Players Bid Farewell To London In Strange Settings At ATP Finals - UBITENNIS
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Players Bid Farewell To London In Strange Settings At ATP Finals

The final chapter of London’s love affair with the season-ending event will begin on Sunday with mixed emotions among those taking part.

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The O2 Arena, venue of the ATP World Tour Finals (photo by Alberto Pezzali)

This year’s ATP Finals will mark the end of an era for a period in which the tournament gained some of its biggest success.

 

London’s love affair with the season-ending tournament will officially end this year with organisers moving the event to the Italian city of Turin. The same country which also stages the ATP Next Gen Finals. Held at The O2 Arena since 2009, the British capital has proven to be a hit for tennis fans with 242,883 attending the 2019 edition over an eight-day period. To put that into perspective the same year Wimbledon recorded its second-highest attendance in history with 500,397 visitors over a 13-day period. Overall, the ATP Finals welcomed a total of 2,803,967 fans between 2009-2019.

“I think the O2 Arena was very successful for this event over the last 11 years. I was fortunate to have plenty of success here and it is hard to pick one of the titles or finals I played (as my favourite). I had some thrilling matches with Roger and Rafa,” five-time champion Novak Djokovic reflected on his time at the event.
“It is definitely one of the most successful arenas to host the ATP Finals in history. It’s going to be strange to bid a farewell without a crowd but nevertheless I think we are all grateful to have the chance to play the tournament here.”

Djokovic’s reference to the strange farewell is due to the fact this year’s edition is being held behind closed doors for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tournament is taking place during the same time as England’s lockdown, which is set to end on December 2nd. Of course, it is not the first event to be taking place under such circumstances.

“It will feel strange but I think we are already kind of used to it because we have played many tournaments without the presence of the crowd,” Djokovic commented. “That is something that will help us accept these kinds of circumstances as it is.”

In 2018 Alexander Zverev won the biggest title of his career at The O2 with a straight sets win over Djokovic. One of the most intriguing aspects of the ATP Finals has been the fact it hasn’t been won by a member of the Big Three since 2015. A group composed of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Nadal is the only member of the trio yet to win the title.

“London is a place where we love the atmosphere, we love the stadium and everything. It’s going to be difficult and different but I am still looking forward to playing in this beautiful stadium for the last time. It is still going to be special,” Zverev told reporters on Friday.

The ATP Finals have been held annually since 1970 when it was known as the Grand Prix Masters Cup and there were no ranking points on offer. Over the years the tournament has blossomed in terms of revenue and acclaim. Last year the prize money pool was $9 million with ATP commercial revenues surging by 200% over a decade. Although both of those figures have taken a hit in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Like Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas’ biggest title of his career also took place at the tournament when he clinched the title in 2019 to become the youngest player to do so since Lleyton Hewitt back in 2001. The Greek is bidding to become the third man to defend his ATP Finals title in London after Federer and Djokovic.

“It is like a meeting for those who have had a good year. Celebrating their hard work, dedication to the sport and I’m very privileged to be part of it,” he commented on the showdown. “I know it is not easy to be in this position.’
“I’m proud to say this tournament is one of my favourite tournaments to play.”

Even those who haven’t been so fortunate at the tournament still have high praise for London. 34-year-old Nadal is yet to win the season-ending trophy with his best run being a two-time finalist. Incredibly, he has won 86 ATP titles in his career but only two of those have occurred at indoor events.

“The experience of playing the ATP Finals (in London) has without a doubt been one of the best. The atmosphere, organisation have been great and I think the event has been very popular around the world. The ATP did a great job in choosing London and creating a fantastic event for so many years,” Nadal said.

For Nadal, he is perhaps one of the most forthcoming when it comes to relocating the event. In the past he has expressed support for different countries to hold the event and even the possibility of it being played on another surface than a hard court. It has previously played on carpet and event once on the grass back in 1974.

