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The ATP Finals As You Never Seen Before

The eight top players in men’s tennis are heading to London to participate in the end-of-year showdown but this edition will be like no other.

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

After what has been a roller-coaster season interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ATP Finals will get underway with a series of new restrictions.

 

Held at The O2 Arena in London the tournament will have a somewhat different atmosphere compared to previous years due to the absence of fans. Like other tournaments such as the US Open and Paris Masters, it is being held behind closed doors in accordance with local government regulations. The financial impact will undoubtedly be huge given the fact that 242,883 fans attended The O2 across the eight days in 2019.

“I’m playing quite okay without closed doors. I do miss the fans a lot but we all just have to be happy to be playing tennis and we all just have to be thankful for the opportunities that we get,” 2018 champion Alexander Zverev told reporters on Sunday.
“Other sports don’t get them, and we do. So it’s great to kind of be playing.”

It is for this reason that prize money at the usually extravagant finale will be down compared to 12 months ago. Should this year’s champion clinch the title without losing a match in the round-robin event he will take home $1,564,000. A stark contrast to last year when Stefanos Tsitsipas lost a match en route to the trophy but still took home $2,656,000. Participation fees have also been cut from $215,000 to $153,000.

Singles Prize Money: 2019 Vs 2020

20192020
Alternate $116,00$73,000
Participation Fee $215,000$153,000 
Round-robin match win $215,000$153,000
Semi-final match win $657,000$402,000  
Final win$1,354,000 $550,000  
Undefeated champion$2,871,000 $1,564,000
source: atptour.com


On the court there will be no linesmen or women making the calls. Instead the Hawk-Eye live system will be implemented in an approach that was also taken at the US Open earlier this year. Although at the US Open their two premier courts still used lines judges. Novak Djokovic, who is the top seed at the tournament, is one of the most vocal players to speak in favour of the use of this technology.

“With all my respect for the tradition and the culture we have in this sport, when it comes to people present on the court during a match, including line (judges), I really don’t see a reason why every single tournament in this world, in this technological advanced era, would not have what we had during the Cincinnati/New York tournaments,” Djokovic said earlier this year.
“The technology is so advanced right now, there is absolutely no reason why you should keep line umpires on the court. That’s my opinion.”

Among other restrictions at the ATP Finals, players are required to stay at the same hotel and will be disqualified from the tournament if they leave their ‘bubble’ without a justifiable reason. Upon arrival they will be tested for COVID-19 and will not be allowed to leave their hotel room until they get a negative result. Then on average they will be tested every four days.

The title hunters

Stefanos Tsitsipas at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals in London (photo Roberto Zanettin)

Despite the changes to what is the 50th edition of the year-end extravaganza, there is still a big desire to win the prestigious event with up to 1500 ranking points on offer. Rafael Nadal holds the record for most Grand Slam titles won along with Roger Federer but is still yet to win any silverware at the ATP Finals. His best run was reaching the final in 2010 and 2013.

“I need to adjust a couple of things, but I am doing well on all the important things. I have one week and a little bit more to keep working, and I hope to be ready.” Nadal said following his semi-final loss at the Paris Masters.

Greece’s Tsitsipas is bidding to become the first player outside of the Big Three to defend a title at the event since Andre Agassi in 2001. Although he has been hampered by a leg injury in recent days.

“It’s actually back to normal which I’m really happy to be feeling this way and feeling more free on the court. Injuries are always psychologically difficult to handle and they can drain you a lot. I am happy that I am back to normal,” he told atptour.com last week.

Reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Djokovic will be hungry for glory following his Vienna shocker. It was during that tournament where he secured the year-end No.1 spot for a record-equalling sixth time in his career. However, he suffered a shock 6-2, 6-1, loss to Lorenzo Sonego in the quarter-finals. The heaviest defeat he has ever suffered on the Tour.

I am going to spend some time with my family, I am coming back to Serbia, which I am looking forward to. I will have a good preparation for London in order to have a strong ending to the season,” he said following the loss.

Should Djokovic win in London he will draw level with Federer for most ATP Finals trophies in history at six.

