Grand Slam tournaments usually take place in metropolises. Wimbledon sits on the outskirts of London, Roland-Garros in the suburbs of Paris. To catch sight of top seeds with a more bucolic backdrop, head to Båstad, a small town on the southern Swedish coast. Here, the centre court is a short walk from the beach and spectators and sporting titans mingle on the resort’s cobbled streets.

Each July, the Swedish Open, which was first held in the 1940s, takes place on outdoor clay courts in Båstad’s town centre. With courts looking across to the Kattegat Sea, a salty breeze often ruffles the hair of players and spectators. The tournament, also called Nordea Open, forms part of the ATP 250 series (for men) and WTA 125 series (for women). Last year, the women’s singles title went to Olga Danilović and Andrey Rublev secured the men’s singles crown.

Nordea Open: Tennis by the sea in a summer sporting spectacle

Båstad has played host to some of the biggest names in sport.

“It’s popular for clay court players to come to Båstad after the grass season,” says Christer Hult, the event’s managing director. In 2003, Hult watched a young Rafael Nadal play in Monte Carlo. He gave Nadal a wildcard, and the player competed at Båstad later that year. Two years on, the superstar Spaniard won the men’s singles title on Båstad’s centre court.

The town, which nestles on a peninsula near the border of the Skåne and Halland counties, houses just over 5,000 permanent residents. During the Nordea Open, the population increases to around 100,000. “We have around 70,000 to 80,000 spectators watching the tennis,” he explains. “Our centre court has a capacity of 4,300, but we sell up to 2,000 ground tickets alongside. A circulation of people is only natural, so if there are empty reserved seats you can sit there until the purchaser arrives.”

Nordea Open offers free entrance to the women’s WTA competition, which runs from 8 to 13 July. “If you enjoy that, you could then buy a ticket to the ATP tournament the following week,” says Hult.

Nordea Open: Tennis by the sea in a summer sporting spectacle

Sunset descends on one of Sweden’s best-loved resorts.

A celebrity playground

Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams (who took the women’s singles title in 2013) are two of the most famous names to have triumphed in Båstad. Sweden’s Björn Borg, however, won three men’s singles here in the 1970s. Stefan Edberg, another Swedish legend, finished runner-up twice. “Sweden has a huge interest in tennis and that interest is only increasing,” Hult confirms. “Our tennis heritage has been built over a long period of time.”

During the tournament, Hotel Skansen provides players with direct access to the adjoining centre court. “We mostly use our transport to take players to and from the airport. Everything else is in a small area, which is relaxing for the players.” Celebrity encounters are frequent in the town’s bars and restaurants. Such meetings come with players, of course, but also with visiting politicians, artists, and singers.

After the tournament ends, Båstad’s courts are available to rent and Hotel Skansen is available to book as usual. Holidaymakers can imagine an adoring crowd as they step onto the empty centre court. “Of course, it has always been our intention to build up the tournament,” Hult explains. “But we also want to make everything around the tournament attractive. Båstad has also become a popular corporate destination.”

Nordea Open: Tennis by the sea in a summer sporting spectacle

The competitions run from 8 -21 July.

A rich history in tourism

Annika Borgelin, CEO of Båstad Tourism & Business, says that the town can trace its tourist roots back to engineer Ludvig Nobel (uncle to Alfred Nobel, whose will established the Nobel Prize). “Nobel saw that visitors from Stockholm needed something to do apart from swimming in the sea, so tennis courts and golf courses were constructed,” Borgelin says and explains that Rudolf Abelin was another notable figure in the resort’s history. His Norrviken Gardens, not far from Båstad, remain a popular excursion.

“Besides watching and playing tennis and strolling around the harbour, people love hiking and cycling,” says Borgelin. The Kattegatleden cycle path, which runs from Helsingborg to Gothenburg, passes through Båstad on its 390-kilometre journey. Borgelin adds that although July is the busiest month, the town’s summer season runs from May to October. “We also have farm shops and vineyards in the region, and many exciting events too,” Borgelin continues. “Around 180 days a year, an event is taking place here. There’s so much more than tennis!”

Nordea Open: Tennis by the sea in a summer sporting spectacle

Båstad’s centre court can accommodate thousands of fans.

Nordea Open takes place in Båstad 8-21 July.
WTA runs July 8-13 July, free entry
ATP runs 15-21 July, tickets available to purchase

Båstad sits just over 100 kilometres from Copenhagen. It’s connected by train to Malmö and Gothenburg.

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