Indoor tennis is a funny thing. Maybe it’s because all four Majors are held outdoors that when you do have an indoor tournament it seems somewhat jarring: what exactly am I doing watching tennis indoors?
It certainly favours some players more than others, such as Federer, but it also creates a completely different environment, amplifying the cheers and whoops from the crowd and creating a real sense of intimacy you lack at, say, the French Open. Considering the tournament is held in London in November, it would be nothing short of insane to hold it outdoors, so it was with expectation and excitement that the ATP Finals were relocated to The O2 FIVE years ago.
Billed as ‘The Final Showdown’, a name that lends itself to being sung to the classic Europe song, the tournament invites the top eight male players to compete for 1000 ATP points and the gratification of ending the year with a big tournament win. Usually, we can predict in August or so who will be appearing, but this year it came down to the final tournament preceding The O2 to confirm Richard Gasquet’s place.
…both played incredibly poorly…
The draw this year was a little skewed: Nadal, Ferrer, Wawrinka and Berdych faced up in group A, whilst Federer, Djokovic, Gasquet and Del Potro were placed in group B Even a casual tennis fan could guess which group was going to produce the most exciting matches.
So it was that tennis coverage and commentary focussed around group B, as Federer and Del Potro took their match to three sets, equally the Argentinean gave Djokovic a run for his money. Unfortunately, Federer and the Serb did little to please their fans in their match up, as both played incredibly poorly and playing with little apparent enthusiasm, Djokovic winning purely due to making better-placed mistakes.
…the atmosphere was electric and overwhelmingly pro-Nadal…
The group winners and runners-up matched up over the weekend: Nadal walking over a deflated and tired Federer and Djokovic dominating Wawrinka, before Nadal and Djokovic faced off on Monday evening. The arena had a surprising number of empty seats, however the atmosphere was electric and overwhelmingly pro-Nadal, with Spanish flags outnumbering Serbian about five to one.
The two-set scoreline belies the true nature of the match: both players ran around the court like wild dogs, shouting equally manically after winning or losing a key point. It was a pleasure to see Nadal back on top form after his sabbatical, whilst Djokovic was playing his very best, whipping around Nadal’s intimidating forehand with seemingly little effort. It was the Serb that triumphed, probably the right result: despite Nadal’s form being unquestionably good, it would be a little too fairytale for him to end the year with a win in London.
…now we have TWO MONTHS to mentally prepare ourselves…
This end-of-year tournament keeps fans enthralled until the last moment, when indoor fireworks were set off to announce Djokovic’s win, and nicely reminds the fans why they love the sport. The graphics that surround the arena after every ace, break point or challenge amplify the hype and give the event a very American feel, but it was simply counterparting the excitement on court.
A year of tennis fandom is over, now we have TWO MONTHS to mentally prepare ourselves for what will be a highly contested Australian Open. The rankings have been mixed up lately, with Tsonga’s injuries and Ferrer’s lucky streak waning, so whilst the obvious contenders are in place, who’s to say what will happen. Talk around Federer’s retirement has been swirling around and whilst I would hate to see that happen, who knows. The way it’s looking, 2014 could be a very exciting tennis years.