Since we are in between seasons and I miss it very much, and also because I am behind with a blog post about it, I think it is the right moment to talk about the ATP Nitto World Tour Finals. Tennis.
This involved a trip to London, carefully planned since months ago (or maybe just the moment Roger Federer won Australian Open) but was certain sometimes after Rafael Nadal won Roland Garros. Those two have been dominating the tennis world for over 10 years now and the #fedal rivalry is already going down in history. To my bad luck Rafa Nadal pulled out of the tournament due to injury right after his first match, so I didn’t get to see him, but my ultimate goal was still there: seeing Roger Federer play would make the peRFect birthday present. Plus the most awesome team in the world, Rojer/Tecau, was also part of the doubles tournament and an absolute must see since it is always a pleasure and a thrill to cheer for my countrymen, and Horia, alongside Sweden’s Robert Lindstedt, was the reason I went to the World Tour Finals in the first place in 2012.
London’s great! Flying to and from London with two different aircrafts, two different airlines and two different all-men crews was a first, from all perspectives. But wandering on the streets was left for the last day, my main goal was the tennis. That deviated a bit when I found myself in front of the Thomson Reuters building reading the daily headlines on their displays. There’s something about news that… Yeah, but tennis. So reading the headlines became a custom since I was changing from the DLR to the tube at Canary Wharf, but going to the O2 is slowly becoming a habit. The arena is in full renovation which means that this year the tennis village didn’t exist. I was a bit disappointed by security as well.
But the tennis itself did not disappoint. First match of the day was Kontinen/Peers against Klaasen/Ram. The South African/American team replaced the french duo Herbert/Mahut, but last year’s ATP World Tour Finals champions from Finland and New Zealand, managed to get away with a tight win: 2-6, 6-1, 10-8. The second match of the day was the reason I was there: Roger Federer vs Marin Čilić (6-7(7), 6-4, 6-1). A replay of this year’s Wimbledon final, a bit more challenging for Roger, this time, the match was a thrill for every tennis fan in the house. They don’t call Federer the G.O.A.T. for nothing, he has an absolutely incredible out-of-this-world game. My mind doesn’t know and wouldn’t understand how much work is really behind it, but when at his best the man is hypnotising. Quite a birthday treat!
The evening session brought on the centre court Rojer/Tecau against Harrison/Venus. The US Open champions had a really bad end of the season and they gave away this match 3-6, 6-7(7), though they had the possibility of taking it to a decisive tie-break. They just couldn’t play the biggest points and that was it: no Romanian victories this year in London. The last match of the day: young Alexander Zverev against Jack Sock. The first one is very talented and had an amazing year, going all the way to number 3 (4 at the end of the season), the second one is a fighter. The match had the benefit of a full house and of very devoted fans, for both sides. It was also a very exciting encounter, more exciting than Federer’s game, which became quite obvious at a certain moment. Both players took control of the points and fought bravely until one of them gave in. At the end of the evening the American tennis player won: 6-4, 1-6, 6-4. And by the end of my day 1 at the O2 I got stuck with an earworm, the song below, though I didn’t bother looking for it until today, when they played it at the gym and I actually paid attention to the lyrics in order to figure out what song it was.
The second day of tennis started with Marach/Pavić defeating the Bryan Brothers 6-4, 6-4. That was also the time when I thought it would be interesting to go all the way to the last row to enjoy the full view of the court and the arena. I think my knees got weak halfway up, I made it to the last row, sat down and didn’t move until the next match started. The Bryans are not playing their dominating tennis anymore but they are still the audience’s favourites. Marach/Pavic, the Stockholm champions, enjoyed being at the O2 for the first time. The morning session’s single match brought face to face Austria’s Thiem with Belgium’s Goffin. This match rolled out quickly: 4-6, 1-6 and the Belgian man, after defeating Rafael Nadal, was ready for Saturday’s semifinal against Roger Federer.
I’ve impatiently waited for the evening meeting between Kubot/Melo and Murray/Soares, mostly because I like the Polish/Brazilian team a lot, I like how they are playing. Of course the crowd was cheering for the other team as Jamie Murray, Andy’s older brother, is from the UK. Kubot/Melo had already qualified for the semifinals so they didn’t really seem to focus on the game, nor aim for a victory, so they gave away the match 2-6, 4-6. Still, doubles is more exciting. The last match of the day was the singles between Dimitrov and Carreño Busta. Dimitrov is a Stockholm Open sweetheart and former champion, and I’ve also seen him win in Bucharest, back when Romania still had an ATP event. He won the match with a double 6-1, and he went further to win the semifinal against Jack Sock and the title on Sunday in a match against David Goffin who defeated Roger Federer in the semis. In the doubles, last year’s winners were this year’s winners as well: Kontinen/Peers defeated Kubot/Melo. Unfortunately I wasn’t there to see the finals, nor the semis. As much as I would have liked to be. But as a note to myself, if I ever go to the ATP World Tour Finals again, I am going to go in the first days of the tournament, when things are uncertain, unpredictable, when players give their best on court and are not yet tired or injured. All these things make the matches more exciting, especially when, again, David Bowie’s “Heroes” is played as celebration hymn.