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Tsitsipas: Against Nadal, It’s ‘Every Man For Himself’

  • Posted: Nov 18, 2020

To get a sense of the mood and stakes leading into Thursday night’s win-and-advance, lose-and-go-home clash between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Rafael Nadal, scroll through the Greek millennial’s recent Instagram posts.

The defending Nitto ATP Finals champion’s first post upon arriving in London, before play started, was about being kind. After his first match, he posted, “Action first, prayer second”. And after his prayers were answered in his win against Andrey Rublev Tuesday, he set the stage perfectly for his must-win match against Nadal: “Every man for himself.”


The Inferno—the first part of Dante Alighieri’s epic 14th Century poem describing his journey through the nine circles of Hell also could be a preview of what may be one of the matches of the season Thursday night. “There is no greater sorrow then to recall our times of joy in wretchedness.”

Tsitsipas said, in essence, after his win Tuesday that he’s ready to descend through at least three circles, or sets, of the fiery gates of Hell to get past Nadal and into the event’s semi-finals. “I know it will require a lot of physical effort, and I’m going to have to go through a lot of pain and suffering, so it is going to be difficult match,” said Tsitsipas, 22. “Yeah, I’m expecting a fight from my side.”

Stefanos Tsitsipas

Providing the fight of his life is exactly what the Mallorcan great will have in mind after playing unbelievably good tennis against Dominic Thiem but still coming up short. He blasted 25 winners against 16 unforced errors but it wasn’t enough to defeat the Austrian. After the match, Nadal credited his opponent, as he always does, but insisted that, despite the loss, he’s feeling more confident now than he was before the tournament began.

“[Thiem] played, I think, an amazing match, and I played well too,” said Nadal, 33, who recently notched his 1,000th tour-level win at the Rolex Paris Masters. “So my feeling is not negative… I think my chances are bigger to have a very good result now than five days ago because the level of tennis, even if I lost today, for me is much higher.”


The Spanish legend has just about every other trophy imaginable in his museum in Manacor, so there’s no doubt that he’ll leave everything on the court against Tsitsipas to avoid being sent home early. With both men entering the match with 1-1 round-robin records, Nadal might be a slight favourite based upon his exceedingly strong form and the fact that he’s won five of their six ATP Head2Head clashes.

But Tsitsipas took Nadal to the brink in their thrilling match at The O2 last year, falling to the Spanish southpaw 7-5 in the third set. Nadal’s resume is one of the best in the history of the game, but the young Greek has the one big title that’s eluded the Spaniard. And so, expect a close, physical contest that will likely be decided by who plays the break points better.

In his match against Thiem, Nadal was 17-11 in rallies of nine shots or longer, but just 64-74 in rallies of nine shots or less. And so he’ll be aggressive when opportunities arise, but he’ll also be looking to extend points and make Tsitsipas suffer as much as possible.

Rafael Nadal

After his match Tuesday, Nadal said he has nothing to prove to anyone, even himself, because he believes in his game.

“I really, I don’t want to pretend to be arrogant at all. Because I am not,” said Nadal. “But I really don’t need to show even to myself or to no one that if I am playing my best tennis, I think I can win in every surface and against any player, no.
It is true, [that] I never won the Nitto ATP Finals. That’s the real thing at the same time. So, no problem about that.”

No question, the man’s legacy is secure, even if he never wins another match in his life. But no one who has followed his career doubts for a moment that he’ll take the court Thursday night with anything less than his very best tennis. Coping with an in-form Nadal can be a wretched ordeal for any opponent. And so, the time for kindness is over for the young, but not-too-young Greek, who says that he hopes to provide a brave bit of hellish resistance against a legend of the game.

“At the end of the day, it’s just being brave and using your braveness through your experience,” he said.

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Preview: Rublev, Thiem Seek Different Prizes

  • Posted: Nov 18, 2020

Andrey Rublev and Dominic Thiem spilled their guts on the court Tuesday, with different results but the same extraordinary level of intensity. Thiem beat Rafael Nadal in a pair of tie-breaks in the matinee with tennis that was off the charts good.