Elsewhere, Dominic Thiem is hoping to go one better than last year when he settled for runner-up. Since then he has won his maiden Grand Slam title in New York. An achievement that helped him win Austrian sports personality of the year at an awards ceremony on Tuesday.

Daniil Medvedev is another player with a spring in his step after winning his first trophy of 2020 at the Paris Masters on Sunday.

“For sure I’m coming (to the ATP Finals) in better shape than last year. Last year I was really exhausted, lost the first round in Paris. That’s when you lose your confidence. When you lose first round you always lose your confidence,” Medvedev explained.
“Hopefully I can get some wins. I have no other goal than just to get some wins,” he added.

Completing this year’s field will be Andrey Rublev and Diego Schwartzman. Rublev has already won five titles on the ATP Tour this season which is more than any other player. Meanwhile, US Open semi-finalist Schwartzman recently cracked the top 10 for the first time at the age of 28.

The ATP Finals will start on Sunday.

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Diego Schwartzman Receives Threats On Social Media Following Shock Davis Cup Defeat

The world No.15 is the latest player to speak out about recieving abusive messages on social media.

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The weekend has been an emotional rollercoaster for Diego Schwartzman, who suffered ‘one of the worst’ losses of his career before helping secure victory for his country in their Davis Cup tie against Belarus.

 

On Saturday the world No.15 was stunned by unranked 18-year-old Daniil Ostapenkov who is yet to play a professional match on the pro Tour. Ostapenkov is currently ranked 63 in the world on the junior circuit. The comprehensive victory shocked the Argentinian team who was hosting the tie at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club.

Despite the shock upset, Schwartman managed to redeem himself the following day when he defeated Alexander Zgirovsky 6-1, 6-2. That victory handed his country an unassailable 3-1 lead in their tie and secured their place in the 2022 Davis Cup qualifiers which will take place next March.

Not only playing Davis, but in Buenos Aires, with a lot of people you don’t see, it’s not easy. My level can be and has to be much better. After the game on Saturday I had a difficult day in the spirit of being able to get up and enjoy with the group,” La Nacion quoted Schwartzman as saying.
“The most normal thing was that we won the series. It’s what everyone expected. But when you have a very difficult day at work like it was on Saturday and then you win, it excites you because you have some internal things withheld.”

Between those two matches, Schwartzman revealed that he was trolled on social media by some people unhappy about his loss in the tie. The 2020 French Open semi-finalist said he received criticism and even threats from some asking him to leave his home country. Something he admits affected him at times.

“It was one of the worst days of my career,” Schwartzman commented on his loss to Zgirovsky. “I lost to an unranked, inexperienced player. All that already affects (me) a lot. Although 80 or 90 percent of the people are always encouraging (me), there was a minority who criticized me with bad intentions.’
“I received threats, insults and requests not to return to Argentina. More or less, it affects (me)”.

Schwartzman is not the first player to speak out about online abuse. During the US Open Shelby Rogers said she was expecting to receive ‘death threats’ following her loss to Emma Raducanu who went on to win the title. Sloane Stephens has also previously spoken out about being the victim of racism online.

The 29-year-old says he has previously tried to interact with those who have trolled him on social media to find out why they are doing so.

Sometimes I start to answer some messages and I ask those people if they realize what they are sending,” Schwartzman said during his press conference. “The vast majority apologize and say they had not realized it. But at the moment it hurts. That very ill-intentioned criticism is the only bad thing about social networks.”

Schwartzman has won four ATP titles and earned more than $10M in prize money so far in his career.

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Spanish Veteran Feliciano Lopez Addresses Future On The Tour

23 years after he played his first main draw match on the ATP Tour, Lopez says his longevity in the sport has been achieved with the help of of some luck.

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Feliciano Lopez of Spain is pictured during the semi-final of ATP Fever-Tree Championships tennis tournament at Queen's Club in west London on June 20, 2019.

Feliciano Lopez has dismissed any speculation that he could retire in the coming weeks after saying he is taking life on the Tour in his stride.

