The ATP Finals in London – do they matter?

Martin Caparrotta
By Martin Caparrotta
The O2 Arena in London will host the event

The O2 Arena in London will host the event

For the next three years, London play host to another major tennis tournament in addition to Wimbledon and Queen’s.

The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals are coming to the O2 Arena in November, but what does the competition actually mean in terms of men’s tennis?

Formerly known as the Tennis Masters Cup, the event, which has been held in Shanghai for the last four years, is the climax to the men’s tennis calendar. It features the top eight ranked players in the world at the end of the season all battling it out on court for the final title of the season.

The tournament differs in format to the other ATP tournaments on the men’s tour. The eight players are split into two groups, and play three matches within that group. The top two from each then progress to the semi finals.

Novak Djokovic is the current defending champion and Roger Federer has won the title four times in the last six years. The event is also a title that has thus far eluded world number one, Rafael Nadal.

The four Grand Slams on the tour are obviously the most prestigious tournaments on the tennis calendar. The Miami Masters, held in March each year in Florida, has often been called the ‘fifth Grand Slam’ due to the fact that play extends over more than one week, with both a men’s and women’s draw.

So where does the newly-branded ATP World Tour Finals come into play? The players themselves are seem to think that the tournament is of significant importance. “The event has a great history and means so much to the top players,” says British number one Andy Murray.

“It’s great to think the race to the No.1 ranking spot and the title of ATP World Tour Champion could come down to the wire in London.”

World number one, Rafael Nadal backs up the Scot’s claims. “This is one of the most important events and one of the most difficult to win since from day one you face a Top 10 player. No mistakes are allowed.”

There are currently 2115 ranking points separating Roger Federer from Rafael Nadal’s number one spot, and there is certainly a lot of tennis to be played between now and November 22. In fact, the only player who has actually qualified for the event as of yet is Nadal.

The tournament is certainly unique. And London’s O2 Arena will undoubtedly be an excellent new venue for the event. Who doesn’t want to see the tennis season end with a tournament featuring just the top players in the world?

The tournament has a colourful history dating back to the 1970s, with the household names of Becker, McEnroe and Sampras all former champions. But the endless re-branding and reminder marketing from the ATP is testament to that fact that in years gone by the the competition has not quite been the ‘season finale’ that was hoped for.

The renaming and the relocation could help to promote the tournament as a more prestigious event, and there is little doubt that the big-name clashes will generate good publicity for tennis.

The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals will take place at the O2 Arena in London from November 22-29, 2009.

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