And then the Russian boxing aficionado took a body blow in his first set against Stefanos Tsitsipas, losing 6-1 in 21 minutes. But he dusted himself off, won the second set, and had a match point in the third set tie-break, which he lost on a double fault. Tsitsipas took the next two points and the match, knocking Rublev out of contention for the tournament’s semi-finals.


It was a heart-breaking loss for Rublev, but he said that he was happy with how he stayed mentally tough in the match.

“This is the only thing I can take to play against Dominic, because against
Dominic you need to have really strong mental [strength] and then you have to play [an] amazing match,” said Rublev, 23, a Moscow native who is No. 8 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

Andrey Rublev owns a 40-10 record this season.

For his part, Thiem comes into his final round-robin match against the Russian assured of winning Group London 2020 and coming off of what he characterised as one of the best wins of his life. “Honestly, I think that today I played a little bit higher level than at the US Open and [this] was maybe the best match for me since the restart of the Tour,” he said after his Tuesday victory against Nadal.

Thiem will also want to emerge unbeaten from the round-robin stage with full confidence heading into the semi-finals, with the possibility of becoming the first unbeaten champion at the tournament since Grigor Dimitrov in 2017.

Dominic Thiem

For Rublev, who wildly exceeded his expectations with five titles and 40 match wins in a pandemic-affected season, pride will be on the line. After a season of such highs, he won’t want to finish winless on his debut at the season finale.

The men have split four ATP Head2Head matches, with Rublev upsetting the Austrian champ indoors at last month’s Erste Bank Open in Vienna. They also split matches on clay in Hamburg (Rublev) and Monte Carlo (Thiem), and Thiem won their first encounter, also at the Erste Bank Open, in 2017, when Rublev was just 20.

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Medvedev Magnificent In Djokovic Upset, Earns SF Spot

  • Posted: Nov 18, 2020

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic got beaten at his own game on Wednesday evening at the Nitto ATP Finals.

Daniil Medvedev grinded out the five-time champion 6-3, 6-3 on Centre Court at The O2 for the third win in their past four ATP Head2Head meetings, guaranteeing his spot in the semi-finals at the season finale. 

“I like to play Novak because he is one of the greatest champions in the history of our sport,” Medvedev said in an on-court interview. “When I was eight years old, I was already watching him on TV winning Grand Slams. He was still young. It is always a dream come true to play against him.

“Of course, [I am] really happy to beat him. I was serving good and playing safe enough in the most important moments. That is why I got the win.”

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One year ago, the Russian lost all three matches in London on his tournament debut. He has already clinched the top spot in Group Tokyo 1970 after moving to 2-0. The 24-year-old, who from 2-3 down in the first set won seven straight games, is trying to become the fourth player to lift the Nitto ATP Finals trophy the season after a winless debut (Djokovic, Stich, Edberg).

“To be completely honest, I am sure he didn’t play his best today. But still, it happens for everybody,” Medvedev said. “I always say the Big Three are the champions because it happens less for them than for other players. It is still tough to beat them, even on their bad days so I am really happy about the win. I am feeling good [and] confident right now… I knew I had to take my chances [and] serve good.” 

Medvedev booked his semi-final berth with an impressive defensive display in which he did to Djokovic what the Serbian does to the rest of the ATP Tour. The Russian gave the top seed no free points and repelled all his offence, frustrating Djokovic. As the 17-time Grand Slam champion’s level waned, Medvedev remained rock-solid, forcing his rival to beat him.

“He’s getting a little taste of his own medicine,” former World No. 1 Jim Courier said while broadcasting the match for Tennis Channel.

It was like watching the game ‘Pong’. No matter what Djokovic did, Medvedev had an answer. The 6’6” righty showed off his wheels at the back of the court, neutralising the Serbian’s aggression. While the top seed’s service games were full of lengthy rallies, Medvedev did well to keep things shorter, winning 61 per cent of his second-serve points compared to 43 per cent for Djokovic.


