ATP tour heads into home straight with just 10 tournaments left on schedule
Race for ATP Finals London finale has two slots left, but will coronavirus halt hopes?
With a Major and a Masters on both hard courts and clay squeezed into barely seven weeks—and with considerable success—in this back-to-front tennis season, the last phase of the 2020 schedule heads indoors.
There may be no Asian swing in this coronavirus pandemic year, but the ATP hopes to bring a glimmer of familiarity to proceedings with a provisional line-up that will, in theory, stretch across Europe from St Petersburg this week to London in a month’s time.
For there is the prospect of some new tournaments for players and [remote] fans—and for those in the lower ranks, the hope not just of points but of prize money to help them and their teams through this lean season. It is just as well, because a number of old favourites in this indoor season have been cancelled amid coronavirus uncertainties: Stockholm, Basel and Moscow among them.
Of course, there are no guarantees for those that do still plan to go ahead. Most parts of Europe are experiencing worrying rises in infections. However, it is a mix of old and new that has kicked things off this week.
The ‘old’ is the St Petersburg Open, bumped up to 500 status from 250, which is joined by the only clay tournament in the post Roland Garros calendar, Sardinia, alongside another of the four new events, Cologne.
A second 250 will be played in Cologne next week, at the same time as the usual European Open in Antwerp—with Nur-Sultan, in Kazakhstan, played in the same week as the Vienna 500.
Yet even before the first rounds of all of these were completed, the long fingers of COVID-19 reached into the draws. David Goffin and Sam Querrey in St Petersburg, and Fabio Fognini in Sardinia all tested positive and had to withdraw.
Yet there are some big names in the mix this week, and some with an eye on the final cut at the ATP Finals at the O2—subject to lockdown regulations in a month’s time in London.
Six men have already assured their places, led by Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem. So with Roger Federer, qualified at No4, opting out of the season following double knee surgery, there are still two places, plus reserves, to be filled.
The top seed in St Petersburg—Daniil Medvedev—and in Cologne—Alexander Zverev—have sealed their London places, but the second and third seed in the former—Denis Shapovalov and Andrey Rublev—plus No2 in Cologne—Roberto Bautista Agut—all have a chance to keep their ambitions alive. For if all the scheduled indoor events go ahead, there are plenty of points still on the table.
However, Djokovic has announced that he intends to join a packed Vienna 500 field, along with Thiem, Medvedev and Tsitsipas, and all the top men are sure to play what will be only the third Masters of the year in Paris Bercy. All of which makes big points rather harder to come by.
In any case, there must be some doubts about the Paris Masters in particular, played as it is indoors in a city suffering heavy restrictions due to high coronavirus rates. Perhaps the London line-up will instead come down to Vienna, where seven of the top 10 players intend to play.
There may be nine events left in which to gain those vital points for London qualification, but it is anyone’s guess how many of the 10 remaining tournaments of 2020 will be played. The London finale is, at best, expected to be behind closed doors—a sad prospect indeed in this most vibrant of environments, and in what was to be a celebratory 12th and final year at the O2. Tennis will hope it can leave its landmark venue with a bang not a whimper.
St Petersburg 500
Cologne Indoors 250
Sardinia 250 [only outdoor clay event]
Cologne Championships 250
26 October-1 November
Race to London
Next to qualify
7 Diego Schwartzman:
8 Matteo Berrettini
9 Andrey Rublev
10 Gael Monfils
11 Denis Shapovalov
12 Roberto Bautista Agut