“Tennis needs to keep moving but at the same time it is not fair to finish the World Tour Finals in London without a crowd. But that is what is happening today,” he said.
“We need to move (the tournament) because I think an event like this needs to go around the world to keep promoting our sport.’
“I expect to have another great event in Turin.”

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Playing Clay Events After Wimbledon Was A Mistake, Says Diego Schwartzman

The former French Open semi-finalist is seeking to win his first title since March 2021 at the Tel Aviv Open this week.

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Diego Schwartzman (Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Diego Schwartzman will likely reevaluate his schedule for next year after admitting that part of his plans for this summer backfired. 

 

The world No.17 enters into the final quarter of the season with 31 wins against 22 losses on the Tour but is yet to win a title. Although he did reach back-to-back finals back in February in Argentina and Brazil. He has won two out of eight matches against top 10 opposition, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas at the ATP Cup and Felix Auger-Aliassime in Barcelona. 

Reflecting on his performance, Schwartzman admits that his decision to return to European clay after playing at Wimbledon was a mistake. He lost his second match in Gstaad to Pablo Carreno Busta and then his first in Hamburg to Emil Ruusuvori. 

“It’s difficult to play at the same level every tournament, I’ve made a bad decision playing clay tournaments after Wimbledon, I didn’t have time to rest,” he said during his pre-tournament press conference at the Tel Aviv Open. “I paid the price and had some bad losses. But I started to feel much better in USA hard court season, lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas who reached the final in Cincinnati and to Frances Tiafoe at the US Open. Now I am feeling very good, I really love playing indoor tournaments.”

The 30-year-old has headed straight to Tel Aviv from the Laver Cup where Roger Federer played the last match of his career. Despite Schwartzman’s Team World winning the title for the first time, his only contribution to the tie saw him lose 6-1, 6-2, to Tsitsipas. 

Retirement was very much the topic of conversation during the Laver Cup with others such as Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic questioned by reporters about their plans in the sport. As for Schwartzman, he stayed coy about how much longer he would continue playing after saying in the past he might stop at the age of 33. 

“33 — is a good age to retire, isn’t it? South Americans are in different situations compared to European players. We travel too much, and sometimes we are not coming back home for 2-3 months, while Europeans can fly home every week. It’s tough,” he said. 
“As for Roger — he’s a special player, I think he is just the greatest in our sport.”

The Argentine is seeded third this week in Israel and will begin his campaign against Arthur Rinderknech who defeated qualifier Marius Copil in his opening match. 

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Laver Cup Daily Preview: Team Europe Goes for a Fifth Straight Laver Cup

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The lineup for Day 3 (twitter.com/lavercup)

Heading into Day 3, the 2022 Laver Cup is feeling extremely familiar.  Team Europe has an 8-4 advantage, and only needs two wins on Sunday to secure their fifth consecutive Laver Cup.  Team World needs to win three matches to pull off the upset and obtain their first. 

 

Sunday’s play gets underway in London at 12:00pm local time.  And each match on Sunday is worth three points.


Matteo Berrettini and Andy Murray (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jack Sock (Team World) – 12:00pm

Berrettini was victorious in both singles and doubles on Saturday, defeating Auger-Aliassime in singles, and teaming with Djokovic to overcome Sock and de Minaur in doubles.  So Matteo gained victories over both of his Sunday opponents on Saturday.  Murray lost to de Minaur in singles on Friday.  Andy and Jack are the most accomplished doubles players in this match, as Sock is pretty much Team World’s doubles specialist.  If he and Felix cannot pull of the victory on Sunday, it could be a pretty short day.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World)

Like Berrettini, Djokovic won in singles and doubles on Saturday, comfortably dispatching of Tiafoe in singles.  While it was his first match in over two months, Novak showed no rust whatsoever.  Auger-Aliassime’s loss to Berrettini on Saturday will not help his confidence against the 21-time Major champion.

Novak and Felix have only played once before, and that occurred four months ago in Rome on clay.  It was a pretty tight affair, but Djokovic prevailed 7-5, 7-6(1).  And there’s not much evidence to support a different outcome on Sunday.  Novak is surely eager to re-assert his authority after missing so much of this season due to his vaccination status.