The 33-year-old fell to 6-7 in his second round-robin match at the year-end championships. Djokovic will try to recover for his final Group Tokyo 1970 match against 2018 champion Alexander Zverev, with the winner advancing to the semi-finals.

“It was just difficult to break his serve. He’s serving tremendously well, moving great. Hasn’t given me too many unforced errors and free points,” Djokovic said. “Just not a great match from my side. I thought I could have and should have done better, but credit to him for playing on a high level.”

Medvedev went unbroken in his triumph and now only trails 3-4 in the pair’s ATP Head2Head series.

The World No. 1 saved the first four break points he faced with clutch, patient tennis. But once he missed an awkward low forehand at 3-3 to lose his serve, the gates opened for Medvedev. Djokovic grew impatient in rallies, using drop shots ineffectively and allowing Medvedev to stick with his successful defensive game plan.

Medvedev struck nine aces and only faced one break point, completing his victory with a forehand winner. He will play Diego Schwartzman on Friday.

Did You Know?
Medvedev is the first Russian to reach the semi-finals at the Nitto ATP Finals since Nikolay Davydenko lifted the trophy in 2009.

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Melzer/Roger-Vasselin Save 5 Match Points!

  • Posted: Nov 18, 2020

Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin saved five match points and didn’t have a single break point in the match but still prevailed in a thrilling, come-from-behind win, 2-6, 7-6 (4), 12-10 over the sixth seeds Michael Venus and John Peers at the Nitto ATP Finals Wednesday.

Both teams came into the match sitting in the basement of Group Bob Bryan and hungry for a win, after having lost their first round-robin matches. And with the result, all four teams are still alive for a semi-final berth in what’s turned out to be a remarkably even and entertaining group.

Venus—a Kiwi who lives in London and went to college in the United States—wore a black top with neon green flames on his arms and torso, bounced around in between points like a boxer with his shorts on fire, waiting to land some blows. And indeed he was on fire early, using his lethal forehand and strong net play to inflict damage on the Austrian/French pair.

A doubles match wouldn’t be much fun without plenty of body blows and in this match there were plenty. Venus blasted an overhead at Melzer’s feet on the first point of the match, and a few points later, his partner hit Roger-Vasselin in the torso with a mishit overhead and won the point anyways.

Peers, the son of former pro tennis player Elizabeth Little and the brother of tennis player Sally Peers, mixed his serve beautifully and held comfortably in the first set.

Venus hopped out of the way of a tough body serve from Melzer up 2-1 in the first set on a deciding-point break chance and spun a crafty forehand winner into the tram lines for the match’s first service break. The wrecking crew from the Antipodes then cinched the double break and the first set, 6-2, in 25 minutes when Melzer, 39, double faulted on break point down.

Neither team faced a break point in the second set until the 60-minute mark of the match, when Roger-Vasselin staved one off with a well-placed 112 mile per hour serve out wide that induced a Peers’ backhand error, levelling the score at 5-5.
The match then headed into the tournament’s ninth (doubles) tie-break in eight matches. (Last year there were also nine tie-breaks in the doubles draw’s 15 matches.)

The match’s momentum shifted on the first point as Venus double faulted, giving the French-Austrian team a mini-break. Venus then netted a volley at 1-3 for a second mini-break but his quick hands helped them take that mini-break right back at 2-4. Down 2-5, Venus let a Melzer forehand passing shot go while at the net and it dropped well in to give the opposition a commanding 6-2 advantage. Suddenly the man who had been the most dominant player on the court had gone cold. Melzer sealed the comeback set 7-4 in the tie-break, with a cracking forehand volley winner to send the match into a Match Tie-break. Five of the eight doubles contests so far at this tournament have required a Match Tie-break.


