated the top seeded player, Nathalie Tauziat 6-1 6-0 and defeated the second seeded player, Elena Likhovtseva 6-1 6-3 in the finals to capture the 7th of her 14th career titles.
Silvia Farina Elia was a former Italian player who was ranked as high as World No.11 in her career. She won three singles titles of the thirteen finals she reached. All her three titles came at Strasbourg, defeating Anke Huber (2001), Jelena Dokic (2002) and Karolina Sprem (2003), all of which she won in three sets. Elia is the most successful player in the tournament’s history by capturing three titles on a trot. In 2004, the WTA circuit saw one of the biggest upsets in the tournament’s history as Lindsay Davenport was defeated by Claudine Schaul from Luxemborg. Schaul defeated the first, second, fourth and fifth seeded player en route the title. The following year, Schaul entered as a wild ard entrant but was defeated in the first round. The event was eventually won by two-time Roland Garros doubles champion, Anabel Medina Garrigues.
In 2007, Garrigues reached the finals again and was up against defending Wimbledon champion, Amelie Mauresmo. Garrigues stunned the French veteran in three sets claiming her second title at Strasbourg. In 2008, the French Tennis Federation, who is responsible for governing all the major tournaments in France, took over the Internationaux de Strasbourg. The federation now had to allot the tournament’s management to the right person. Denis Naegelen, CEO of the Quarterback Sports marketing agency was decided as the right man for the job.
In 2008, Garrigues returned to defend her title, seeded sixth. She defeated Flavia Pennetta in the quarter-finals and Timea Bacsinszky in the semis before facing fifth seed Katarina Srebotnik in the finals. Three sets later, Garrigues equaled Silvia Elia’s record of capturing three titles at Strasbourg. It was in 2009 when Strasbourg got its first French champion. Aravane Rezai defeated Lucie Hradecka 7-6 6-1 to be the first of the three French women to have lifted the champion’s trophy at Strasbourg.
In 2011, the official balls of Roland Garros were used at Strasbourg for the first time. The second instance when a French lady won at Strasbourg was once again against Lucie Hradecka who lost the finals 7-6 6-0 against Alize Cornet in 2013. Two years later, Kristina Mladenovic became yet another French lady to enter the finals at Strasbourg. However, Mladenovic lost the match in 3 sets to Samantha Stosur 3-6 6-2 6-3. The following year, Caroline Garcia became the third French woman to win the Internationaux de Strasbourg.
It was in 2000, when Silvija Talaja defeated Rita Kuti-Kuis after playing 31 games in the final. This was the longest match in terms of games played at Strasbourg. Daria Gavrilova and Sam Stosur equaled this record in 2017. Stosur captured her second IS title after defeating her compatriot 5-7 6-4 6-3.
This year marks the 32nd edition of the Internationaux de Strasbourg. Gavrilova and Stosur might face each other in the second round if they can win their respective first round matches. While Stosur aims to win a joint-record third title at Strasbourg, fellow Australian Ashleigh Barty is the top seeded player. The winner’s prize money at Strasbourg this year is up to 250,000 Euros. After a record attendance of 26,200 people last year, the IS promises to be a bigger tournament this year, growing in prestige and reputation, each passing year.