By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - London's stunning 02 Arena will stage the ATP World Tour Finals for the seventh year in succession in 2015 but that will already be four too many, defending champion Novak Djokovic said on Monday.
The Serb, like most of the players who have contested the eight-man season-ender at the distinctive domed venue beside the River Thames, is a huge fan of the gladiatorial-like arena.
However, he feels the tennis authorities should continue the policy of taking the tournament around the globe.
"I think this tournament should definitely be organized at different places more often," Djokovic, who arrived in London fresh from winning the Paris Masters and still with a remote chance of reclaiming the year-end No.1 ranking, told reporters.
"I think it should not be held in one city for more than three years. That's my opinion because this is the tournament of the eight best players in the world and this is the tournament which is not fixed for one city or one country. It is in the ATP's hands.
"I know various players share the same opinion because of the promotion of tennis, popularizing the sport in a place where maybe tennis isn't as popular. If we are looking to expand the consciousness about our sport, then we should look into that."
The tournament was originally called the Masters and changed venues every year until 1977 when it began a 13-year stint in New York after which it went back around the world as the ATP World Championship and later the Tennis Masters Cup.
London was initially given the event for four years starting in 2009 when it was renamed the ATP World Tour Finals but so successful has the 02 venue been in terms of crowds and revenue that the tournament will remain there until 2015.
That does not augur well for world number one Rafael Nadal who feels his chances of filling the only big gap on his glittering CV by winning a first Tour Finals title are hindered by the choice of an indoor court for the season-ender.
The Spaniard has rarely hit the heights at the tournament, regarded by some as a fifth major, and has reached the final only once, in London in 2010 when he lost to Roger Federer.
After missing last year's event during a seven-month injury lay-off, Nadal is delighted to be back, although he still believes the conditions do not favor him, even if the blue surface offers plenty of bounce and is not particularly slick.
Asked to explain his struggles at the tournament, in which he lost all three round-robin matches in 2009, 13-times grand slam champion Nadal said it was his "bad luck" that the ATP played the tournament indoors year after year.
"I can't think of a better venue because the stadium is one of the best in the world," Nadal, who begins in Group A against David Ferrer on Tuesday, told reporters.
"But from 2005 to 2013, during these nine years, all the Masters (finals) were indoors which is not the best for me so probably I was a bit unlucky because in the past we had the Masters outdoors too. It's something that I think is unfair."
"The atmosphere is great here but that doesn't meant the ATP shouldn't be a little bit more fair to all the players. We qualify (for the tournament) on all the surfaces.
"I think to play it on different surfaces it would be something a bit more fair for the players and interesting for the fans too," he added.
"Specialists on clay, the good players, will have four of five chances to qualify for Masters in his career so if during that time it was on different surfaces at least one time he would get to play on his favorite surface."
Nadal's argument may be borne out of frustration but it is a reasonable one, seeing as three of the ATP's elite Masters Series events are played on clay and five on outdoor hardcourts while only one, last week's Paris Masters, takes place indoors.
The Mallorcan, however, is not expecting a change of heart by the ATP when a new venue is chosen to take over from London.
"It won't be for my generation," he said.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Ken Ferris)
- Sports & Recreation
- Novak Djokovic