The French-Austrian pair had only won three of 11 match tie-breaks this season, compared to three of five for Peers and Venus, but Melzer and Roger-Vasselin seemed to have the wind at their backs on this moment until Peers and Venus seized that momentum back at 2-2, capturing the first mini-break off a booming overhead smash from Peers. Then at 5-3 up, Venus hit a brilliant topspin lob over Melzer’s head that landed just inside the line for a clean winner that gave them a second mini-break and a 6-3 lead. Roger Vasselin hit a brilliant backhand service return though at 3-7 down to get that mini-break right back in a see-saw affair.

Roger-Vasselin saved a set point with some brilliant net play at 6-9. Then on match point number three, he fired an ace to bring his team to 8-9. On match point number four, Melzer blasted a forehand winner up the line and passed Venus to level the match at 9-9. A sharp backhand volley winner from Venus on the next point set up match point number five, which Melzer coolly staved off with a big first serve.

At 10-10 Roger-Vasselin tagged Peers on the leg with a nice volley, giving his team its first match point at 11-10. Peers then netted a routine bouncing overhead smash, giving Melzer and Roger Vasselin an improbable victory.

“I picked up my game after the first set; that was the key,” Melzer said in an on-court interview after the match. “I couldn’t have played worse in the first set. We said we’re going to stick together no matter what and it paid off.”

His partner said the key was staying positive while down essentially the entire match.

“We just tried our best and fought till the last point and are so happy we got the win,” he said. “In doubles, every point counts.”

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Murray's Twitch Take On Underarm Serve: 'It's Completely Legitimate'

  • Posted: Nov 18, 2020

Former World No. 1 Andy Murray was watching Daniil Medvedev’s match against Alexander Zverev on Monday when the Russian successfully used an underarm serve late in the second set.

On his daily Nitto ATP Finals Twitch stream with Gael Monfils, Murray admitted he “certainly wasn’t expecting it”, and he had no issue with the play.

Watch Monfils & Murray’s Twitch Stream

“It’s quite interesting because always when that happens, the commentators and the pundits start going, ‘Is it disrespectful to hit an underarm serve?’… and I don’t understand it,” Murray said. “I don’t understand why that should be disrespectful if players are going to stand six, seven metres behind the baseline to return the serve. I think it’s a completely legitimate play and I think as we’ve seen, it actually has been at times pretty successful.”

Murray added that he believes players only use the tactic when they feel they can gain an advantage in a point with it.

“It’s not like players are doing it just to mess around or make fun of the opponent,” Murray said. “It’s used as a legitimate tactic when players are standing that far behind the baseline.”

Monfils said the only time he’s used an underarm serve was against Dominic Thiem at Roland Garros last year. The Frenchman won the point.

“It’s also not that easy to do it,” Monfils said. 

Watch Monfils and Murray’s Nitto ATP Finals Twitch stream at 7p.m. GMT through the end of the tournament.

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Zverev Overcomes Schwartzman To Improve Semi-Final Chances

  • Posted: Nov 18, 2020

Alexander Zverev claimed his first win in Group Tokyo 1970 on Wednesday, as he overcame Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to boost his chances of semi-final qualification at the Nitto ATP Finals.

The 2018 champion landed 10 aces and saved six of nine break points to improve to 8-6 at The O2 in London. Zverev, who lost in straight sets to Daniil Medvedev on Monday, improved to 1-1 in round-robin play. The German is attempting to qualify for the semi-finals for the third straight year.

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“It was much better than on Monday,” said Zverev in an on-court interview. “Diego is a very difficult player. He deserves to be here… There are no easy matches, but I am happy to get the win. I am happy to give myself a chance to go to the semi-finals and I am excited for Friday.”

View Qualification Scenarios

The 23-year-old started strong to earn a commanding 6-3, 3-1 lead, but Schwartzman continued to battle and forced a deciding set. The 6’6” right-hander regrouped in the decider and earned his third ATP Head2Head win in five matches against Schwartzman after two hours and 11 minutes. Zverev owns a 13-2 record on indoor hard courts this year, with his only losses coming against Medvedev.

