By Georgia Grimond, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Aquece Rio tennis test event, which happened this past weekend, was the twentieth Olympic warm-up competition to take place but only the first to be staged at the Rio 2016 Olympic Park. From December 10th – 12th, 75 Brazilians players, including paralympians and juniors, played in the Brazil Mastercup Tennis Tournament to test out the facilities.
Sixteen new courts have been built, ten to be used for competing and six for training. The center court seats 10,000 spectators and the two other main courts hold 5,000 and 3,000 each.
During the Olympics in August 2016, top-class players such as Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, David Ferrer and Rafael Nadal are expected to compete to try and take the Olympic title from British player, Andy Murray.
Maria Esther Bueno, Brazil’s most successful player whom the center court is named after, told Rio 2016 press, “We are going to see fantastic things here next year. All the leading players will come, especially those who have been on the circuit for some time, as it could be their last shot at Olympic glory. We will see some incredible matches.”
The courts will also host wheelchair tennis and five-a-side football for the visually impaired during the Paralympics in September. After the Games it will become the Olympic Training Centre that will enable Brazil to host big competitions as well as provide a training ground for athletes and Brazil’s youngsters.
In this weekend’s tournament Thiago Monteiro and Gabriela Ce took the men’s and women’s titles. Natalia Mayara, Brazil’s number one wheelchair tennis player, won her competition. Players were impressed by the size and quality of the stadium and feedback from the courts was mostly good. Particular note was taken of the temperature and the speed of the surface.
With plenty of feedback organizers will begin making adjustments for next year’s competitions, for example altering the color of the panels at the back of the courts. Aquece Rio test events will continue in 2016, with basketball, powerlifting and wrestling all scheduled from January 15th onwards.