The French Open isn’t the only pro tennis event played on clay. We countdown the top 10 coolest clay tennis tournaments of the season leading up to Roland Garros.
Millennium Estoril Open
Located 20 miles west of Lisbon, the luxury resort town of Estoril is best known as the inspiration for “Casino Royale.” While perhaps the biggest attraction in Estoril are its beaches, in late April the city draws tennis enthusiasts to the grounds of Clube de Ténis do Estoril for an ATP 250 event. Among the top players competing in this year’s tournament are Feliciano Lopez, Richard Gasquet and Tommy Robredo. But the crowds will surely be cheering loudest for Portugal’s No. 1 player, Joao Sousa, who in 2013 became the first player from his country to win an ATP World Tour event.
Open de Nice Côte d’Azur
It’s easy to see how France’s fifth most populous city got its nickname, Nice la Belle (Nice the Beautiful), when you visit the coastal Mediterranean town. And starting tomorrow, Nice tourists have more to explore outside the area’s museums and promenades. Top ATP players, including Bernard Tomic and Gilles Simon will return to Nice for an ATP 250 tournament in preparation for the French Open. Defending champion Ernests Gulbis, who lost in the first round of his most recent tournament, is ready to reclaim the Nice title with the support of his French fans.
For the first time in 15 years, the Geneva Open returns to Switzerland’s second most populous city after relocating from Dusseldorf, Germany. In mid May, some of the world’s best male tennis players will journey to the Tennis Club de Geneve Eaux Vives, located amid the city’s stunning views of snowcapped mountains and historic cathedrals. The draws haven’t been released yet, but one can only hope that Swiss native Stan Wawrinka will enter.
TEB BNP Paribas Istanbul Open
In 2015, Istanbul welcomes Turkey’s first-ever ATP World Tour event with a list of tournament entrants that does not disappoint. Grigor Dimitrov and Roger Federer are among the many top pros who will play in Istanbul — the city of mosques, bazaars and Turkish baths. The tournament should be a thrilling event for both spectators and players as Federer told the press, “I’m very excited to be coming to Istanbul for the first time in my life.”
BMW Open by FWU AG
Although Munich’s historic clay court tournament began in 1974, the BMW Open has only had six German victors. Playing this year are Andy Murray, Ivo Karlovic, Andreas Seppi and several other top-50 players. Fans in the stands at the BMW Open can expect some top-notch tennis as well as some blue-ribbon German beer.
J&T Banka Prague Open
Prague, Czech Republic
Prague’s premiere tennis venue, TK Sparta Praha, is thrilled to host a professional women’s tournament with a draw that includes 15 players in the top 50. Top Czechs Lucie Safarova, Karolína Plíšková and Barbora Záhlavová-Strýcová will be the fan favorites at this event, which takes place later this month. When not watching the tournament, tourists and tennis fans should spend time at Prague’s Charles Bridge, Old Town Square or Vitus Cathedral.
Mutua Madrid Open
In the past, Spain’s capital city has welcomed David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Maria Sharapova to its Mutua Madrid Open, one of the toughest precursory clay tournaments to Roland Garros. The Spanish master of clay, Rafael Nadal, has won this tournament four times and looks to defend his title this year. Tennis players and fans alike will have plenty to do in Madrid come May, but Bueno Retiro Park and Palacio Real are among the city’s must-see attractions.
Barcelona Open Bank Sabadell
Kei Nishikori ended an 11-year Spaniard winning streak at last year’s Barcelona Open, but will have some tough competition this year with a draw that includes Feliciano Lopez, David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal, who has won the tournament eight out of the past nine years. Barcelona, the dazzling capital of Catalonia, is a tourist haven that is filled with divine dining, nightlife and art. We wouldn’t be surprised if you ran into Marin Cilic or Milos Raonic at La Sagrada Familia.
Internazionali BNL D’Italia
Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, and the best of the best convene in Rome in May for the Internazionali BNL D’Italia, one of just four 1000-level tournaments contested on clay. As a capital of food, fashion, history and culture, the atmosphere in Rome can’t be beat. Whether you’re watching Sara Errani play Roberta Vinci, exploring the Vatican or wandering through the shops in Trastevere — Roma in late spring is the place to be. Plus, gelato.
J’aime Paris. The city of love, light and tennis. Nothing can compare to watching the pros at one of the most awe-inspiring tennis venues on earth. Between climbing the Eiffel Tower, visiting the Louvre, and drinking wine along the Seine, your next vacation is already planned. Take us with you, please.