TENNIS – As the dried ice, bright lights and thumping music fade following the conclusion of this year’s Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2, there are a couple of questions which currently remain unanswered. By Harry Wancke for Tennis Today
As the dried ice, bright lights and thumping music fade following the conclusion of this year’s Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2, there are a couple of questions which currently remain unanswered.
One – will the event stay at the O2? and two – will the man who created it be moving on?
In its fifth of a seven year agreement between the ATP Tour and the O2 Arena, the championships, involving the best eight singles and eight best doubles pairs in the world, attracted another record crowd of 260,000 which adds up to an attendance total of over 1.25 million spectators in the years the Tour Finals have been staged in London.
From a commercial point of view, it has been a financial success and it would seem crazy to move it to any other country or venue.
However, some players are keen to see that happen, like Novak Djokovic, who successfully defended his title at this year’s event.
“The tournament is of the eight best players in the world. It is the tournament which is not fixed for one city or one country, it is in ATP’s hands to think about this,” he stated at the start of the event following Rafael Nadal’s comment that the surface should be varied from year to year so that clay court exponents stood a chance of overall victory.
Nadal, of course is ‘The King of Clay’, who has never won the event and this year’s final showed that he has some way to go to match his Serbian rival indoors.
Dokovic also points out that to continue to popularise the sport, the shop window should play its part – as it used to in its early days – by staging it in other cities for not more than three years in each venue.
“I know various players share the same opinion, because of the promotion of tennis,” he said, adding that the ATP should be looking into that.
The O2 agreement comes to an end after the 2015 championships and cities will no doubt be bidding for it over the coming months but there cannot be a better argument for it stay in London than the fact Britain’s capital is now synonymously associated with the Tour finals.
In addition, as mentioned, it has more than proven itself a commercial success.
And the man behind that success? Chris Kermode, who could well become the new president and executive chairman of the ATP Tour and if that does come about – an announcement is expected within the next week or so – he would be the first Briton to fill that post, previously occupied since 1990 by Mark Miles, Etienne de Villiers, Adam Helfant and Brad Drewett.
The vacancy became available when Brad Drewett died last May following an unsuccessful fight against cancer. A popular man, the ATP World Tour Trophy has been renamed the Brad Drewett trophy and, as many will have noticed, all the umpires and lines-people at this year’s event displayed, in memory of the man, a bold BD badge on their uniforms.
Kermode would be a more than a suitable replacement for apart from The Championships, Wimbledon, he runs the two biggest tennis events in Britain, the Tour Finals at the O2 and the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club. Both vastly different affairs.
The former could be described as a ‘tennis festival’ while the latter is more of a garden party seeped in history and consequently appealing to the ‘traditional’ tennis follower.
Should the popular 48 year-old Kermode be chosen from the four-man shortlist currently being considered, it could prove an embarrassment to the Lawn Tennis Association, who allegedly, didn’t even consider him for the post of chief executive, a position which was subsequently filled by Tennis Canada’s Michael Downey.
Kermode came into tennis from the music world so one can understand the razzmatazz of the O2 and believes he learnt some valuable lessons in those early days, lessons he has been able to apply to his current role and turn the 18,000 seat O2 into ‘the biggest indoor tennis event in the world ever’.
Kermode, who competed at Challenger level, said: “The thing I find interesting is that I run two events in the same city but acknowledge they are very different venues. And how they are put on is very different. It’s what is applicable to the stage you’re on.
“With the finals I thought the 02 was primarily a music venue so let’s bring the elements of that show to tennis. Light and stage the arena in a different way. The lights on the stage – the court – and the audience in darkness.
“I fought for two sessions a day rather than one. It’s worked well. Two lots of 18,000 at £20 a ticket and half price for under-16s. Creates a huge opportunity to engage with an audience who would not normally go to a tennis event.
“It’s very easy to think ‘well that works at the 02, let’s try it at Queen’s, the music, lights etcetera’. It wouldn’t.”
He explained: “Queen’s was already an incredibly successful tournament and it was ‘how could I tweak it’. You’d be a fool to mess with the core element.
“With the 02 event I could make my mark. I was handed a blank piece of paper to set it up.Just a bit of responsibility? Yeh. A fantastic challenge and I’m so proud of how it has developed.”
One can only hope that if he does get the job he will vote to keep the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 in London. That would certainly be the right answer.
Alexander Zverev Deserves More Respect According To Boris Becker
According to Boris Becker, Alexander Zverev deserves more respect from tennis journalists.
Boris Becker has claimed that Alexander Zverev deserves more respect despite Zverev failing to live up to his potential at Grand Slams.
Zverev has only reached one Grand Slam final in his career despite being a regular inside the world’s top ten as well as performing at regular ATP events.
This season Zverev played a limited schedule after recovering from an ankle injury but still managed to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals.
However most critics have been loud when judging Zverev’s career as it was looking likely that he would be a regular Grand Slam champion.
The German has failed to live up to expectations but former Grand Slam champion Boris Becker believes Zverev deserves more respect.
Speaking to Eurosport Becker also said that Zverev’s father being the coach is a more than successful approach when it comes to the former US Open finalist’s career, “In my opinion, he doesn’t get enough respect from the tennis experts internationally,” Becker explained.
“They’re all talking about the young three or four, but don’t give Zverev, Medvedev or Rublev enough respect. He’s playing with his fist in his pocket a little bit, wants everyone show that he is not a thing of the past, but that his best time is yet to come.
