The Rotterdam Open is an ATP 500 event on the ATP Tour. In 2023, the event marks its 50th edition. The indoor hard court event has a significant history that was a catalyst for many future legends of the game.
The Beginning (1970s)
The first Rotterdam Open was announced as a part of the WCT circuit in 1972. The first four years were dominated by Arthur Ashe & Tom Okker. Ashe reached three finals till 1976 and won all of them. He didn’t participate in 1974. In the finals that year, the battle of “Tom-boys” was won by Okker against Tom Gorman in 3 sets. Despite being seeded consistently at the first or second spot, Ilie Nastase, who was then the first ranked player based on the computer generated rankings, could not win the title. The Bucharest backfire reached the finals in 1977 where he was defeated by the then top seed Dick Stockton. The late 70s was a period in tennis where Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe were on the rise. It was in 1979, when the duo met each other in the Rotterdam finals in their fourth career meeting. Borg won the match to level up their then H2H record 2-2.
1984 – The no champion declaration
Till 1983, the event had completed 12 editions and 7 of them were won by Americans. Bjorn Borg retired in 1983 thereby passing on the Swedish flag to Stefan Edberg, Anders Jarryd and Joakim Nystrom. The top two seeds for the 1984 event were Ivan Lendl and Jimmy Connors. Both made the finals.
Before this match, Connors had played four times at Rotterdam, reaching the finals only once. Lendl on the other hand was looking for his first title of the season. Connors and Lendl combined were insanely leading 32-3 against all others before they met in this final.
When the match started, the top seed was completely dominating Connors, handing him a bagel in the first set. When the next set began, Lendl was up 1-0. But in a short span of time the crowd was diffused into a state of panic. The scoreboard read, “DO NOT PANIC (VACATE THE STADIUM). IMMEDIATELY, BUT QUICKLY.”
Later investigation found out that the police had received an anonymous call stating that a bomb had been planted in the stadium. When the bomb squad arrived there was no bomb found nor were there any explosions. The players were naturally scared to step on the court again and hence a stadium filled with 7000 people was a vacuum space within no time.
Wim Buitendijk who was the tournament director that time said that Connors could still have been persuaded but it was Lendl who wasn’t prepared to take any risks. Lendl suggested that the $50,000 of the winner and the $25,000 of the runner-up should be safely kept in a vault until the final is resumed. The tournament agreed with Lendl. Till date, there has not been a winner of the 1984 Rotterdam event as it stands the lone ATP tournament whose final did not yield any result.
An interesting version of this story according to former doubles No.1 player Peter Fleming is, “If you ask Lendl, even to this day, he still thinks someone from Jimmy’s team made the phone call.”