 

The 39-year-old Spaniard is currently the second oldest player in the world’s top 200 after Roger Federer, who is a year older than him. Lopez made his ATP Tour debut at the 1998 Barcelona Open which was before the birth of Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz. In June he became the 10th active player to record his 500th win on the Tour.

Currently ranked 111th in the world, some are starting to wonder how much longer Lopez will continue playing. So far this season he has achieved a win-loss record of 9-19 with his best performance being a run to the quarter-finals of the Mallorca Open which was held on the grass. It was in Mallorca where he defeated Karen Khachanov who is the only top 30 player he has beaten so far in 2021.

I play year-by-year, the last 6-7 years have been like this, a tennis player at that age cannot think about extending his career. After turning 30 I have been lucky, I have obtained the best results of my career,” Lopez told reporters on Friday.
It is not very common for players my age, at (almost) 40 years to continue playing in the best tournaments.” He added.

Throughout his career, Lopez has impressively played in a record 78 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments dating back to the 2002 French Open. During that period he has reached the quarter-finals of a major tournament on four occasions.

“I don’t play to break records, what makes me most excited is to continue playing Grand Slams. For me, maintaining that record (78 consecutive Grand Slams played) is very nice, but more to follow. Being competitive,” he commented on the milestone.
“It is difficult for someone to overcome it because it is 20 years in a row without missing a great one. I have had continuity and enormous luck. Those of my generation are practically all retired.”

Away from the court, the former world No.12 is the current tournament director of the Madrid Open. Making him one of a few players historically to both be playing on the Tour and managing a tournament at the same time. Recently it was confirmed that Madrid will continue hosting it’s combined event until at least 2030 following a renewed agreement between the city council and the Madrid trophy promotion.

Lopez has won a total of seven ATP titles so far in his career and has earned more than $18M in prize money.

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ATP Moves Closer To Staging Five More 12-Day Masters 1000 Events After Board Approval

Changes are coming to the men’s Tour which includes a brand new ‘profit-sharing formular’ for players.

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Masters tournaments in North America, Europe and Asia are set to be expanded over the coming months after the ATP Board recently approved some ‘key aspects’ of their strategic plan.

 

In a letter issued to players, ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said an agreement has been reached concerning a variety of topics, which include the expansion of various Masters 1000 events. It is understood that the plan is for Rome, Madrid, Canada, Cincinnati and Shanghai to be increased to 12-day events instead of just one week. Putting them more in line with Indian Wells and Miami. Tennis.com reports that under the new structure, ATP 250 events will also take place during the second week of those tournaments and they could receive a subsidy from the ATP Tour, provided by extra fees paid by the Masters tournaments.

Masters 1000 events are the third highest-ranked category events in men’s tennis after Grand Slams and the ATP Finals in terms of prize money and ranking points on offer. The series was first introduced back in 1990 but it wasn’t until 2009 that the name ‘Masters 1000’ was born. The number represents how many ranking points the winner receives.

Besides the proposed changes to the Masters series, the Board has also given a green light to “a new Profit-Sharing formula” and “long-term prize money levels.” The prize money increase is reportedly said to be 2.5 percent of a base level, plus a bonus pool with a 50 percent share of the collective profit of the Masters events.

“This represents significant progress for our sport and the way our player and tournament members operate under the equal partnership of the ATP Tour. It is only through the spirit of this partnership, transparency, and alignment of interests that we can truly maximise your potential and switch our focus to the competition we face in the border sports and entertainment landscape,” Gaudenzi wrote in his letter to players.

Part of the plan also include making changes to ATP Media, who are in charge of broadcasting the events. At present it is currently jointly owned by the Tour and each of the Masters 1000 events. However, in the future it has been proposed that those tournaments trade in their ownership rights for shares in ATP media. Exact details about this process have not been publicly disclosed and it is unclear if all of the tournaments would agree to such a move.

The ATP also wants to create a ‘Tennis Data Innovations’ which will be an independent entity.

All of these proposed changes are still subject to further agreement around additional matters. The ATP have been working on details of their strategic plan for the past 18 months.

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