BY BRAD FALKNER
The new catch phrase for the seventh edition of the Los Cabos Open, taking place July 31 to August 5 at the Cabo Sports Complex, is “You Have to Be Here”.
Last year’s slogan was “Stronger Than Ever”. That was prophetically backed up by crowning a new world number one after Daniil Medvedev dismantled the defending champion Cam Norrie in the tournament final.
If you are a tennis aficionado, player, or general follower of professional sports and live in or near Los Cabos, I can assure that you will enjoy this spectacular tennis bonanza by the beach.
And here’s why. The current talent pool of tennis players in this draw is overflowing. Professional tennis has never been more athletic or exciting and is as unpredictable as ever. You could not pay me to gamble on this sport.
Tennis is on the precipice of a proper changing of the guard. One of “The Big Three”, Roger Federer, retired in 2022. Rafael Nadal has perhaps one more Grand Slam title left in his tank. After enjoying an 18-year tenure, he has finally fallen outside of the top ten in the rankings. Novak Djokovic, while still arguably the best player in the sport, will soon be 36 and has recently had a string of injuries.
This year’s tournament has confirmed Stefanos Tsitsipas. This charismatic and electrifying shot-maker is currently ranked 5th in the world and will be making his Los Cabos debut. He headlines the star-studded field of this world-class event that kicks off the North American hard court road to the US Open.
Past champion (2021) and last year’s finalist, Cam Norrie, who upset world number one Carlos Alacaraz in the final of Rio de Janeiro in February, will be back. Determined to retain the status of being the King of Cabo, he says that the Los Cabos Open is by far one of his favorite tournaments on the ATP Tour.
Australian Open semifinalist Tommy Paul, of the U.S., who now resides in the top twenty will be joined by the man from Down Under, Alex de Miñaur, who toppled him in this year’s final of the Acapulco ATP 500 event. Rounding out the field is the rising Russian star Karen Khachanov, currently stationed just outside the top 10.
Due to the extreme temperatures during the day, the matches kick off as the sun is setting, providing a picturesque atmosphere that is both electric and relaxed. The food and beverages on site are scrumptious and reasonably priced. My favorite aspect of this event is the intimacy of the venue, which allows players to be accessible to spectators and the media.
“We are very proud to confirm these players who have shown great level at the beginning of the year. The facilities are improving every year and the venue is ready to receive more than 30,000 people during the week of the tournament and we will also have the host hotel Solaz and Hacienda Del Mar up and running for the tournament, which is great news,” Tournament Director Geoffrey Fernandez said. He added, “Not only is it one of the most important events that the destination has, but the country, as far as tourism promotion is concerned. This year we exceeded 29,000 attendees, the growth has been tremendous and we hope to continue with this growth.”
Fernandez has pulled off something in the sport of tennis that only the most skilled, agile and experienced of tournament directors dare to dream of. He and his team overcame a tennis calendar conundrum.
The most sensible, practical and logical idea was to hold the Los Cabos tournament the week prior to Acapulco. Fernandez’s dream came true. Starting in 2024, the Los Cabos event will begin on February 19th, followed by the Acapulco 500 tournament which will begin on February 28.
I sat down recently with Fernandez and he told me, “We have been trying to push this event out of the summer, and it fits perfectly with the ATP calendar. One of the advantages we’re going to have that week is ideal weather. This allows us to start the matches earlier.” He adds, “Having back-to-back events helps us to negotiate with the players. We really want the players that enter Los Cabos to continue onto Acapulco which makes perfect sense.”
To be sure, change in tennis tends to be arduous and, moreover, glacially slow.
Fernandez said, “It was not easy to pull this off, and a lot of tournaments were upset. But, at the end of the day, the ATP has to take care of the benefits of the players and fans. This decision is good; Los Cabos will be in the same week as Doha. Acapulco will be the same week as Dubai. All of these are hard-court events. Another advantage of the calendar change is we will be able to start matches at 4:30 p.m., which gives us more matches on TV for the international audience. That is really helpful in a worldwide sense. Before we could only televise three matches a day; now we can show four.”
Having covered both Los Cabos and Acapulco, I’m confident that this calendar change will have a similar impact as the US “Sunshine Double” (Indian Wells followed by Miami). The players reap the greatest benefit of being able to stay and play in North America for a month in the most ideal of tennis conditions.
A significant difference between the “Sunshine Double” and the new “Beach Swing” is that the back-to-back tournaments in Mexico are literally continuous; they do not have the benefit of the slight buffer that occurs between the conclusion of Indian Wells and the start of Miami.
“February is going to be the month of tennis in Mexico. Weather-wise, it’s the best time of the year to visit Mexico. We are extremely happy. That said, there are so many challenges. We’ll be doing something we haven’t done before, but the benefits will be huge for the players and the fans,” Fernandez said.
“Right now, we have a great opportunity to become the best tournament on the ATP 250 level. There are 38 ATP 250 tournaments. Our goal is to be the one the players and the fans vote to be their favorite. I believe there’s no reason why we can’t achieve that. Solaz, which is one of the tournament-sponsored luxury hotels, is on the beach and is located across the street from the venue,” Fernandez asserts. “We do everything possible to have this be the best 250-level event. We create a vibe and atmosphere that is much more than just great tennis matches. Because of the late start, it feels like a festival is going on as well. The bars and restaurants stay open until the last tennis match ends.”
Just remember: You have to be here!