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Stuttgart.. Markus Günthardt, 57, has been the tournament director of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix since 2005. Ahead of the 38th edition of the long-established Stuttgart tournament in the Porsche Arena from 18 to 26 April, he spoke about...

...the starting line-up with numerous top stars:
“It’s naturally great to have so many Top 10 players here in Stuttgart again this year. For the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix though it’s almost the norm. What counts for me as tournament director and my whole team is a full hall and a fantastic atmosphere no matter who is on court. It’s an accolade that you as a team needs as it confirms you’ve done something well. A final like last year, if that is we are able to have one of its kind again, and we’d all be happy, no matter who wins.”

...the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix’s recipe for success:
“We do everything to ensure the players feel at home here and find conditions in which they can perform at their best. It obviously seems to work as the world’s best come to us. In addi-tion to the Top 10 stars, the world No. 11 is also here and she isn’t even seeded. This means she could well play the No. 8 in the first round. There’s no other tournament in the world where it could happen. It’s like the second week of a Grand Slam – in every other tournament the No. 11 is seeded. She nevertheless still comes to us, like the No. 20. For me it’s the proof that the total package is right.”

...Porsche’s role:
“Porsche has an enormous charisma and it’s something only few title sponsors have. But Porsche is not only the title sponsor but also organiser and it is something that is felt all over the venue. For the success of the tournament, Porsche is an important element.”

...Superstar Maria Sharapova:
“She’s naturally a big plus for every tournament. Quite apart from her charisma, she’s an incredibly hard worker. She’s mentally tough and doesn’t give up until the last shot and it’s something we’ve seen here too. She has been close to losing on a number of occasions and always turned the match around. Not many players can do that. Over and above this, she – and it’s a stand out feature in everything she does – in my eyes is not only by far the most professional athlete on court but off it too. That she is also a Porsche Brand Ambassador makes it all perfect.”

...players that can prevent Maria Sharapova from winning in Stuttgart:
“The differences at the top are minimal. A lot depends on the form on the day and their men-tal state. I also wouldn’t say that Maria this year is the clear favourite even though she natu-rally began the season well by winning in Brisbane and reaching the final at the Australian Open. She’ll travel to Stuttgart full of confidence. But let’s look back at last year’s final – Ana Ivanovic virtually had the title in the bag but then lost in the end. Naturally she’s looking to gain revenge this year. Apart from her there’s also Eugenie Bouchard and Petra Kvitova. And Simona Halep or Angelique Kerber are in with a chance. I wouldn’t dare to predict the winner.”

...the popularity of the tournament amongst the players:
“I think our stand-out feature is the total package. We’re a tournament where everything is just around the corner and easy to reach. The players can pop over from their hotel basically in their flip-flops to practice or play their matches. The playing conditions are excellent and we’ve got an audience that goes with the matches.”

...Anke Huber’s role as Operating Tournament Director:
“Anke is immensely important for the tournament. She has a good relationship with the play-ers even though they come from a different generation to hers. It creates mutual trust which otherwise would be very difficult to get. Anke knows her way around. She knows what a player needs and what goes on in a player’s head. During the tournament she takes on a very important role as a link between the WTA, the players and the tournament organisers. It’s a key position.”

...the appearance of tennis legend Andre Agassi in the Porsche Arena:
“It’s a real hit. When Pete Sampras played here last year, many thought it couldn’t get any better. But it’s been topped by Andre Agassi. He was not only a top player, one of the all time best, but also a great personality. He also knew how to entertain the public. I’m really looking forward to seeing him.”