One of the key features of Zverev’s win was his serve. The 13-time tour-level titlist, who will meet Novak Djokovic in his final round-robin match on Friday, landed 73 per cent of his first serves and he raised that figure to 89 per cent in the final set. Zverev also kept his double fault count to a minimum, with each of his three double faults coming in the first set. The last time Zverev lost to Schwartzman at the US Open, he struck 17 double faults.

“Friday is going to be the most difficult match you can have here against Novak,” said Zverev. “We played twice here already, so I am looking forward to it.”

After trading breaks early in the first set, Zverev proved the more consistent player from the baseline and struck forehand winners to establish a 5-2 lead. The German struggled with double faults in the opener, hitting three of them, but powerful first serves helped him escape danger and take the first set.

Zverev took the initiative at the start of the second set, as he used his forehand to dictate rallies and earn his third break of the match. But Schwartzman recovered well to force a deciding set. After holding an extended service game at 1-3, the Argentine was gifted a route back into the match as Zverev committed unforced errors. Schwartzman hit two forehand winners and capitalised on forehand errors from his opponent to level the match.


Zverev served with confidence in the final set and made the crucial breakthrough at 2-2. The fifth seed came out on top in multiple extended rallies and moved up the court to break serve with a low backhand volley. Zverev earned a fifth break to close the match as Schwartzman fired a forehand into the net. 

Schwartzman falls to 0-2 in Group Tokyo 1970. The Argentine, who is making his debut at the season finale, will meet Medvedev in his final round-robin match on Friday.

“I’m happy because I almost did a good comeback,” said Schwartzman. “The match was going all his way quickly in the first set and second set. Then I found a way to win the second set and fight [in] the third… I think he deserved to win because he played better than me in important moments, but the serve was the difference today in the third set, not in the first.”

In the evening session, Djokovic and Medvedev will both aim to become the second man to qualify for the semi-finals. Djokovic needs to beat Medvedev in two sets to qualify on Wednesday, while Medvedev will reach the last four with a win over the World No. 1. Dominic Thiem is already through to the last four as the winner of Group London 2020.

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Granollers/Zeballos Earn Second Win In London

  • Posted: Nov 18, 2020

Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos solidified their position at the top of Group Bob Bryan on Wednesday with a 7-6(4), 6-7(4), 10-8 victory against Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares at the Nitto ATP Finals.

The fourth seeds saved all six break points they faced, including four deciding points, to boost their chances of reaching the semi-finals in London. Granollers and Zeballos move to 2-0 in round-robin play, having also defeated John Peers and Michael Venus in straight sets on Monday. The Rome champions will qualify for the last four at The O2 if Peers and Venus defeat Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin in the evening session.

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Granollers and Zeballos have taken a 2-1 lead in their ATP Head2Head series against Pavic and Soares. The teams split their first two meetings earlier this year at the US Open (Pavic/Soares) and the Internazionali BNL d’Italia (Granollers/Zeballos).

Granollers and Zeballos were put under pressure in the first set, but they found big serves to save three break points and reach a tie-break. Zeballos found success on his return as he attacked Soares at the net and he fired an ace out wide to claim the first set.

The second set followed a similar pattern, with Granollers and Zeballos holding their nerves to save three more break points at the net. After saving match point on his serve at 5-6, deciding point, Soares extracted a volley error from Granollers and showed great reflexes at the net to clinch the second set.

Granollers and Zeballos outmanoeuvred their opponents at the net with a mix of power and precision to earn a 5/2 lead in the Match Tie-break. The Rome champions converted their fourth match point to end the two-hour, four-minute contest.

Pavic and Soares drop to 1-1 in Group Bob Bryan. The Croatian-Brazilian pair is also attempting to reach the semi-finals at The O2 on their tournament debut. Pavic and Soares will meet Peers and Venus in their final round-robin match on Friday.

