On 5th December 1982, the Sportpaleis arena situated in the Antwerp city of Belgium held an invitational tennis event. The only players who could participate in this event played indoors on a carpet turf should have won a title in Europe at least once before this event in the same year. For nearly a decade this event was played as an exhibition event before it went on to become a part of ATP’s circuit and also offering ranking points.
The first event held in 1982 was called the European Champions’ Championship. When the first event was held as an exhibition, the prize money was a whooping $7,00,000 which was much higher than the other major events at that time. The other big rewarding was a Golden Racquet. The diamond studded Golden Racquet was offered to that player who would win the event thrice in five years of participation. This Golden Racquet was a hefty one at 13.5 pounds, studded with 1420 diamonds. It was worth $1,000,000. In 1985, it was Ivan Lendl who first laid his hands on the Golden Racquet with an additional $2,00,000 prize money.
Renamed to The European Community Championships in 1986, the event had a successful run till 1991. After 10 successful editions, the tournament was promoted to an ATP 250 event. It became a part of the World Series from 1992 till 1994.
In 1995, the tournament was not held. Mark Miles, the then ATP Tour Chief Executive said that two more stadiums needed to be constructed in Sportpaleis. It was the same year when the ATP decided to inculcate this tournament in the Super 9 series.
In 1996, the tournament returned as a part of the Championship series. This was also the last year when the tournament was played on clay. In the final two years of this event, the turf was changed to hard and Marc Rosset and Greg Rusedski became the last two championships.
Adjacent to the Sportpaleis lies the Lotto Arena. The last ATP tournament held in Antwerp was in 1998. ATP announced the return of an ATP 250 event in Belgium in 2016. The Lotto Arena was the chosen venue. The tournament features 28 singles players and 16 doubles players. No player has won the tournament twice ever since the event returned to the tour in 2016. Notably, the tournament has seen Diego Schwartzman reach the final thrice but is yet to win a title.