Rarely has an ATP tournament seen such one-sided tennis. Of the 14 matches played at the ATP World Tour Finals, just four of them lasted into a deciding set.
The final didn't even take place – because of Roger Federer’s back injury.
Apparently the ATP bosses were quietly soiling themselves. What was meant to be their flagship season-finale, climaxing like an enormous rocket, ended up fizzling out like a wet sparkler.
ATP boss Chris Kermode describes the tournament as the Super Bowl of the ATP World Tour. Much of the week’s tennis was decidedly un-super, belonging in a bowl you might describe as porcelain rather than super.
Here are the stats to prove how dire things were:
- Nearly three-quarters of the week’s singles matches were over in the minimum two sets.
- Three sets were won to zero.
- Nine sets were won to just a single game.
Compare this with the same tournament last year. At the 2013 event, fans were treated to 386 games over 38 sets, with eight of the matches requiring a deciding set. This year they got just 278 games over 32 sets.
Roger Federer suggested this year’s one-sidedness might be due to the slow-playing court.
“In my opinion, because the court plays somewhat slow, and the serve doesn't have that much of an impact.”
In actual fact, the court surface has nothing to do with it. One reason so many matches lacked spirit is because, by this stage of the season, the players are all understandably exhausted.
Andy Murray looks like he needs to curl up and hibernate. Milos Raonic was forced to pull out after tearing a quad muscle. Federer’s back injury proves that even superhuman players have Achilles heels.
The other problem is round-robin tennis.
During the opening matches at the O2, some players hold back because they know they’ll have another chance to qualify for the knockout stages. And after two matches, some players have such a slim chance of qualifying that it’s hardly worth their bother trying.
Yet, despite the tournament’s limp denouement, the ATP should be commended for laying on two exhibition matches (Djokovic versus Murray and then Murray & John McEnroe versus Tim Henman & Pat Cash). Apparently all players agreed to take part unpaid.
“He was straight in,” Kermode said in appreciation of Murray’s appearance.
But that shouldn’t excuse the ATP from offering full refunds to any paying fans who demand them (only partial refunds have been offered).
A doubles final and hit-and-giggle exhibition matches are no substitute for a real, live singles final.
Although it’s great entertainment, the punters didn't come to see the Bryan brothers and Dodig and Melo. They certainly didn't come to see McEnroe, Cash and Henman. (No offence, gentlemen, but you’re not the forces you once were.)
The next major tournament is the 2015 Australian Open.
Djokovic is the favourite in the men’s event at 2.15, followed by Federer and Nadal both at 7.00, and Murray at 8.50
In the women’s event it’s Serena Williams who’s favourite at 2.62, followed by Petra Kvitova and Maria Sharapova both at 6.00, and Simona Halep at 7.50