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Rock The House: An Era Of New At The O2

  • Posted: Nov 18, 2020

Stepping through dry ice to loud music and a capacity 17,800 fans, onto a court illuminated by a multi-display scoreboard, the world’s best players were front and centre right from the very first day in November 2009. The Nitto ATP Finals at The O2 in London, almost five months removed from the grass-court swing held on the other side of the capital, was deliberately different. Through cutting edge show production and world-class tennis, more than 2.8 million tickets were sold over the past 11 years as the stars of the ATP Tour immediately recognised the gravitas of playing at an iconic venue, harking back to the duels of Madison Square Garden in New York between 1977 and 1989.

Through three contact renewals, and outstanding title sponsors in Barclays – for the first eight years to 2016 – and now the Nitto Denko Corporation, a Japanese based manufacturer of multiple highly functional materials, the year-end championship in London quickly became a must-see — and must-be-seen at — global showcase. Not only for sports-loving fans, who snapped up more than 250,000 tickets each year, but for likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and long-time fans’ favourites Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan, who made it a priority each season to secure a place among the elite eight singles and doubles teams. But the showpiece also attracted major brands and celebrities.

Arriving early, often straight from the final event of the regular season at the Rolex Paris Masters, ATP Tour glitterati attended the launch parties and posed for official group photos at iconic venues such as the Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London, the Natural History Museum or Battersea power station, and prior to this year’s edition due to COVID-19 restrictions, were ferried by boat from their Westminster hotel. As London hosts the Nitto ATP Finals for the 12th and final year, prior to moving to Turin, Italy, in 2021, The O2 provided world-class tennis players the opportunity to compete on the same stage as rock stars to ensure an unforgettable experience.

Federer, who has won two of his six crowns at the season finale in London, told, “The O2 is magic, the darkness in the room and making it all about the players. The atmosphere and energy is something else. The fans are everything… I also remember that scene when James Bond falls on the roof [in the film ‘The World Is Not Enough’], so it’s always been a very iconic stadium.”

Djokovic, who in 2020 finished year-end No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings for a sixth time, told, “Since 2009, the [Nitto] ATP Finals has been a tremendous success in one of the best tennis arenas and atmospheres at The O2. It’s definitely one of the most special events we have in the sport.”

A view of The O2 arena, with a capacity 17,800 spectators at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals in London. Copyright: Wonderhatch/ATP Tour

Thirteen years ago though, while the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Led Zeppelin, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder may have rocked The O2 to sell-out crowds, the question was: could the Nitto ATP Finals?

In July 2007, as Etienne de Villiers sat beside the executives of the All England Club, the Lawn Tennis Association and venue owners AEG, just two weeks after a Bon Jovi concert at The O2, to announce that the season finale would return to Europe for the first time in nine years, the ATP Executive Chairman and President was optimistic.

The doubters — and there were many — asked, how could you sell 17,500 [until 2012, when the capacity increased to 17,800] tickets twice per day for eight days in London, in the middle of November? It was a task that didn’t faze the highly experienced Brad Drewett, the ATP Chief Executive Officer for the International Group, and Chris Kermode, the managing director of the season finale. In the years to come, both would succeed de Villers as the leading powerbroker in the sport (Drewett in 2011 and Kermode in 2014).

With the power axis of men’s professional tennis shifting to continental Europe, through the outstanding performances of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, not to mention the rise of Murray, the ATP Tour took a calculated risk. By moving the Nitto ATP Finals from Asia to a central time zone and into a key tennis market, the tournament became more conducive to global broadcasters. However, the event needed to be produced differently from The Championships at Wimbledon and the Fever-Tree Championships at The Queen’s Club, both deeply rooted into the English social summer.

Twelve months ago, Kermode, who led the ATP Tour between 2014 and 2019, admitted, “No one would believe it would work as well as it has. This event became a proper spot in the sporting calendar. It’s a great arena and a great place to hold tennis. We had an opportunity to present it in a very, very different way. Some of the stuff we were trying at the time had never been done before. And now it’s become the template for every single indoor event around the world. I’m very proud of that.”

