Tennis

ATP World Tour Finals fail to impress after farcical finale

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When Andy Murray reacted badly to the news last month that Marin Cilic was set for automatic qualification to the ATP World Tour Finals, he raised an interesting point when he believed the ATP wanted their events to be best in the calendar, better than the Grand Slams. Well, their showcase event in London hasn't been shrouded in glory.

I was going to write this article earlier-on this week, and I was going to title it: ATP Finals - Shameless money-maker or high valued tournament. I think I got my answer. I believe it is a high-valued tournament. However, better than the Grand Slams? - Not even close.

From the genuine emotion of the players, you can see these Finals aren't just about money. Though the structure - including scheduling, general organisation and sponsorship - leaves a sour taste.

ATP CONUNDRUM

The final of the Finals (a confusing one) is the perfect example. I fully understand that the ATP chiefs would have been sweating more than an Englishman in the Sahari Desert when it became apparent that Roger Federer would have to miss the final.

However, commentators eluded to the fact that Murray - having been emphatically knocked out by the Swiss legend earlier in the week - was called at 2pm to arrange an exhibition against the default winner Djokovic.

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Though four hours is short notice to start with, the crowd were kept in the dark until a measly 30 minutes before the scheduled start time. Federer himself was recruited to soften the blow with a sympathy-inspiring speech - lets not get angry at the helpless and injured old man...

CONSIDERATION?

They knew at extreme short notice, and with them already in their seats that they weren't likely to reject the Murray/Djokovic exhibition that had been sprung on them. The seats would still be full for the photos, the sponsors remain happy. 

As already mentioned, I appreciate there was precious little that could be done, it was a difficult PR nightmare, but some consideration to those that had paid their money went amiss. At the time of penning this article, the strategy for refunds hasn't been organised.

So off the court planning wasn't great. Worse came in the on-court execution, however.

Aside from the Federer versus Stan Wawrinka semi-final, which ironically caused the issues in the final, indirectly,  there were no classics to be seen in London. 

It came to a head in the other semi; Djokovic versus Kei Nishikori - it happened to serve as a rare talking point. The crowd in the O2 Arena were clearly miffed at a week of one-sided maulings from Djokovic and the other better stars, so when Nishikori finally put the world no.1 under some pressure - it caused an upset, not completely on-court unfortunately.

CROWD DISPLEASURE 

As the crowds cheered for the Japanese underdog, Djokovic became frustrated and sarcastically clapped them after his double fault was met with loud cheers. It was handbags at dawn stuff really, but it might not have happened off the fans weren't so frustrated with a tame week. 

With all that in mind, the no-contest of Federer and Djokovic was quite fitting.

Rarely would we get the chance to say that sort of things in the Grand Slams. Whether it's men's obligation to go five sets or whether it's just born from the excitement of such historic occasions; the two-week shows almost always delight.

While theoretically the percentage of high-quality matches are fewer than at the Finals, there's always a story to be had whether it's from the big stars or not. The Slams are special in the same way that the FA Cup is in football.

For me, and I think for a lot of tennis fans, the ATP Finals - while unique in the calendar - will never quite match up to the good old Grand Slams. Perhaps the best way to define my point is as follows: How many Grand Slam finals stick in the mind? - How many Tour Finals stick in the mind? I think I know which option had more memories... 

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Topics:
ATP World Tour Finals
Novak Djokovic
Roger Federer
Tennis
Andy Murray

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