• ATP World Tour Finals

London still calling for players and fans alike

Jo Carter at the O2 Arena November 7, 2012
© Getty Images

'London Calling' may have had its day - organisers of this year's ATP World Tour Finals have ditched The Clash for something more contemporary, but as the players make their way onto the court at the O2 Arena, Rudimental's 'Feel the Love' seems equally appropriate as the players continue to enjoy all that London has to offer.

The ATP announced on Wednesday that the season finale would be staying in London for another three years - until 2015, a move that makes sense both for the players and as a business decision.

"It's a beautiful stadium to play in," Murray said after his opening victory over Tomas Berdych. "It's a different atmosphere to most of the tournaments we're at. We take the boat to the courts, which we don't do anywhere else, we have our own locker rooms. It's a nice tournament - they put on a great event."

The Masters Grand Prix, as it was then called known, spent 13 years in New York between 1977 and 1989, but has since enjoyed a nomadic existence, with Frankfurt, Lisbon, Houston, Sydney and Shanghai among the host cities.

London may have successfully negotiated another two years, but there were obviously calls for the tournament to move on, and the success of the London event means people were queuing up to take it off their hands.

While Novak Djokovic has no complaints about the organisation of the event, the world No. 1, wearing his tennis ambassador's hat, feels the tournament should be used to strengthen the sport's global appeal by taking it to new territories.

"I am actually one of the players that supports the global promotion of this event and this sport in general," he said. "So I think that after being held five years here, we should give the opportunities to other cities around the world to have this tournament, because in that way we can promote the sport in best possible way."

"If they move, they better make sure it's a great place that makes sense for tennis, for the business, for our schedule."
Roger Federer on the future of the ATP World Tour Finals

Djokovic has a point. After hosting the year-end championships in 2002, and then for another three years between 2005 and 2008, China has had a grand slam champion in Li Na and now hosts high-profile events on both the WTA and ATP Tours - Beijing is one of four Premier Mandatory tournaments for the women and Shanghai now hosts a Masters 1000 event.

In that sense, Brazil - host nation of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics - seemed a logical destination. With money being poured into bolstering the nation's sporting infrastructure, Federer is leading the crusade into South America when he goes on a tour of Brazil, Argentina and Colombia later this year.

"It's something really new for me, something that doesn't happen every day, that I go to such big, exciting countries, even though I've been to 40 or 50 countries in my life," he said. "I love it. This is why I love playing tennis still, seeing different countries, different people, different atmosphere, all that stuff.

"I'm very excited to be going there. I hear there's great vibe around it. I'm sure I'm going to enjoy it and hopefully put on a good show for the fans who are going to come see me play."

As ATP Player Council president, Federer is more aware than most that it is not just what the players want, but he thinks London will be hard to beat.

Roger Federer has played the year-end finals in Houston, Shanghai and London © PA Photos

"I think it ticks all the boxes. I think successful, liked by the players," he said before Wednesday's announcement. "The fans have really come here in big numbers. It seems really like it's working out well.

"If they stay here, that's great. If they move, they better make sure it's a great place that makes sense for tennis, for the business, for our schedule. But I'm sure at this point the ATP is going to take the right decision here."

It's not just about who offers the most money. Especially now that the season has been abridged by two weeks - thanks in part to the decision to cut out the week between Paris and London - travelling time needs to be taken into account.

The O2 Arena is around 450 kilometres from the Palais Omnisports in Paris-Bercy, meaning that Ferrer, a winner in Paris on Sunday, could be in London to fulfil his media obligations the following afternoon.

If Ferrer had to travel to Shanghai, Sydney or San Francisco, it would be an altogether different prospect. Paris to London on the Eurostar is just over two hours and there is no jet lag to contend with.

After wins in Valencia and Paris in successive weeks before heading straight to London, Ferrer will be off to Prague for the Davis Cup final next week, where he will lead the Spanish charge in the absence of the injured Rafael Nadal.

Asked whether he would rather have a week's break to recover, he replied: "No, I prefer Paris, London and Davis Cup back-to-back because the calendar is very strong for us."

If the current ATP Tour calendar is to be maintained, the season finale needs to stay in Europe, where seven of the eight finalists in London - Argentina's Juan Martin Del Potro being the exception - come from.

With over 250,000 people flocking to the event every year and Murray's Olympic victory and US Open triumph boosting ticket sales this time around, the British fans are showing no sign of getting tired with the event, and ATP president Brad Drewitt admitted the O2 Arena offered a "spectacular stage" for its biggest event.

Echoing the sentiments of Rudimental, the players and the fans are feeling the love for the O2 Arena, so it looks like London will be calling for a few more years after all.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Jo Carter Close
Jo Carter is an assistant editor of ESPN.co.uk