“Surely his father knows best what is good for his son, but if you look into the box at the competition, you can also see changes.”
Becker has followed Zverev for most of his career so knows that the best is yet to come from the German.
Alexander Zverev will look to prove himself next season when he starts his 2024 season when he represents Germany at the United Cup.
Juan Carlos Ferrero Analyses Key Areas For Carlos Alcaraz’s Development
Juan Carlos Ferrero has outlined the next steps in Carlos Alcaraz’s development.
Carlos Alcaraz’s coach, Juan Carlos Ferrero has analysed the key areas for the Spaniard’s development heading into the 2024 season.
The former world number one’s season has come to an end after a successful year which saw him win the Wimbledon title as well as winning two Masters 1000 titles.
Alcaraz capped off an incredible season by reaching the semi-finals at the Nitto ATP Finals, where he lost to Novak Djokovic.
However there is a long way for the Spaniard to go if he wants to consistently go toe-to-toe with Novak Djokovic.
Speaking to Marca Alcaraz’s coach Juan Carlos Ferrero spoke about the Spaniard’s development and said that Alcaraz is too emotional, “Be more regular in games, not open doors. Sometimes there are mistakes and it is something that we have to improve a lot,” Ferrero commented.
“Although it is true that he opens doors, he always competes well and at the highest level. He knows it, the other day he already said that Novak doesn’t give you one. He has to improve his decision making and he will achieve that with experience. Carlos is very emotional and that sometimes helps him and other times not so much.”
It’s clear Alcaraz’s high-quality is there but to consistently do it against Djokovic is another task altogether as the Spaniard looks to go from strength-to strength next season.
One area that is clearly a priority for Alcaraz is physical conditioning especially considering what happened against Djokovic at Roland Garros earlier in the season.
Ferrero said that will be a clear focus heading into 2024 but couldn’t guarantee that Alcaraz will play a tournament before the Australian Open, “Because of the year and the fatigue he has been in, what he needs is rest and disconnecting for 8-10 days with his friends,” Ferrero stated.
“From there, the thinking must go back to working really hard, strong and well to start very strongly in Australia. One can never be sure of that. Sometimes you play a tournament and it doesn’t go well, you left home too early. There are many ways of thinking.
“This year we haven’t played Australia and he finishes number two. That means there is no urgency to play a tournament early. Carlos is a player who enters competition quickly, you don’t usually see him without rhythm.
“Although it is true that he becomes more dangerous from the round of 16, from the quarter-finals. I am confident that the two exhibition matches and the training sessions will help us play a good tournament.”
Alcaraz will be looking to play the Australian Open which starts on the 15th of January after the Spaniard missed last year’s tournament due to a leg injury.
Australian Open Chief Confident Nadal Will Play But Kyrgios’ Participation Uncertain
The tournament director of the Australian Open says he is ‘certain’ that Rafael Nadal will play at the Grand Slam even though the Spaniard has yet to outline his comeback plans.
Craig Tiley told reporters in Melbourne on Thursday he hopes to receive some clarity over Nadal’s intentions in the next couple of weeks but is confident he will play. However, the tennis official had previously claimed in October that the former world No.1 had already committed to play in the event before his team denied that statement.
Nadal, who has won 22 Grand Slam titles, hasn’t played a Tour match since his second round defeat at the Australian Open in January due to a hip injury. He was originally expecting to take an eight-week break but the recovery didn’t go to plan and he ended up having surgery. In May he confirmed that he will take an extended break from the sport to heal his body and admitted that retirement next year is a possibility.
“Rafa has been training, I follow him closely, probably every day because he’s a massive drawcard for us,” the Reuters News Agency quoted Tiley as saying.
“He wants to play, he’s obviously planning on playing. It all depends on how he pulls up.
“Hopefully in the next week or the next two weeks, we get some specific confirmation of that. I’m certain Rafa will be here because he’s not going to want to miss the opportunity to repeat what he did a couple of years ago.”
Earlier this month Nadal confirmed that he intends to return to the Tour but admits that he will continue to experience a degree of pain. Although he has yet to give any information about which tournament he will begin his comeback at. The 2024 season begins during the first week of January.
“I’m well, training, and happy. I’m at a good stage of my life,” atptour.com quoted Nadal as telling reporters in Barcelona.
“Until now I didn’t know if I would play tennis again someday, and now I genuinely believe I will. I’m still not ready to say when, but I’m able to train increasingly longer, and the progress is good.’
Will Kyrgios play?
Another player Tiley is eager to welcome back is home player and former Wimbledon Finalist Nick Kyrgios who has only played one Tour-level match this season due to injury. He underwent knee surgery in January and then tore a ligament in his wrist during the summer. As a result, the Australian currently doesn’t have an ATP ranking due to his inactivity.
“We have spoken to Nick, and he obviously wants to do the best he possibly can to give him the best chance to play in January,” Tiley said of Kyrgios.
“Whether he’s playing, whether he’s doing something else, Nick will be here in January and to get him to play will be great. But we’ve got to take it as it comes and he’s got to make sure he takes care of his health …”
Kyrgios recently worked as an analyst for the Tennis Channel during this year’s ATP Finals in Turin and gave a brief update on his ongoing recovery during a segment.
“After last year, I had such a great year, and I’m so hungry to get back out there,” the 2022 Wimbledon finalist commented.
“So I’m doing everything I can to get back out there. Obviously, you know how injuries are every day, just doing the rehab, doing the gym work.”
The Australian Open will begin on Sunday 14th January. Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka are the defending champions.
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