The French Open is about to start and Wimbledon’s Championships are still more than a month away but already tennis fans are gearing up for the calendar ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at London’s 02 Arena and more than 100,000 tickets were sold within the first 24 hours of them being available.
The event does not begin until November 21 and whoever qualifies for the eight man field is still very much a matter of conjecture although last year’s champion Nikolay Davydenko and runner-up Juan Martin Del Potro will find the going tough after missing a large chunk of the competitive year including the French Open because of long term wrist problems.
“Last year’s finals, and the atmosphere created at the 02, exceeded all out expectations and was one of the great successes of tennis in recent years,” said Adam Helfant, executive chairman of the ATP World Tour. “We have taken last year’s tournament, tried to fine a tune a few things, and hopefully it will be even better this time around.”
The event, almost a sell-out last year with 256,000 tickets sold for the 15 sessions across eight days, has an initial five year stay in London which could be extended. With the United Kingdom still gripped in the credit-crunch, finance has been noted and the cheapest entry is a very amenable £20 with half-price tickets available for those under 16 years of age.
Matches will also start earlier in an attempt to avoid the problems confronted by those traveling on the London Underground and faced with the prospect of missing the last tube train home.
Once again a doubles match will precede the singles main event during the initial round robin phase but the evening singles will start 45 minutes earlier at 8pm. “This is in line with other major sporting events in London such as Champions’ League soccer and should avert any of the problems for ticketholders last year,” said Helfant.
What was the most embarrassing and easily avoidable sight in tennis last year? Top of the list must be the farcical scenes at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals last year, when confusion reigned at the end of the final match in one of the four-man round-robin groups when Juan Martin del Potro and the sell-out crowd were kept waiting several minutes before it was announced that the Argentine, thanks to his victory over Roger Federer, had qualified for the semi-finals at the expense of Andy Murray.
Such was the utter confusion over the qualification system that Del Potro did not find out for certain that he was still in the competition for 25 minutes and spent some of his time indulging in a knock-up with supporter and friend, Argentina football star Carlos Tevez.
Murray, who was watching from elsewhere, posted on his Twitter page: "Anyone know what's going on?"
The humiliating and frustrating mathematical glitch which some feel was the responsibility of ATP’s Executive Vice President and Administrator of Regulations Gayle Bradshaw and others apportion to Senior Manager of Supervisors Tom Barnes, meant that most spectators even left without knowing the outcome.
Official explanations maintained occurred in such a tight mathematical situation, successful qualifiers had to be confirmed off-court by the ATP supervisor, who also had to be on court during play.
The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals managing director, Chris Kermode, does not expect a repeat when the tournament returns. “The information will be on screen now,” he explained.
“There was bit of a misconception that last year we didn't know who the player was that got through. Actually we did know but there was a process to follow. The structure of how that decision is made has been changed now.
“What that situation showed was that we need to tell our story better to the fans who are in the arena in terms of how the round robin system works and the relevance of each match, which we will do this year.”
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