Stefanos Tsitsipas (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – If Necessary

Tsitsipas easily beat Diego Schwartzman on Friday, dropping just three games.  He is 3-2 against Tiafoe, and 3-1 on hard courts.  However, Frances claimed their most recent encounter, last fall in Vienna, which was also on an indoor hard court.


Casper Ruud (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – If Necessary

Ruud defeated Sock on Friday, while Fritz defeated Norrie on Saturday.  If this match takes place, it will be their first career meeting.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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Laver Cup Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic to Play Singles and Doubles on Saturday

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The lineup for Day 2 (twitter.com/lavercup)

In the wake of Roger Federer’s incredibly emotional retirement on Day 1, the focus of this event shifts to the rest of the competitors on Day 2.  And for the first time in the five-year history of the Laver Cup, Team World goes into Day 2 without a deficit.  With both Federer and Rafael Nadal replaced by alternates for Day 2 and Day 3, is this Team World’s opportunity to capture their first Laver Cup? 

 

Each day, this preview will look at all four scheduled matches, while taking an extended look at the most notable match of the day.  Saturday’s day session gets underway in London at 1:00pm local time, and the night session at 7:00pm.  And each match on Saturday is worth two points.


Matteo Berrettini (Team Europe) vs. Felix Auger-Aliassime (Team World) – 1:00pm

These two good friends have played four times, with Berrettini winning on three of those occasions.  Matteo’s wins came three years ago in the final of Stuttgart on grass, in the quarterfinals of last year’s Wimbledon, and a year ago in this event.  Auger-Aliassime’s only win occurred last summer in Cincinnati.  Matteo is coming off a quarterfinal run in New York, as well as three victories last week in Davis Cup.  Felix was upset in the second round of the US Open by Jack Draper, and went 2-1 in Davis Cup.


Cameron Norrie (Team Europe) vs. Taylor Fritz (Team World) – Second in the Day Session

Norrie was also an alternate in last year’s Laver Cup, but did not play.  Fritz was a part of Team World in 2019, when he went 1-1 in singles, defeating Dominic Thiem during Sunday’s play in a must-win match to keep his team alive.  Cam is now 45-22 on the year, while Fritz is 36-17.  Both men achieved their best-ever Major performances two months ago at Wimbledon.  They played each other just last week in Davis Cup, with Norrie prevailing after three tight sets.  Overall they have split 10 previous meetings.


Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Frances Tiafoe (Team World) – 7:00pm

Is Tiafoe ready to upset another member of “The Big Three” on Saturday?  He earned the biggest win of his career by taking out Rafael Nadal at the US Open, and defeated Nadal and Federer in doubles on Day 1 alongside Jack Sock.  Meanwhile, this will be the first match for Djokovic in over two months, since he won the Wimbledon final over Nick Kyrgios.  The unvaccinated Novak was unable to travel to North America for the hard court summer season.

Djokovic has only played seven tournaments this year, amassing a record of 23-5.  Tiafoe is 26-19, and is coming off his exciting semifinal run in New York.  Their only previous matchup was at the 2021 Australian Open, when Novak defeated Frances in four sets.  Frances is certainly the much more match-tough player on this day.  But despite his recent inactivity, Djokovic should still be considered the favorite.


Matteo Berrettini and Novak Djokovic (Team Europe) vs. Alex de Minaur and Jack Sock (Team World) – Second in the Night Session

Novak will have only a few minutes of rest ahead of this doubles match, so the length of his match with Tiafoe could impact the result here.  This will be Novak’s first time playing doubles since last year’s Davis Cup finals.  Berrettini played three doubles matches this past January at the ATP Cup, going 1-2.  De Minaur overcame Andy Murray in singles on Friday in what was a grueling contest, while Sock was defeated in singles and victorious in doubles.


The full Laver Cup schedule is here.

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