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.



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.”


Miami Open Daily Preview: Pegula/Collins, Rybakina/Badosa Square Off on Saturday



Jessica Pegula with Tournament Director James Blake (

WTA third round action begins on Saturday in Miami, the first day where seeds begin to meet in the draws.


American No.1 Jessica Pegula faces fellow American and 2022 Australian Open finalist, Danielle Collins, while a pair of recent Indian Wells champs will collide, in Elena Rybakina and Paula Badosa.  Other WTA matches on Saturday feature three-time Miami Open champion Victoria Azarenka and Florida resident Coco Gauff.

ATP second round competition concludes on Saturday, with names like Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Matteo Berrettini making their 2023 Miami Open debuts.

Each day, this preview will analyze the two most intriguing matchups, while highlighting other notable matches on the schedule.  Saturday’s play gets underway at 11:00am local time.

Jessica Pegula (3) vs. Danielle Collins (30) – Third on Stadium Court

Pegula is 16-5 this season, and easily dispatched of qualifier Katherine Sebov on Thursday.  She is 7-3 lifetime in Miami, and was a semifinalist a year ago, losing to eventual champion Iga Swiatek.

Collins is 9-8 this season, and has not been able to rediscover her top form while battling multiple injuries over the course of the past year.  But she’s been very successful in Miami, with an overall record of 11-4 thanks to a semifinal run in 2018, and a quarterfinal run in 2022.

Pegula claimed their only tour-level meeting, which was an extremely tight affair.  Two years ago in Montreal, Jess prevailed 7-5 in the third on her sixth match point, which ended Danielle’s 12-match win streak at the time.  Pegula is again a favorite to prevail on Saturday, as she’s become one of the WTA’s most consistent performers, and rarely fails to make the second week of big events.  However, Collins always has the power to dictate matters if her aggressive game is clicking.

Elena Rybakina (10) vs. Paula Badosa (21) – Not Before 8:30pm on Stadium Court

Rybakina is 17-4 in 2023, and is coming off a three-set victory on Thursday night over Anna Kalinskaya.  She sits at a career-high of No.7 in the world, though it’s worth noting she’d be in the top five if she had received ranking points for her Wimbledon triumph.  Elena has lost in the third round of Miami in both of her previous appearances.

Badosa is just 6-3 on the year, having pulled out of the Australian Open due to injury.  She defeated Laura Siegemund in three sets in the last round.  Paula’s 7-5 lifetime in Miami, and was a quarterfinalist here a year ago.

Badosa leads their head-to-head 3-2 at tour level, though in this same round of Indian Wells two weeks ago, Rybakina beat Badosa in straight sets.  Elena may be due for a drop in form, coming off the second biggest title run of her career.  But based on her recent level of play, Rybakina must still be considered the favorite on Saturday.

Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Richard Gasquet vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (2) – Tsitsipas is 11-3 this year, but lost his opening round match at Indian Wells to Jordan Thompson in a final-set tiebreak.  Gasquet is 9-7, and began the year by winning a title in Auckland.  These two one-handed backhanders have split two previous meetings, which both occurred in 2018.

Magda Linette (20) vs. Victoria Azarenka (14) – This is a battle between 2023 Australian Open semifinalists.  Azarenka is 2-0 against Linette, which includes a comfortable victory seven years ago at this event.

Anastasia Potapova (27) vs. Coco Gauff (6) – Gauff is now 15-4 on the year, while Potapova is 13-7, having won a hard court title last month in Linz.  Coco leads their head-to-head 2-0.

Mackenzie McDonald vs. Matteo Berrettini (19) – McDonald is now 8-0 in first round matches this season, but just 5-7 in rounds thereafter.  Berrettini has suffered some tough losses in 2023, and is a modest 7-6 at all levels, having played a Challenger event in Phoenix last week following his early exit at Indian Wells.  Matteo is 2-0 against Mackie, with both matches taking place on hard courts.

Hubert Hurkacz (8) vs. Thanasi Kokkinakis (LL) – Hurkacz won this tournament two years ago, and advanced to the semifinals in 2022.  Kokkinakis is a lucky loser who saved three match points in his opening round against Zizou Bergs, prevailing in a final-set tiebreak.  Five years ago in qualifying for Atlanta, Thanasi beat Hubi in straight sets.

Roberto Carballes Baena vs. Daniil Medvedev (4) – This is Medvedev’s first match since his 19-match winning streak was ended by Carlos Alcaraz in the final of Indian Wells.  He beat Carballes Baena in straight sets two years ago at the Australian Open.

Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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Dominic Thiem Pondering Return To Challenger Tour After Latest Defeat In Miami



Dominic Thiem; e-motion/Bildagentur Zolles KG/Martin Steiger, 27.10.2022

Former US Open champion Dominic Thiem admits he is lacking self-confidence after crashing out of the Miami Masters. 


Thiem, who has been ranked as high as No.3 in the world, fell 7-6 (7), 6-2, to Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego during what was yet another frustrating match. Thiem didn’t drop serve throughout the opener and even had a set point in the tiebreaker but failed to convert. However, a poor start to the second set which saw him get broken two times in a row enabled Sonego to claim victory. Overall, he produced 13 winners against 30 unforced errors in the match.

“It was a tight first set,Thiem said afterwards. “Unfortunately, after the tie-break, I lost my tension for a very short time, then I’m 4-0 down and only then can I get back into the game – the holes are just not good.”
“The slight loss of concentration or the slight drop in tension was also the reason why I lost the second set.”

The 29-year-old now heads into the clay swing winning just one out of 10 matches played so far this season and is currently ranked outside of the world’s top 100. Miami is the fourth consecutive Masters 1000 event where the Austrian has lost his opening game.

Thiem won the biggest title of his career at the 2020 US Open but the following year he sustained a wrist injury which sidelined him for months. Since returning he hasn’t been able to regain the form which brought him Grand Slam glory. Although he did manage to reach the semi-final stage of three ATP 250 events last season.

“Of course, there is also a bit of a lack of self-confidence, and I have to make sure that I get that back,” he admits.

It is expected that Thiem will return to action during the first week of April at the Estoril Open. After that tournament, he is contemplating playing a couple of Challenger events to in his words ‘get a few victories’ for his confidence. 

Thiem has won 17 ATP trophies so far in his career and has earned more than $29M in prize money.

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ATP Coach Accused of Sexually And Emotionally Abusing Players



Dirk Hordorff 2 (c) Lana Roßdeutscher

One of Germany’s most well-known tennis coaches has been accused of serious misconduct against players who he guided on the Tour during his career. 


A joint investigation conducted by NDR, Sportschau and SZ has spoken to two different individuals who claim that they were mistreated by Dirk Hordorff. Hordorff is an established figure in the world of tennis who is best known for working with former world No.5 Rainer Schuettler for 20 years. He has also previously coached Janko Tipsarevic, Danai Udomchoke, Kristian Pless, Jens Knippschild, Sergiy Stakhovsky and Vasek Pospisil. He is currently the mentor of former junior world No.1 Ricardas Berankis.

One of the players who has publicly accused Hordorff of abuse is former player Maximilian Abel who reached the world’s top 200 before being suspended from the sport following a failed drugs test. He was a promising junior player who reached a ranking high of No.6 in the world. 

“In the beginning, he touched his back and stomach, and then he worked his way down to his buttocks,” said Abel.  “It was very uncomfortable and I thought, what the heck is he doing there?”

Abel also said one time he went to Hordorff’s apartment where he was requested to do naked press-ups. In another incident, the German said as a punishment he was asked by Hordorff to undress and go onto a bed naked in ‘a dog position.’ Hordorff would then strike Abel’s buttocks with his belt.

“I was shocked, felt like shit,” said Abel who alleges that his former trainer was aroused at the same time as hitting him with his belt.

 According to Abel, he was emotionally blackmailed by Hordorff who pledged to train him for free until he reached the top 100. 

These allegations were first flagged up with the German Tennis Federation (DTB) in 2022 when its president, Dietloff von Arnim, received a letter from Abel detailing the allegations. An investigation subsequently concluded that “the allegation of misconduct cannot be proven with certainty.”

Albe’s credibility has been questioned by some due to his criminal history. He is currently in prison for credit card fraud. According to Sportschau, he is described by some as a ‘notorious liar.’

However, another player who is still active on the Tour has also made accusations against Hordorff. World No.89 doubles player Sriram Balaji spent three months at the Hessian State Association tennis facility in 2010 where at the time Hordorff was president.

Balaji, who was 20 at the time, said Hordorff came into his room once a week. He was asked to undress to his underwear and then completely. Balaji said he also stayed one night at Hordorff’s apartment where he was supposed to sleep naked on his sofa. Meanwhile, on the court, he felt that he was being ‘humiliated’ in front of others. 

“He touched me all over my body, just not on my genitals,” said Balaji
“I had the feeling he wanted to treat me like his slave.”

Hordorff is yet to personally comment on the allegations against him but a law firm acting on his behalf has said that they are ‘simply untrue.’ Besides coaching Berankis, he is also the Vice President of the German Tennis Federation for High-Performance Sport. However, his role within the DTB has been put on hold until further notice. 

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