Rafael Nadal believes that future Barclays ATP World Tour Finals should be played on different surfaces every year. The year-end tournament, which has been staged in London since 2009, has generally been played on hard indoor courts, but Nadal thinks that gives an unfair advantage to players who perform well in those conditions.
Nadal, who prefers to play outdoors and is at his best on clay or grass, pointed out here on Monday that players qualify for this tournament through their results on various surfaces throughout the year. He said it would therefore be fairer if the playing conditions for the finals changed regularly, giving all players an equal chance.
“I’m not talking for myself because I know it’s not going to happen in my generation, but I am talking for future generations,” the world No 1 said. “I think for the fans it would be interesting too, to change surfaces. So if we had a different surface each year, a good clay-court specialist who maybe qualifies to play four or five times in his career would have the chance to play on his favourite surface at least once.”
The World Tour Finals tournament, which began life as the Masters, was first held in 1970. It has been staged in 14 different cities around the world. By the time the current deal to play at the O2 Arena expires in 2015 it will have been held here seven years in a row. Only New York, which staged the tournament between 1977 and 1989, has kept it for a longer period. The event has been staged outside on only three occasions – on grass in Melbourne in 1974 and on hard courts in Houston in 2003 and 2004. It has never been played on clay.
Playing outdoors in Europe in November would be all but impossible. However, the southern hemisphere and parts of north America, the Middle East and Asia could all stage outdoor events at that time. Some emerging countries would no doubt be prepared to invest heavily in such a high-profile tournament.
That might appeal to the money men at the Association of Tennis Professionals, which derives a substantial proportion of its annual income from this tournament, but it would not be popular with the players. With the last competitions of the regular season played indoors in Europe, they would generally prefer not to have to travel too far.
Novak Djokovic, who meets Roger Federer in his opening match here this evening, reserved judgement on the question of different surfaces but said he did not believe any one city should stage the tournament more than three years in a row. “You can popularise the sport in places where tennis is not as popular,” Djokovic said. “We should look into allowing other cities in the world to compete for this tournament.”
Stanislas Wawrinka, who is playing here for the first time, began his campaign with a 6-3, 6-7, 6-3 victory yesterday over Tomas Berdych. In last night’s match, Juan Martin del Potro fought back to beat Richard Gasquet 6-7, 6-3, 6-4.