On the tennis court with Patrick Ciorcilă, the man behind Transylvania Open: "Quick reactions and backup plans are essential in any business"
Patrick Ciorcilă was only 18 when he suffered an injury that hindered his motivation to return to the tennis court. At that time, he had been playing competitively in both juniors and pro tournaments for 8 to 10 months every year since the age of 12. Knowing his tennis days as a sportsman were over, he somehow found a way to be in touch with the sport he loves, and the result is the EUR 1.5 million sporting project of Transylvania Open.
Now heading to its second edition, the competition will pit two Grand Slam champions, Barbora Krejcikova and Emma Răducanu, and some of the best players from the world's top 100, for 280 WTA points and cash prizes, from October 8th to 16th at BT Arena in Cluj-Napoca.
Formerly enlisted on Forbes Romania 30 under 30 class of 2021, the son of Banca Transilvania chairman Horia Ciorcilă organized two WTA tournaments last year and is set to continue the tradition at just 26 years old. Here, he talks to Romania Insider about his deep-rooted love for the sport, how he measures the success of organizing this event, and his ambitious goal to upscale its prestige in future editions.
I've read that you've played tennis before back in the day. I can't help but ask you about those times: how did you start, why did you stop, and what was that something that inspired you into creating this competition?
Tennis has always been my passion. I started playing when I was 4-5 years old, and then, at 12, I started competing in tournaments abroad. I used to travel for 8 to 10 months every year throughout the world, playing both juniors and pro tournaments. At 18, however, I suffered an injury and no longer found the strength and motivation to return to the court. But I knew back then that I would still be involved in sports and tennis even if I couldn't play anymore.
I felt much more attracted to the side of organizing sports events and I will never regret my decision. I believe this is my path and I am grateful for every step along the way. Sports Festival was the first major project I worked on and in which I invested a lot of passion and commitment. Last year, together with my team, we successfully organized two WTA 250 tennis tournaments, one on clay and the other one on hardcourt: Winners Open and Transylvania Open. This year we continue with Transylvania Open, a very strong tournament in October.
Let's talk numbers. Could you please walk me through the details of the process of organizing this competition, especially for this second edition? How many months did it take to prepare and invite the athletes, cover the funding and sponsorship, manage the promotion, call for volunteers and spectators, and all the hassles that come with it, especially since you're the youngest ever WTA Tournament Director in the world at just 26 years old?
Running a tennis tournament is a significant investment. The first year was not easy at all: because of the pandemic, we had to restrict public access after the qualifying matches. This means that we had to reimburse everyone who bought tickets for the main draw. They had the option to keep their tickets for this year, but half of them chose to get their money back. However, we decided to move forward and work hard despite these challenges. The goal for the first edition was to enter the WTA circuit and show their officials that we can cope with their highest standards.
You mentioned in another interview that it cost at least EUR 1.5 million - a very, very big investment, obviously, and you must've made a lot of connections to help succeed in this project.
Indeed, finding the necessary sponsors and funding is not easy. But even though I'm only 26 years old, I'm lucky to be part of a family with business experience in various industries, therefore I have great examples at home. We are also lucky to have amazing partners that want to be part of our projects on a long-term basis.
This competition is an exciting event, even for an outsider who does not understand the gravity of the sport, for its big names - we're talking Simona Halep and Emma Răducanu from last year's, for example. Everyone can buy tickets and see the atmosphere for themselves.
But, do you think there's a difference between this year's and the previous year's edition, especially now that the pandemic is over? A lot of WTA competitions were postponed because of COVID-19 and other reasons, especially in China, Japan, South Korea, and Australia at that time, if I remember correctly.
And what have you learned from running the Winners Open in August 2021 and this year's Sports Festival that you have applied to this competition?
The most important thing we learned last year was to be prepared for any situation, for any last-minute change. Quick reactions and backup plans are essential in any business, especially in the event industry. Last year we had a great Transylvania Open edition, and our biggest regret was that we didn't have a live audience and that the fans couldn't enjoy the great vibes. This second edition also has a very attractive field.
Unfortunately, we will not enjoy the presence of Simona Halep, our dear friend, due to her surgery. However, we have great names on the list, with two Grand Slam champions in the Singles Main Draw: Barbora Krejcikova and Emma Răducanu. Also, many of our beloved Romanian ladies will play as well, like Irina Begu and Jaqueline Cristian. Thirty-seven players from the world's top 100 will compete for the 280 points and the USD 33,000 awarded to the winner. For sure we’ll come up with great surprises along the way, stay tuned!
As extra attractions, we also have a fantastic event concept, with traditional Transylvanian elements and many activities and surprises prepared for the fans. And, of course, we have the one and only Count Dracula. It will be quite a show this year at the Transylvania Open, and we can't wait to start!
So, the sportive passion has always been in you, but after this, do you have any further upcoming sports-related projects, maybe other sports? As an Indonesian, I am personally hoping to see a badminton tournament since we're one of the best nations when it comes to this sport. What's next for you, a winter sports event, maybe?
My team and I have a lot of ideas and plans. But we are taking it to step by step and trying to build the events we already have. Sports Festival is a very versatile event, so it is possible to organize new sports shows, events, and competitions. Basically, we are more than event organizers, we like saying that we are entertainment people, mainly focused on promoting a healthy lifestyle through sport.
Obviously, we would all love to see this competition becoming an annual part of the rich history of Cluj-Napoca, alongside some of the best cultural and sports events in this country. So lastly, how would you measure the success of an event, and what are your hopes for the future editions of Transylvania Open?
We want Transylvania Open to be seen as a highly well-organized and strong competition within the WTA family. Last year, we were four votes away from winning “The Best WTA 250” award at the WTA Awards, coming behind only Melbourne and Tenerife. This is a goal for us this year, to create the best experience for everyone involved. In the future, the biggest challenge is to find the proper financing through sponsors and other forms of income.
We would like to upgrade this tournament to a 500 category, this would be a challenging goal, but at this point, the Romanian market is not ready for such an expensive event.
(Photo: Transylvania Open Facebook Page)