Stage set for stars to dazzle O2 Arena again

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The Independent Online

Two nights ago, Gorillaz were strutting their stuff at London's O2 Arena. Yesterday morning, not long after Damon Albarn's band had left the stage, work began to prepare the premises for the next headline act on the Greenwich Peninsula.

Over the next three days, the arena will be converted from a concert venue into an indoor tennis stadium. The season-ending Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, featuring the world's best eight players, including Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray, begin on Sunday. Organisers are confident they can build on last year's successful tournament, which was watched by more than 250,000 people, a world record for indoor tennis.

The only major hiccups 12 months ago were the late finishes and confusion over the qualification process. This year the matches start 45 minutes earlier, with the last singles of the day beginning around 8pm, which will help spectators returning home by public transport. The singles final on Sunday week will start at 5.30pm in the hope of attracting a larger television audience.

Officials say there will be no repeat of the embarrassing scenes of last year, when players and public were kept waiting for many minutes before they were told who had qualified for the semi-finals after the last match in Murray's round-robin group. This year an announcement can be made as soon as the match is over. Spectators will also be better informed about the possible final outcomes before the final round-robin matches commence.

Visitors to the arena, including those without tennis tickets, will be able to enjoy a large "Fan Zone", which features an interactive area for children, bars, shops and two practice courts with seating for 400 spectators. Several of the players at last week's Paris Masters welcomed the installation of a fast court, but the playing surface in London will be appreciably slower. "We're using the same surface that we've used for the last 15 years," said Brad Drewett, the tournament director.

* The former world No 1 Carlos Moya, who won the 1998 French Open, announced his retirement yesterday at the age of 34.