The O2 in London, venue of the Nitto ATP Finals since 2009, is the world’s most popular music and entertainment venue. Copyright: Getty Images

While the Millennium Dome was built between 1997 and 1999 on wasteland and the site of a former gas works at a cost of nearly £700 million, the arena had to be fully refurbished by new owners AEG. A title sponsor for the year-end championship was required and it proved to be tricky, with an impending global credit crunch on the horizon.

Around the time of de Villiers’ announcement, John Beddington, the founder of the Rogers Cup and Tournament Director of the season finale between 1972 and 1976, was seeking out opportunities in the Middle East and Spain for Barclays, who intended to pull out of sponsorship of the English Premier League football.

“When Etienne put up the idea of moving the event to the Millennium Dome, Barclays were considering getting out of football and they might need another event in England,” Beddington told “Barclays agreed and got all the financial divisions to support it and in May 2008, I finalised the agreement with Barclays, that was left unsigned. One week later, I had a call from Paul Idzik, who said there were serious problems in the financial world. ‘Can we get out of this deal?’ And I said to him, ‘If you get out of this deal, I’ll never work in tennis again and your name will be mud.’ He said, ‘Leave it with me.’

“For 24 hours, I was on tenterhooks. I called Etienne and said, ‘You said you can’t get this signed, until the ATP Board signs off on it. If we don’t get this signed within the next 24 hours, it may go away.’ I then had a call back from Barclays and Paul Idzik said, ‘We really need to get this done, before it gets worse’. So I got everyone together. We met for breakfast the next morning and signed it.”

It was the start of a terrific eight-year partnership until 2016, including two contract renewals between the ATP Tour and Barclays, who helped to promote the event, by bringing on board three-time former champion Boris Becker, a resident of Wimbledon, as an ambassador and activated a search for Barclays ball kids. Tying into the 2009 ATP Tour rebranding with the FEEL IT — the intensity, ferocity, speed and passion — campaign, also helped to bring superstar players closer to new fans of the sport.

“We’ve had two great title partners, who have fit well with the tournament for it to be successful,” Adam Hogg, Event Director of the Nitto ATP Finals, told “We had a great eight years with Barclays and the growth of the tournament was in part due to their support and their activation around it. Moving ahead now we have a great partnership with Nitto, there is a real symmetry between the organisation and the event, in terms of its innovation and looking ahead to the future. The proof is that Nitto love the association with the event and will continue to sponsor it when it moves to Turin next year. They have also come onboard as a partner for the ATP Tour.”

Federer, Nadal (both seated, Del Potro, Djokovic, Murray, Verdasco, Davydenko, Soderling
The official group shot for the 2009 Nitto ATP Finals in London: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal (both seated), then (L to R) Juan Martin del Potro, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Fernando Verdasco, Nikolay Davydenko and Robin Soderling. Copyright: Getty Images

The abiding memory for many ATP Tour staff is standing in the vast entrance hall of The O2 on 22 November 2009 and witnessing the first 17,500 flag-waving and banner-holding fans, many with their faces painted, moving through into the arena to watch the very first session, when Murray took on Juan Martin del Potro, and a doubles clash that shared centre stage.

After four editions of the tournament at the purpose-built Qi Zhong stadium in Shanghai, the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, as it was first known after a rebranding of the ATP Tour in 2009, was unashamedly loud. Corporate hospitality provided by MATCH was sold out and early arrivals could watch their favourite players practise on court in the 7,000 square-metre Fan Zone, which subsequently got acquired by AEG for retail stores in the years to come, as The O2 became the world’s most popular music, entertainment and comedy venue. The wind also whistled around the interior white marquee, with its yellow 100-metre towers, in the early years on the Greenwich Peninsula, meaning jackets were an absolute necessity.

