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ATP final for the last time in London

WITHat the end of the times that are dear to you, you often think it could never be so beautiful again. Wasn’t it like that when the tournament of the eight best tennis players in the world, then called Masters, left Madison Square Garden in 1990? They had played for the last title of the season in New York’s legendary arena for 13 years before moving to Germany. Wasteland compared to the glittering metropolis?

But the German decade, first in the Frankfurt Festhalle, later in the Hanover Fair, developed its own momentum on a smaller scale. Maybe you should remember this and the charm of the change when you think of the farewell to the Nitto ATP Finals in London with a tear in the corner of your eye. The twelfth and final tournament of the best of a tennis season begins on this Sunday in the O2-Arena. From next year until at least 2025, Turin will host the Pala Alpitour, Italy’s largest sports arena.

Saying goodbye would be a lot easier, however, if it reminds of the atmosphere of the fantastic eleven years before. Of the blue arena, which is often filled to the roof with 17,467 spectators, and of the special connection that connected the sold-out house and the players. Not only the eight in singles, but also the best eight doubles pairs of the year, which nowhere in the world played in front of a bigger crowd than at this tournament. Before the first edition in 2009, the eight participants of the individual gathered for a photo session with an umbrella in front of a red double-decker bus.


There was never a lack of great shows in London, but this time there was an audience
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Image: dpa

In the years that followed, they gathered for group pictures on the balcony of City Hall with a view of Tower Bridge, in the Natural History Museum or in the Houses of Parliament, and the message was always clear: London and tennis do not only belong together at Wimbledon, but also in the Docklands of North Greenwich, at the other end of town.

This time it was well into fall before it was decided that the tournament would take place at all, and for obvious reasons it will be a tournament with no spectators. All players live in the same hotel just a few minutes from the arena; the distances are now shorter, but the boat trips loved by everyone on the Thames from North Greenwich to the city center and back are missing. Players who leave the bubble without a solid reason will be disqualified, and the festivities will be limited in every respect, including a golden anniversary of the men’s tennis organization ATP.

The first master’s tournament for the best of the year took place in Tokyo 50 years ago, but the fireworks for the celebration take place in the can. Tournament director Adam Hogg recently said in a conversation with the “Times” that it was definitely not the kind of farewell program and anniversary that everyone had been looking forward to at the beginning of the year. “But,” he promised, “we’ll still deliver an event that looks great on TV.”

Last year Stefanos Tsitsipas stood in the blue confetti rain


Last year Stefanos Tsitsipas stood in the blue confetti rain
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Image: AFP

The first winner of the London ATP Finals eleven years ago came from Russia and was called Nikolaj Dawidenko, and maybe the circle will come full circle with the victory of another Russian. Daniil Medvedev showed last Sunday in Paris Bercy with his victory in the final against Alexander Zverev that you can count on him. At the draw, the two ended up in the so-called “Tokyo 1970” group, and on this Sunday they will play against each other again (not before 9 p.m. CET); Novak Djokovic and debutant Diego Schwartzman from Argentina will do the opening in the individual in the afternoon (not before 3 p.m. CET). The “London 2020” group includes Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas and the second Russian, Andrej Rublev.

In the eleven London years of the tournament, no one has been more successful than Novak Djokovic, who won four times and played in the final twice. In the recent past, however, there was always someone else with a trophy in the blue confetti rain: 2016 Andy Murray, then Grigor Dimitrov, Alexander Zverev and last year the Greek Tsitsipas. Rafael Nadal, who just won the 1000th game of his career in Paris Bercy and thus moved up into a very illustrious group, is still missing a title at the ATP Finals in his otherwise spectacularly filled collection. He lost the game for the title twice, in 2010 against Roger Federer and three years later against Djokovic.

As in the previous year, Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies are in the doubles, and with their title defense at the French Open, they easily qualified third. The last of the eight places was decided at the tournament in Sofia on Friday – the Austrian Jürgen Melzer and his French partner Edouard Roger-Vasselin qualified at a time when the German doubles were already making their first steps at the last ATP finals in London.

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