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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The ATP announces the nominees for the 2020 ATP Awards

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Nominees have been announced for the ATP Awards for all player-voted categories (Comeback Player of the Year, Most Improved Player of the Year, Newcomer of the year, Stefan Edberg Sportmanship Award) and Coach of the Year. 

 

The Fans’s Favourite Award and and the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award Award will be announced later this month. Fans can vote for their favourite singles player and doubles team through 11 December. 

Three-time winner and 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal will be up against 2020 Rome finalist and Roland Garros semifinalist Diego Schwartzman, US Open champion Dominic Thiem and John Millman in the Sportsmanship category. 

Schwartzman is among the nominees in the Most Improved player category and will be against Ugo Humbert, five-time ATP Tour titlist Andrey Rublev and 2020 Sofia ATP Tour champion and 2019 Next Gen ATP Tour champion Jannik Sinner. The Most Improved player of the Year reached a higher ATP Ranking by year’s end and showed an increasingly improved level of performance through the year. 

The nominees for the Comeback Player of the Year are Kevin Anderson, Andrey Kuznetsov, Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic. The Compeback Player of the Year has overcome a serious injury in re-establishing as one of the top players on the ATP Tour. 

The contenders for the Newcomer of the Year Award are Carlos Alcaraz (winner in three Challenger tournaments in Trieste, Barcelona and Alicante), Sebastian Korda (winner of his first Challenger title in Eckental), Lorenzo Musetti (title in Parma and third-round in Rome Masters 1000), Jurij Rodionov (first Challenger titles in Dallas and Morelos) , Emil Ruusuvuori (semifinalist in Nur Sultan) and Thiago Seyboth Wild (first title in Santiago de Chlle)

The Coach of the Year Award contenders are Juan Ignacio Chela (Diego Schwartzman), Gilles Cervara (Danil Medvedev), Nicolas Massu (Dominic Thiem), Riccardo Piatti (Jannik Sinner) and Fernando Vicente (Andrey Rublev). 

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French Legend Leconte Speaks Out On Upcoming Return Of Roger Federer

The Grand Slam finalist gives his view on Federer’s chances for 2021.

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A former star of French tennis says he is hopeful but wary that Roger Federer will be able to return to the pinnacle of sport next year.

 

Henri Leconte, who is a former French Open finalist that achieved a ranking high of No.5, admits that the Swiss Maestro may find it tough on the Tour given the rise of what he describes as the ‘younger generation.’ This season Dominic Thiem won his maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open at the age of 27. More recently Daniil Medvedev defeated both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal en route to the ATP Finals title.

We want to believe it. We all want to believe it! It’s been a long and difficult year. Will the motivation still be there? Will this break, the fact of having been able to enjoy his family, have changed something or will he still have that renewed motivation that has always fascinated us?” Leconte told TennisActu.

Federer hasn’t played a competitive match since his semi-final loss at the Australian Open in January. Since then, he has been sidelined from action due to a right knee injury which required two surgical procedures. The second took place after the first failed to produce the desired results.

Despite the setbacks, 20-time Grand Slam champion Federer is eyeing a return to the Tour in 2021. He is currently the oldest player in the world’s top 100 and one of two to be aged 39. The other is Spain’s Feliciano Lopez.

No one can say it. We all wish him, we would like him to stop on a Grand Slam title but the train (momentum) is gone with this younger generation which has put in an extra speed,” said Leconte.
“I would like to believe it. Roger has done so many things, that’s why he makes us dream, we would like to see him at the top. It will be very, very hard. ..”

It is not the first time Federer has taken a lengthy break due to injury. He missed six months of the 2017 season due to another knee issue before returning to action the following year when he won the Australian Open.

Earlier this week it was confirmed that Federer will head into the new season being able to use his iconic ‘RF’ logo. He hasn’t been able to use the logo for the past two years after switching from Nike, which held the rights, to UNIQLO. However, he has managed to regain control of ownership which means he will be allowed to use it on his apparel once again.

“The RF cap is back,” Federer said in a video message to fans on Twitter.
“After a long wait and extensive fine-tuning, UNIQLO and I are extremely excited to announce the return of the RF hat in 8 fresh colours starting December 8th, 2020,” he also wrote.
“This hat has meant so much to me and to my fans over the years.
“It has given us a way to visibly connect, and I have appreciated the opportunity to thrive off this supportive energy.”

As it currently stands Federer’s first tournament is set to be the Australian Open. The tournament had been scheduled to start on January 18th but it is believed that the date has been delayed until February 8th due to travel and quarantine arrangements.

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Casper Ruud Opens Up About What It Is Like Playing Roger Federer

The 21-year-old explains what it is like to face somebody who is considered by some as the ‘greatest legend’ in tennis.

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Norway’s top tennis player admitted that he had difficulty sleeping the night before he was set to play Roger Federer for the first time in his career.

 

Casper Ruud has shed light on what it was like for him playing the Swiss Maestro during an interview with TV 2. The 21-year-old took on Federer in the third round of the French Open last year which he ended up losing 6-3, 6-1, 7-6. At the time it was only Ruud’s fourth appearance in the main draw of a Grand Slam.

“When you meet the man who is considered the greatest legend in your sport in history, it is clear that then you were a little extra nervous,” he said of 20-time Grand Slam winner Federer.
“I remember before I was going to play against Federer, it was a bit difficult to sleep the night before. When you lie with your head on the pillow, your thoughts come.”

Ruud says Federer’s achievements in the sport made him feel more nervous about playing him. Overall, the 39-year-old has won 103 ATP titles and currently holds the record for most time spent holding the world No.1 ranking at 310 weeks. He played his first ATP event at the 1998 Gstaad Open, which was a year before Ruud was born.

Although the Next Gen star says he has admiration for all members of the Big Three, which also include Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal. The two highest ranked players currently on the men’s tour.

“It was in Melbourne a few years ago, and then I remember that we sat in a large cafe where all the players sit to eat. When Federer came in, it was completely quiet and everyone turned around. Now the legend is here,” he said.
“These three legends, they look taller than they might be. They are probably around 1.85 meters, but it may seem that they are two meters because of the respect you have for them.”

Since his meeting with Federer in Paris, Ruud has managed to make a name for himself as he gradually climbs up the world rankings. In February he won the Argentina Open to become the first Norwegian player in history to have won a title on the ATP Tour. He also reached the final of another tournament in Santiago. In September he defeated Matteo Berrettini in the Italian Open to record his first and so far only win over a top 10 player in his career.

“I do not remember everyone in my career. But there are some matches that stand out a bit, and that you remember extra well. Some ball exchanges, some punches here and there that you get, which you usually do not do. It is something that stands out a bit,” Ruud explains.

Unusually Ruud confirmed that both of his parents are now classed as his employees. He is coached by his father Christian who is a former player himself. Christian is a former world No.39 who was his country’s highest ranked male player in history until his son.

“The ultimate boss is probably (my) mother. She rules over both of us. In between at least,” he jokes.

After ending his season with three consecutive Tour losses, Ruud closes out 2020 with a win-loss record of 22-13 and has won $965,653 in prize money. He is currently ranked 27th in the world.
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