The O2 was the perfect venue for the era of superstar tennis. Whether it was the outstanding quality of Nadal’s 7-6(5) third-set tie-break win over Murray in the 2010 semi-finals, Stan Wawrinka’s superb tussle in the 2014 semi-finals that ended in Federer’s favour 7-6(6) in the deciding set tie-break or how Djokovic emerged as one of the game’s all-time greats during the first half of the 2010s, a period in which he also became a legend of the Nitto ATP Finals. Djokovic feasted on four straight titles from 2012-2015, winning 18 of 19 matches – against only the best players in the world – during that stretch. It also became commonplace in London to see the Serbian presented with the year-end World No. 1 trophy, which he received this year for a record-tying sixth time.

There was also the best of Murray in 2016, when, at the peak of his powers, he completed an epic round-robin win over Kei Nishikori and saved one set point against Milos Raonic in the semi-finals, which finished after a tournament record three hours and 31 minutes at 5:38pm as evening session ticketholders waited patiently outside the arena. Having overturned a huge deficit to Djokovic in the FedEx ATP Rankings that year, the British No. 1 came into the electric atmosphere of a winner-takes-all final against his great rival to decide year-end No. 1 and the titlist. Murray held his nerve, much to the delight of the capacity crowd, for his 24th straight match win and a place in the history books.

In the final year of Barclays title sponsorship in 2016, Andy Murray celebrated claiming year-end No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings and also the season finale title with victory over four-time defending champion Novak Djokovic at The O2 in London.

The Nitto ATP Finals at The O2 has also witnessed new stars breaking through. None more so than Stefanos Tsitsipas, who beat Dominic Thiem in a thrilling 2019 title match, only one year on from the Greek lifting the Next Gen ATP Finals crown in Milan. For Hogg, who will continue his Event Director role when the season finale moves to Turin in 2021, last year’s final stands out. “When we watched last year a new generation, Tsitsipas and Thiem, the atmosphere and passion for both players was amazing,” said Hogg. “Greek and Austrian flags, chanting and bringing in the tribal support. That first-set tie-break was spine-tingling and it’s what we always wanted, combining top-level entertainment with the latest technology and innovation in front of capacity crowds.”

Right from 2009, it wasn’t just the fans inside The O2 that had a greater insight into the prestigious tournament, but global television audiences could watch live as the players left their personalised locker rooms and walked along a corridor to the court. The cutting-edge show production, pre-match player choreography, special effects and screen content that was directed by the Wasserman Media Group, was showcased from the giant television screens suspended over the illuminated blue court. And the heart beat that boomed around the arena awaiting a Hawk-Eye decision added to the suspense and set the tone for performances of the very highest level.

“The tournament has continued to grow and what we produce around the court, the use of innovation and technology has continued to evolve, even more so this year without fans, in order to enhance the broadcast,” says Hogg. “It’s tied into the way we position the event, it’s ever evolving and the use of technology is critical to fans in the arena or sitting at home watching the matches.”

With the arena normally being used each week for a big rock band, comedy show or awards gathering, it has always been an impossible luxury to construct the court well ahead of time. Right from mid-September, the player facilities start to be constructed, and eight days before the first scheduled match, the ATP Tour takes possession of The O2 arena to begin the construction of the court. This week, the Nitto ATP Finals is sadly being played behind closed doors, but features Electronic Line-Calling and Video Review — for suspected not-ups, foul shots, touches and other reviewable calls — for the first time in tournament history. 

As the clock ticks down on the 12th and final year in London, the legacy of celebrating the very best of men’s professional tennis at The O2 will endure. Having the event in a central time zone and a key market was perfect for not only the players, coming at the end of the European indoor swing, but also stakeholders and the fans, who purchased more than 2.8 million tickets since 2009. For many, travelling on the Jubilee line to North Greenwich underground station became an annual pilgrimage and as the Nitto ATP Finals next week transitions to Turin, London will be a tough act to follow.

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